My passion is to help others in the community, young, old, and everyone in between, find relevance and joy in learning, performing or listening to classical music.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A semi-professional amateur's résumé

Today I had to quickly come up with a one page résumé for myself.  It was painful.  Really painful, partly because I haven't had to write one in a while and partly because I feel like my musical life has taken a turn these past few years down a path that is not one that I ever envisioned or even knew existed.  I couldn't neatly fit my musical life into the template I was using as reference, which happened to be one that befits someone in academia.  I couldn't even really figure out what to call myself, in terms of a profession.  This is not to say that I am not proud of what I do and what I believe in...quite the opposite, really.  I just didn't know how to make it all neat, tidy, and self-explanatory within the confines of one piece of paper.  

In the end, I did come up with something.  But I'm not sure that it's a document that really says a whole lot about me.  It says something about my education, yes, and the most recent performances I've done, yes, but that's about it.  

So, in an effort to redeem myself, here's a second stab at it.  Here's hoping it actually represents me.  

Erica Ann Sipes: semi-professional amateur musician 
(because I make money, sometimes, doing what I love to do)

  • Fell in love with music at age 5 and asked to take piano lessons at that time
  • Studied with a lot of wonderful teachers growing up in San Francisco, CA
  • Played a lot of chamber music and participated in the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra - an incredible experience
  • Continued studies at the Eastman School of Music
  • Have been continuing my education through accompanying just about every instrument out there
  • Is our education ever really over?
Interests and Passions:
  • Playing music with people young and old, experienced and not experienced
  • Helping people learn more efficient ways to learn and practice music
  • Helping people find the joy that comes with sharing music with others in all sorts of performance situations
  • Helping people realize that perfection in performance is impossible (or a miracle) and very detrimental to one's musical and psychological health
  • Writing about music, making music, and the process of sharing music
  • Connecting with other like-minded musicians and brainstorming about ways we can make music accessible to all
  • Sharing music, not for the purpose of making money, but for the purpose of sharing a part of myself and great music
Musical Highlights:
  • Playing with a violinist for her first Suzuki book recital, to a church full of people in a country community that rarely, if ever, hear classical music being played
  • Playing with young children and witnessing for the first time, their realization that music can be fun and that there is a unique artistic voice within each of them
  • Performing all of Schubert's song cycle, "Winterreise" with a wonderful baritone and having the time to explore each and every song
  • Trying out new formats for song recitals with my dear husband and baritone, Tadd Sipes, and watching the audience's reactions to something new
  • Breaking out of my comfort zone and performing Beethoven's 3rd Piano Concerto with Virginia Tech's orchestra, the New River Valley Symphony Orchestra
  • Playing one of the piano parts in Orff's "Carmina Burana"with the Roanoke Symphony - now that is exhilarating! 
  • Performing at our local retirement community and building relationships with the residents there - they are some of my most faithful, supportive fans
  • Playing piano at our church during services and experiencing the synergy that comes with such an interaction between musician and audience
  • Playing chamber music on a regular basis, with other amateurs and professionals in the community
Updated 5/23/2020
  • Co-founding the Alma Ensemblewith the desire to find and perform music written women through the ages and to also perform in ways that inspire community and dialogue
  • Live-streaming practice sessions and sight reading sessions regularly to help others see inside those processes
  • Helping musicians at all ages and stages feel good where they are and helping them improve whatever it is they want to improve, even if their music making is just for them.

There you have it!

I feel much better now.  Too bad this isn't the résumé I could submit.  Sigh...

Maybe in another 25 years.


  1. I love this!

    Now that I'm coming back to your blog, we identify on so many levels because in many ways, my projects are within the same scope and focus as yours (minus the accompanying bit)...

    I make very little money, but I don't care. Sometimes I feel a little down because I'm not getting the types of gigs I want, but I have to remind myself that it's as courageous to allow yourself to travel a different path...and the experiences are well worth it. Playing with excellent and less than excellent musicians (especially the less than excellent) enable to share yourself with these people and in turn, you get to share in their love of music making.


  2. Thank you so very much, Alexis, for your comments. It has been such a joy to get to know you and to see that we have so many similar ways of approaching life and music. I am thankful for twitter for crossing our paths and for you. :-)

    All the best,

  3. If we could afford it at DacapoVa.. -- we would hire you in a heartbeat ;-) I like the resume but you are right.. I suspect that most of the world, even the musical world, just isn't ready for the honesty..

    There is a powerful element of sustaining..and life and growth in our music.. exploring not just conserving the past... Money is important but it doesn't equal value by a long shot.. I think your writing speaks to these areas.. Thanks for that.


  4. Thank you, Jeff, for reading the post and for your comments. You really hit on something..."There is a powerful element of sustaining...and life and growth in our music...exploring not just conserving the past..." YES! That's it - that's how I feel yet it amazes me how often, it seems, we can lose sight of that. And when we do, music becomes something so completely different, so much more academic, dry, and ordinary, at least in my mind and soul.

    I am thankful for organizations like DacapoVa, that strives to share the magic of music, not just the technical side of music, with young people. There is so much short and long term value in such an investment!

    Thank you again, Jeff. It is so encouraging to me to keep discussions going with musicians like yourself. :-)

    I look forward to more,

  5. I know I'm going to upset some people by saying this but I'm really glad that you're neither an academic nor have a standardised musical CV.

    If you had, you'd be a completely different person and I for one probably wouldn't have connected with you.

    It's your joy of music making and picking up your enthusiasm in bringing the craft to the younger generation that is not only refreshing but pretty special :)

    I've talked about this on other channels before but until the industry turns its priorities away from an emphasis on academic achievement and starts rewarding those like you who actually offer far more than "processed" musical talent, no progress will be made on all the challenges that the profession in general faces.

    A bit like the difference between frozen and home-made churros - lol!

    I salute your bravery and wish many more would follow your example.

  6. Love it! Personal, action oriented and it will stand out from the crowd. Again, love it!

  7. Dear Marion,
    You're incredible :-) You always make me smile with your ever-so-British-patriot sense of humor, LOL! I loved the analogy to frozen vs. homemade churros but I have to say, you keep making me hungry.

    In all seriousness, thank you as always for your support and for truly understanding where I'm coming from. Writing this blog and getting such wonderful feedback from so many folks is so encouraging and shows me that you and I are definitely not alone in how we feel about sharing music with others.

    Let's continue on this journey-I definitely think it's worth more than just about anything else. :-)


  8. Shoshana,
    I am honored by your comments! Thank you so very much :-) Hopefully we'll get to work some together soon so that you can help me be even more effective in how I present my music and passion!



  9. Hi! I actually found this searching for ways to afford myself the best advantages in creating my own resume even without an extensive list of degrees from world-renowned music colleges or a list of highly acclaimed teachers that I studied under- and to my surprise I found the author is a friend from my Twitter! :) Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with this, it is good to know that I'm not alone in how I feel about this task which is, does passion not count? Is it really all about the accolades? Thus far my volunteering to play for Seniors to see the smile on their face or ease their loneliness, or performing for school children in a community that hasn't had a strings program for over fifty years, isn't looking too good on paper. Neither is my volunteer work performing for people that are incarcerated for 20 to life to bring a gleam of beauty via violin into their lives whether they deserve it or not. How do you list that? "Semi-professional, bleeding heart violinist seeking position in symphony" I just don't see that one taking me to the top anytime soon ;) Wish me luck!

  10. Hello, Brandy.
    Oh, I'm so very glad that you could relate with this more informal, but oh-so-meaningful resume. I think it's so difficult to try to shove the music and the arts into the traditional business box. I understand the need for resumes but to me it is completely contrary to the point of artistry, which is to be creative and expressive.

    You are a musician after my own heart, Brandy, and I'm so thankful that you have shared your valuable musical experiences here - I would love to meet you some day and to spread some musical joy to folks that aren't typically listed on resumes with you.

    Best wishes as you enter the world of Symphonies. I'm sending positive, encouraging thoughts your way. And if you think of it, please keep me posted about what you're doing, where're your at.

    All the best,