Building a performance portfolio is an important step for both student and professional musicians. It is especially crucial for college admittance, because a great portfolio can have a big influence on acceptance board members. However, many musicians and teens are unaware of how to put together their performance portfolio and often put off building it until the deadline is close. When that happens, you can be sure that your portfolio won’t be able to reflect your achievements accurately.
Building a great performance portfolio in order to help you earn college acceptance or land a specific gig doesn’t have to be a chore. By making your preparations early, you’ll have plenty of time to create a stunning presentation that will impress your target audience, and hopefully earn you the desired spot. Although the focus is a little different between professional and a student portfolios, the fundamentals are the same. You want to create a memorable presentation that shows your musical range and abilities in a unique way.
Artist Portfolio Basics
First, you’ll need to determine the scope and parameters of your performance portfolio. Ask yourself some questions, like:
- Who will be viewing it? If you are creating a portfolio to use in a professional capacity, you need to include some specific information. Likewise, college boards will be looking for certain unstated qualities. In both instances, public service work and similar work with charitable outreach programs helps give the reviewer a personal sense of who you are and what you have to offer.
- What type of requirements are there? For college admissions, the requirements can be very specific. Carefully read and understand exactly what each school is asking for; they can have very divergent requests concerning both the content and the design.
- What do I want to accomplish with the portfolio? Essentially, you want your performance portfolio to reflect the best of your talents, but for college admissions, you want to cover the entire scope of your musical training up to that point. By establishing the goal of your project first, you’ll be able to take your time in its development, and consequently, create a better portfolio.
- What type of submission format should be used? Although a webpage portfolio is all the rage, most colleges will request a specific format for submission. And, it would be frustrating to get half-way through only to discover that you’ll need to change the format.
Remember, if you give yourself plenty of time to accomplish the work, making your portfolio will be a fun, exciting endeavor. So, plan ahead and put yourself in the shoes of those who will eventually see it.
What to Include
Typically, you’ll want your portfolio to include specific features, according to its specific purpose. Approaching the task as a marketing technique is a good idea. Basically, you are selling your abilities to a potential buyer, almost like a resume.
Include these items in a professional portfolio:
- Cover photo of yourself or your band—Make this a clear, high quality picture that represents the image you want to convey.
- Introductory Letter and Biography—Use concise points and give a brief background of your music, why it’s important to you, and other aspects that define your life as a musician.
- Demo Recording—This should include the best two or three pieces that really define your music. Assume that the person who is listening is busy, so you want the first tracks to stand out.
- Press Reviews—This is where you have a chance to display any praise you’ve garnered. Include local music magazine write ups, online reviews, and other reputable quotes, but be sure to provide contact information (which can simply be a link or citation) for the source.
Although you should double check the requirements for the specific school, for college applications, include these items:
- Head Shot—This is very important, and you’ll want the photo to be an excellent representation. Senior pictures are great, but you want to make your performance portfolio stand out from the rest. Try modifying a picture of yourself (that someone else has taken) during a performance so that you face is very clear. Black and white pictures are also impressive when done correctly.
- Recitals and Performances—You’ll want to include video examples of your performances, but remember to show as large a range as possible. Include as many different genres as you can.
- Original Scores—If you’ve composed solos for an instrument or even a group, the best of your compositions should be incorporated.
Remember, with a college submission, the written application will complement your performance portfolio, and it will include your academic achievements and other extra-curricular activities.
Creating a portfolio doesn’t have to be frightening or stressful. If you take your time, you can build an impressive presentation, exactly suited for your specific needs.