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John Williams, Itzhak Perlman - Schindler's List

Itzhak Perlman shares something beyond his bio.

Itzhak Perlman shares something beyond his bio.

I’ve mentioned the asinine quality of the artist bio a few times in the past but it’s time to take this thing on like bighorn sheep butting heads during the spring rut. That is to say — head on.

Here are bios of five public figures in vastly different fields. Yet they have one thing in common — their bios are almost identical.

Violinist Itzhak Perlman. CEO Jack Welch. Actress/Female Actor Sandra Bullock. California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. Wildlife photographer Jason Savage.

Of these bios, the most revealing is that of Gavin Newsom, the politician, because his policies tell us something about his convictions. The rest of them are nothing more than gussied-up resumes.

Take a look at Tom Waits’s website. There is no bio or “about me” section. There is a “Wit and Wisdom” section. The very first line reads, “I didn’t just marry a beautiful woman, I married a record collection.”

That one line tells tells us more about Tom Waits than all the “artist” bios we see at classical music concerts.

Hey musicians, it’s time to stop giving us your resume and start giving us your bio. Either that or give us nothing at all. It’s insulting. Imagine speaking to someone and all they talked about was where they had worked and how strangers thought that they were great.

“Hey there, musician. What’s new? How are you doing?”

“I played Rachmaninoff’s second in Sarasota.”

“Really? How was Sarasota? I’ve never been there.”

“I went to Juilliard.”

“Cool. New York is incredible but I’ve heard living there makes you want to scratch your face off.”

“According to critics, I triumphed in Moscow, Idaho.”

“I thought the Roman Senate was the only body able to grant a triumph.”

“I made my European debut with the Bratislava Philharmonic.”

“Remember the ‘Two wild and crazy guys’ from Saturday Night Live back in the day? Weren’t those guys from Bratislava?”

“I made a recording for Koch International.”

“I hate the Koch brothers. F those guys.”

It makes no sense. Stop sticking to the facts and get dirty with some convictions.

Is this is a job interview and we’re weighing your work experience and education against that of other applicants? Maybe we should require musicians to include references.

Get as far away from the traditional bio as you can. Start creating culture with the way you communicate who you are at every opportunity. The traditional bio is the skeleton of decaying 20th century conventions and it stinks.

Stop being "professional" and start expressing the fire, the conviction, the emotion that makes you the artist that you are, even in something as basic as your program bio.

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dwbat Sept. 29, 2015 @ 9 a.m.

The commonality of those five talented people is that they're not writers. Apparently they don't hire good writers to prepare their bios, either. Hey Sandra, I'm available; Have Pen - Will Travel.


Garrett Harris Sept. 30, 2015 @ 10:53 a.m.

I think you should submit an a bio for Sandra here in the comments.

I'll do Jack Welch's:

"Jack Welch received a retirement package in excess of $400 million. Who wouldn't want to be that guy? Wait, you have a soul? Jack can help. He has a CEO training program which will sever your heart from your bank account and help you turn people into numbers."


dwbat Sept. 30, 2015 @ 12:35 p.m.

Sandra will have to pay me first. I did see her in person, about 10 years ago in Vegas when she was shooting "Miss Congeniality 2". I was living a couple of blocks off the Strip, and a location mgr. came by my apt. saying he'd like to come back tomorrow with the director. If they selected my place for filming, he said I'd get $500 a day + a free hotel room. I said OK. The next evening the director and Sandra DID come by. She waited outside while the director came into my studio apt., looked around awhile and then they both left. The location mgr. said he'd let me know later if they want to use my apt. [They didn't.] Ah, that's showbiz!


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