Have you put your amateur violin study on your resume?

October 29, 2018, 1:11 PM · I want to mention my commitment to a decade of violin study someplace on my resume, but am not sure how to go about that, or whether people even do. I have enough work experience not to necessitate a "general skills" section, so I'd have to put violin under either education or work experience. If I had, say, competed the Suzuki repertoire, I'd probably use that... but my violin education has been more scattered and disorganized since I quit Suzuki only halfway through the program.

I've also considered using my (pretty thin, so far) experience teaching a few beginner and adult-returner violinist friends at a beginner level. I'm afraid of this looking unprofessional, or even made-up/exaggerated.

Have any amateurs included violin experience beyond a mention in a list of "skills"?

Replies (34)

October 29, 2018, 1:36 PM · I would stick to only work, but some people have a hobbies and interest section on their resume. It always comes off as weird. However, you could add a section of Volunteer Activities. Volunteer at X community orchestra, teaching beginner violin students, whatever else you do, etc.
October 29, 2018, 1:40 PM · Ah, great point. LinkedIn makes this easy wth a Volunteering section.
October 29, 2018, 2:22 PM · My CV has a section for qualifications, so I note my qualifications on the violin in there - with a note to say I took it as a personal challenge, just in case anyone wonders whether I'm planning to change career.

As a manager I actually quite like to see hobbies/interests on a CV.

(Equally it would be weird to see a list of skills including "plays the violin", given the sector I work in. Though I did once see a CV where a candidate was saying they had skills in "financial crime"... errrrrrr....)

October 29, 2018, 2:36 PM · I like to see applicants have hobbies. I don't care if it is running marathons, brewing beer or collecting orchids. Just something other than "spend time with my family" and "travelling" - everybody likes that. Having learned to play an instrument shows persistence and dedication.
October 29, 2018, 2:36 PM · I like to see applicants have hobbies. I don't care if it is running marathons, brewing beer or collecting orchids. Just something other than "spend time with my family" and "travelling" - everybody likes that. Having learned to play an instrument shows persistence and dedication.
October 29, 2018, 2:48 PM · Actually I think that my experience with playing viola in the SFYO got me my first job, a coffee-shop job, when I was 17. But a big part of that might have been them knowing that I drove 2 hours each way every Saturday to rehearse. I think most people know that string instruments require discipline, so it's not a bad thing, IF the context of the resume makes it appropriate to do so.

October 29, 2018, 3:22 PM · Perhaps one of those things only a violin (cello, viola, etc.) player could appreciate, the dedication to practicing, seeking perfection and not giving up would understand. I would include it and agree it shows you have a varied non-polarised life. Who knows, perhaps your prospective employer also plays a musical instrument and gives you just that extra connection needed. By the way I am a mechanical engineer, so very different to my music hobbies, violin included.
October 29, 2018, 3:30 PM · It all depends on who is hiring and how far is your profession from music. Not too many people will appreciate violin playing skills, unless they too have succumbed to the same virus. The other danger is that you may be asked to entertain during company events, which, in my opinion is blurring the boundaries between your personal and professional life. Some job looking courses teach that the employer wants to see a "live person", but my experience is that they are in 99% cases looking for a cog in the machine.
October 29, 2018, 3:40 PM · I think it's fine to have "Hobbies" on a resume, especially if your hobbies are out of the ordinary. It's a nice conversation-starter for interviews.

That depends on where you intend to work, though. Some companies prefer employees that essentially don't have any non-work commitments.

Edited: October 29, 2018, 9:20 PM · My orchestra experience and choir singing experience go under volunteering as I am not getting paid for those activities and contain a small blurb, just a word or two, about my role there (Performs as section violist, for example). They can infer my interest in singing/strings from that.

My choral conducting goes under employment even if I don't get a steady pay cheque from it. It is a professional activity and I have a contract with specific obligations I need to fulfil as an employee of the choir, acting pro bono or not. If they were to call the choirs president for a reference I would expect them to provide one of a similar quality to any other employer.

Depending on where I am applying I either do or do not include my teaching on my resume. If I am submitting a resume I don't but if I am submitting a CV I do. It is also mentioned in cover letters as it infers a specific amount of patience and a certain skill set.

Edited: October 29, 2018, 9:36 PM · Just be careful you don't overstate your activities. Is playing with a community orchestra "volunteering" just because you don't get paid? If someone enjoys college football, are they "volunteering" by going to the games? Does one "volunteer" at the local chess club by signing up for a tournament? To me, volunteering means an activity that is primarily for someone else's benefit. Something you do for fun is called a hobby.
October 29, 2018, 9:45 PM · I can only speak to this from the other side of the resume, i.e. the professional musician side. Hobbies on resumes are a waste of space. But we look at resumes for a very particular reason only, which is to determine who is likely to be qualified to take an audition vs who would be wasting their time and ours, so it may very well be different in another field.
October 29, 2018, 9:47 PM · I don't consider them mutually exclusive.

I volunteer to play in the orchestra for free and am not a paid employee. The orchestra provides a cultural service to the local community in the form of two well prepared (sometimes 3) ticketed concerts per year. This also happens to overlap with my enjoyment of playing viola but is not my primary motivator for doing so. Instead it is using a skill gained through study and hobby to provide a public service.

The choir is more clear cut. I do it because it's hard to find men to sing in a small community. It is at an inconvenient time and I don't usually enjoy the majority of the repertoire, but do it so they can have a stronger male section at my own expense to time I could be spending doing other activities.

October 29, 2018, 11:13 PM · Interesting point Mary, so if I as an engineer was hiring for an engineering position, saw the CV with no professional engineering experience but as a hobby mechanical engineering, I would not consider the candidate further. If on the other hand, hypothetically, it as for a company that designs musical instruments and used engineering analysis as a major part of the business, some one with a degree in music and engineering as a hobby I would take another look at the CV. Ultimately your professional experience sets how well you are qulified for the position, your hobbies (optional) tells the employer more about you as a person, how you may fit into the company as a person can be very important for a well functioning office.
Edited: October 30, 2018, 12:37 AM · Hobbies and interests are very important for me and my HR managers when we check CVs. Very often the professional and academic qualifications between candidates are very similar and the tipping comes from the hobbies. It is very important to create a team that is compatible and longstanding interests tell a lot about a person's personality and make easier to create a group with good chemistry.
This, I learned from my first job. After hundreds of applicants, we were 2 left. We had similar academic profile and similar work experience. The other one spoke English and German and I spoke English and Japanese.
What made them hire me was that I was a windsurfing teacher and had won some sailing competition. Later they told me that they thought that I would be a fun colleague to work with, instead of the boring "reading and travelling" of the other one.
October 30, 2018, 12:53 AM · I would list it under “Community Service” if one has performed individually or in an ensemble for the benefits of one’s community.
Edited: October 30, 2018, 8:08 AM · Music as "community service" is kind of a stretch, and I think would be seen as such. "Community service" to me would mean working for a local food project, driving seniors to medical appointments, or building houses for Habitat.

When I was a concertmaster and reading many resumes, I can make this generalization:

Practically every single one was a stinker: flowery paper, poor grammar and/or spelling, disorganized, use of long, run-on paragraphs... you name it. Most people THINK they know how to write and communicate, or how to structure a good resume. They don't.

October 30, 2018, 9:09 AM · I think my college applications were the last "resumés that mentioned my musical interests. In that case violin playing probably got me into the college I attended because it had a minuscule music department and the orchestra was a volunteer organization directed by the head of the astronomy department. With only about 1,000 students they still had to maintain that symphony orchestra at strength every year. I think "Professor" Peter Schickele" (better known now and universally as P.D.Q Bach) who was a year behind me was the only music major in the school. He played bassoon in our school orchestra and we played some of music he composed, including a symphony.

However whenever I chose to move to a new location after college I always checked out the musical opportunities before making the decision. Although I never used my musical interests in a resumé it did come up in subsequent interviews. But I only ever had two interviews that resulted in two jobs, one in DC for 7 years and one in CA that lasted for 28, although in that "job" I held 7 or 8 different different positions). In some of those jobs I hired a number of people and read a number of resumés. I cannot recall a single resumé that described outside interests. There may have been some that did, but it would have had no influence on my choices. What did make a difference was having listed references and accurate contact information, because unlike many prospective "bosses" I did personally contact references (at least by phone) with some "interesting" results.

I counted on my on-line resumé for getting clients for the 15 years while I was a consultant after retiring from the "gainful" employments mentioned above - and that was all business - no music at all. But by then I was known in my field so the resumé was just a sort of add-on, like a one-page business card to show their bosses before hiring me.

I think you should use targeted resumés and only include tangentially related information, such as outside interests, when it seems appropriate to you (especially if you think you have little else that stands out).

As far as music as a "community service" is concerned, the community orchestras I played in for 32 years got itself on the local "United Fund" and was able to get some financial support that way. In spite of that I tend to agree with Scott.

October 30, 2018, 12:29 PM · I agree with others above that the decision should be guided by the specifics of the situation, but in my world (medicine) listing of even very important outside interests like violin wouldn’t likely help one score an interview, and are best omitted on a formal CV. That said, I would definitely try to work it in at the right time in an interview, and see whether or not it generates any further discussion.

I also concur that it’s a stretch to claim community orchestra as volunteer work - wouldn’t list it there.

October 30, 2018, 3:04 PM · Agree with those who said it depends on your field! (And how much you need to pad your resume.) If you're applying for an administrative position in a professional orchestra, you should definitely make it clear that you play. Marketing, PR, development, and communications love stuff like this. They want to hire someone who is on every board, participates in the community, and generally knows people. Also, there are usually 1,000,000 people applying for the same job and they all have the same exact resume. Anything that sets you apart while still making you look like a team player is helpful. As Lydia mentioned, it's a good chit chat item. Putting it on Linked In is an excellent idea. (Goes without saying, but connect with anyone in your orchestra who's also on Linked In)

I would list all the volunteer organizations you're involved in, only if you think it could give you a leg up. Titled volunteer positions are best, community orchestras are starved for people who will raise money or run their fb page- so you should take advantage of that. Your resume should be one page, no more than two and your goal is brevity and clarity.

It's unlikely that anyone is going to actually 'read' your resume. An HR rep will computer sort them using keywords, pull the ones that check all their boxes, hand them to a manager, who will in turn call a few that look interesting in for an interview, then hire the person they worked with at their last company.

October 30, 2018, 4:21 PM · I've put it on my resume occasionally, usually to show a leadership position, or experience communicating with people. For example, I was concertmaster of my old orchestra and I was on the Board of Directors. I created and ran the Facebook page. I'm the librarian of an orchestra I'm in now, and I've been principal viola. I also organized student volunteer ushers at concerts. I put those things down. The student volunteer usher organizing caught the eye of someone when I was looking for a teaching position. It can give you talking points in an interview if they are looking for an example of something creative you did, something difficult/challenging that you pulled off successfully, or an example of leadership or conflict resolution.
Edited: October 30, 2018, 5:16 PM · I play the viola in two orchestras. I would much rather play violin but they both need violas very badly. And one of the orchestras, probably I would not play at all if they were not so desperate for reasonable players. (Calling myself "reasonable" tells you how sore their predicament is.) I even bought the viola just so I could do this. I otherwise have no interest in the viola.

But there is absolutely no way I could justify listing those activities on my CV as "service" or "volunteer work."

If I were in a hiring position and saw such things, I would downgrade those applications immediately. Someone who's willing to rationalize stretching the truth on their CV might end up doing so in their proposals and published articles. And in my business (academic chemistry) that's the road to hell.

In the US, particularly in government agencies (such as the university where I work), you post required and preferred qualifications and that's all you're allowed to judge. Going beyond that will not survive an equal-opportunity audit and may even be illegal. Likewise, if a person offers the information that they're a violinist or other aspects of their personal life during an interview, we can talk about that, but we can't ask. Even a question like, "So, what do you like to do in your spare time?" is forbidden.

Edited: October 30, 2018, 10:01 PM · I agree with Karen Allendoerfer.

Service is not restricted to serving to the poor or the sick; it also means serving your neighbors. Serving as section leaders, directors of orchestra boards, and librarians is service to one’s community. Organizing concerts demonstrates leadership. None of these would just happen. All these activities take time and effort and they make the lives of at least some brighter.

Edited: October 31, 2018, 12:01 AM · I have read that medical schools accept a lot of candidates that have a music background in addition to their pre-med. science courses and good grades. Learning an instrument requires many years of consistent daily work, commitment, and self-discipline, the same qualities that are needed to survive medical school.
October 31, 2018, 12:47 AM · My position on this is similar to Karen's: I use it on my resume to highlight relevant skills when appropriate. Experience as a principal violist is indicative of leadership and communication skills; I can also point out the youth outreach and education work I've done with some of my orchestras, which I think is genuine community service.
October 31, 2018, 10:36 AM · I agree with Carlos. With the possible reservation that I would only put serious interests on my CV - which included violin playing and one or two other things I did for enjoyment.
In the days when I looked at CV's and assessed job applicants I always looked at the outside interests - how people bring balance to their lives and avoid becoming totally 'work-centric'. I think serious outside interests are a sign of a balanced personality and ensure that they get a break from work and hopefully come to work refreshed each day (or at least most days).
October 31, 2018, 10:46 AM · Like other said, many resumes have a Hobby and Interest section. It speaks to the character and aptitudes of the future employee.
November 1, 2018, 1:08 PM · Service and volunteering are distinct from leadership. The benefit of leadership is that it implies service. If you're the unpaid music director of a community orchestra, that's bona fide leadership, but anyone would say you're serving too. If you're just a section player, that's not leadership and IMO it's borderline for service too (which means I can see that both ways). Job applicants, however, should be judged on their ability to do the job. Not whether they're going to be pleasant company at happy hour or on poker night.
Edited: November 1, 2018, 11:33 PM · Being pleasant with some respectable hobbies is in many cases essential to doing one’s job. While spending long hours in a lab may be all one needs to do in some disciplines, that is not true in every case.

Not even for academics.

For academics in some professional disciplines, networking with leading practitioners in the profession is a must and “soft skills” that can be developed in serving in a community orchestra is needed.

Edited: November 7, 2018, 2:22 AM · Just checked back and saw SO many replies---thanks, this is so helpful!

So for one, I will not list it under volunteer activity because it's a stretch.

Ok, I can do a hobbies section.

I just have a personal gripe with the entire concept of "hobbies" which, I know, I will have to put aside for this resume task. But anyway I'm going to go on the rant. I mean, it's a *commitment*, and I care about improving. It's also meaningful to me. Calling it a hobby seems to degrade it, as though it's one notch above passive entertainment, something that blends into reading and traveling. Does this make sense? It's a weird and sad pain to represent my relationship with violin as: "Hobbies: Violin." Like it's either [list of tangible achievements]---or meaningless. And I just hate on principle that there *exist* jobs that don't want you to have other commitments. How dare they! What in the world. But I'm stuck in the world.

I work in copywriting/editing so I think they'll want to know about allll my cool hobbies. On it goes!

Edited: November 7, 2018, 8:56 AM · I don't.

Some employers might consider it useful, not as much not say "Oh wow, he plays violin, let's pat him in the bach" but to have an idea of other time-consuming activities the person is involved. For the most part, is the job is unrelated to music, I consider it a waste of space (and a CV should be VERY brief).

Having said that, I did add the fact that I take private music lessons and been involved with some amateur orchestras when I applied for a M.Sc, but again, my research project was about neuroscience applied to music.

November 16, 2018, 5:20 PM · Just a few days ago I was at a lecture by a prominent clinical biochemist who listed ALCM amongst his qualifications. When, in question time, I asked him what it was in, it turned out it was in jazz improvisation, and he found it by far the most difficult examination he had ever taken!
Edited: November 16, 2018, 6:31 PM · I used to put it on the bottom of the resume along with my language skills (I am a scientist so those are useful only indirectly). I did not use the word "hobby" but just put a line below the languages: "Accomplished violinist and chamber music player". It seems to have done no harm there.

Obviously, since I am applying for a chemistry job I am an amateur and the word "accomplished" has to be taken in that context.

November 16, 2018, 7:17 PM · FWIW, I think almost every career path leads to something that is mainly a "people" job sooner or later, so those soft skills are always important. (I'm a lawyer and formerly a scientist.)


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