What's in a bio?

First off, before i get this discussion rolling, this is not an attack on the program office involved. They are a very traditional establishment and i accept that. They produce quite nice programs that are edited quite well. This is just a difference of opinion on what makes a biography, not any sort of attack. Just so happens my view is quite different.

So, i know i've discussed my views on bios before on this blog. Today, i received an "edited" version of a bio i sent to a festival. This is what I sent:

John Chittum drinks water, but could probably stand to do so with more frequency. He is a composer, multi-media artist, sound engineer, and occasionally plays trombone. He has had works performed all over the universe, including EM-NY's IEAMF, DePauw Univeristy's Chamber Orchestra's 2006 West Coast Tour, and the anthem to Rigel 7's "Intermorphic Games 2009 (Earth Year)." His music has been described as “microtonal post-neo-litho-mini- Max/Msp-moderno-anticonservative-primitavisitic concert music and film scores.” When not writing music, John enjoys wrapping speakers in foil so the government (any and all) cannot steal his music, staring at blank walls, and working with UMKC's Composer's in the School program, and teaching at KCKCC (CCKCCKCKCCC), and UMKC (CCKCCCKC), helping to teach the next generation of poor starving artists. He has a fine leather bound degree from DePauw University in a box somewhere, an MM from Brooklyn College in an envelope on his desk, and is attempting one more "because i couldn't get a real job" at University of Missouri Kansas City. John also has a sense of humor, laughs a great deal, and refuses to take life too seriously. He’s known for being “the kind of guy who will watch 8 hours of Futurama and read Proust at the same time.”

and yes, that final quote is a quote. It's actually from Russel Thorpe who authored an amazing bio about me for the Black House Improvisors' Collective. Absolutely amazing.

I expected edits. Oh yes, indeed i did. The program office here is very traditional. They've been known to edit professor's bios if they mention things that are too "out there." If you read this blog, you've probably noticed i'm not exactly a strict tradition guy. Well, this is the bio that came out of this...

"John Chittum is a composer, multimedia artist, sound engineer and occasional trombonist. His works have been performed at EM-NY’s International Electro-Acoustic Music festivals and the 2006 West Coast Tour of DePauw University’s Chamber Orchestra. When not writing music, Chittum enjoys working with UMKC’s Composers in the School program and teaching at the Kansas City Kansas Community College and UMKC. He holds degrees from DePauw University and Brooklyn College and is currently a doctoral student at UMKC."

well then, that took all the fun out of it...and it became just a meaningless list of accomplishments. Yep...pretty boring. and it says nothing about me. nothing

This bio, when i read it, tells me nothing. So, he's had performances and he teaches, has a couple degrees, and does all sorts of shit. Who cares? That doesn't mean anything. The bio i sent really tells you who I am. You read that, you know EXACTLY who John Chittum is. The edited version has absolutely no life to it at all. I definitely would have preferred they just say "this is unacceptable. Please write something more traditional."

In light of the massive edits that sucked the soul out of the bio and left only factoids, i wrote a new bio to send them. i hope this revision goes in

"John Chittum (1984) is a composer, educator, multi-media artist, trombonist, and audio engineer. As a composer he has had pieces performed across the US with groups such as Remarkable Theater Brigade, DePauw University Chamber Orchestra, and in association with KcEMA. As an educator, John has taught audio engineering courses at Kansas City Kansas Community College and University of Missouri-Kansas City, music appreciation at Brooklyn College, music appreciation through the S.T.A.R. program associated with Brooklyn College, and as a Composers-In-The-Schools fellow at UMKC. John still actively performs on trombone, most recently playing with Black House Improvisors' Collective and is planning a trombone and electronics concert for 2012. Working mostly as a monitor engineer for Concert Quality Sound, John has enjoyed experiences with L.L. Cool J, The Trammps, The Blue Notes, Chubby Checker, and Tony Orlando. In the electro-acoustic scene, John has worked as a lead engineer and system technician for the International Electroacoustic Music Festival (IEAMF), KcEMA, The Composers Guild at UMKC, and Musica Nova. While John has many varied musical experiences that have influenced his work, his non-musical experiences, such as driving a large delivery truck in Philadelphia, traversing long distances in his 1995 Jeep Cherokee without a stereo, his regular trips to the Atlantic City and Ocean City, NJ beaches, and his forays into culinary experimentation, are of equal importance in his musical development."

At least that one still has some of the whimsey, and, let's face, if you want me to LIST ACCOMPLISHMENTS, BRING IT ON! I've got a few. I'll name drop, i'll put down professional credit, whatever. However, it's the final sentence, now couched in more formal writing, that still says more than anything...

and, knowing the office, there's a chance it gets cut.

So, here's the question: what are people's takes on bios? should they stick to tradition or break the mold? What says more about a person; a list of accomplishments or a something really composed in their own style? For those that know me (and read this blog), which of the three really does tell you about John Chittum?

This is NOT a knock on this office. I know they are traditionalists and i took a chance sending the zany bio. I do wish they had just asked for another rather than editing it though. I am capable of writing a traditional bio, just dislike to use it unless I am required. But, they do mean well and produce fantastic looking programs

which reminds me, i need to send them a program for the Guild concert in April.

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