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(Login oakvillain)
NFCS Member

some clarification

March 10 2007, 5:27 PM 

What people are referring to as collaborative pianists in this thread is only in the context of hiring someone in a capacity as pianist/accompanist/coach/collaborative pianist.

Don't forget that there are pianists who do things like perform in orchestras, perform in new music ensembles, play chamber music, coach chamber music, train coaches, dramaturge new operatic works, and create/perform multimedia works. All these activities can hardly be called "accompanying"--therefore, they have gradually been subsumed under the much larger banner of collaborative piano.

The aspect of the field that involves pianists being hired by singers for their valuable playing and coaching expertise is only a small subset of a much larger body of activity.

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(Login MyAntonia)
NFCS Member

Thanks for this.

March 10 2007, 6:35 PM 

I'm as guilty as anyone else of thinking narrowly, and I appreciate your clarification!

It makes sense, of course, that for collaborative pianists, accompaning is only one aspect of their work.

I'd also like to clarify that my complaint about inflation of terms is that people put themselves in higher categories than their skills warrant...and it's not just pianists or even musicians generally, so I didn't mean to pick on one group.

But this thread has really made me think about what collaboration is all about generally, and how labels change the way we perceive things.

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(Login Radamaxifal)
NFCS Member

Earth humor

March 10 2007, 8:21 PM 

Of course I would like every talented musician to make a decent living from his or her gift, and I would like to be able to hand out large sums to deserving pianists.

The reason I feel I have the latitude to make this joke is that I am deeply invested and involved in art song rep. I've done a lot of recitals in a lot of languages. I do my translations and I do my homework. I live with the pieces for a long time before performing them.

Sometimes when I shell out lots of money for the services of a pianist, I get someone who waits too long to prepare, doesn't know the songs (you can't know them all, of course), gets stubborn over tempi, doesn't understand the words, wants to program different pieces... and to those people I say, if you want to run the show, the show costs money. If we go halvesies on the money, I'll be glad to cede half the control.

Having said that, I've worked with a very few excellent pianists who respect singers, play beautifully and have excellent artistic judgement. And strangely they, the ones who deserve steep fees, seem less concerned with the financial side than the high-handed ones.


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(Login zorakkoach)
NFCS Member

some thoughts (long)

March 10 2007, 1:17 PM 

As a lifelong collaborative pianist/coach/accompanist, here are a few thoughts I'd like to share.

First off, I began accompanying in high school. Through a friend, I got hired by a local voice teacher to accompany her students' lessons one week out of the month for the then princely sum of $5 an hour! Minimum wage flipping burgers was $1.75. (Okay, I'm old... but I'm not dead yet!)

I read Gerald Moore's book "The Unashamed Accompanist" as a junior in high school and I knew that that was what I wanted to do.

I did an undergrad degree in accompanying --- the only person to get all the way through said degree, and some years after I finished it, they removed it from the catalog. Lack of interest, I think.

I did grad degrees in piano performance and am still in debt to the eyeballs. But I don't regret my grad school experience because of my personal growth as a musician during that time and the specific friendship I formed with a truly great voice teacher who to this day still inspires me with her singing, her teaching, her sensitivity, and her absolute and uncompromising honesty in all matters. A role model for life.

I have a strong knowledge and skill with languages and an ability to hear all manner of things a singer might be doing, while maintaining a piano part of no small dimension.

Here's the kicker: I can make more money as an instrumental accompanist than I can doing what I really love to do --- work with singers.

The few times I've been back to that institution that granted me my degrees, I've been fawned over by the voice teachers with queries about why I don't come over there to accompany more singers, and they really need someone. The last time it happened, I sent an e-mail to the head of the department and said if it were possible for them to coordinate a couple of afternoons for me to go from lesson to lesson, I'd be happy to do it. Never heard back. Until the next time I ran into them again and then it was "Oh, we really need someone like you here."

I feel like the most open secret in town, yet I get all the last-minute calls. "Oh, I've called everyone else I can think of --- can YOU do it?"

Well, yes, I can and I will and do a good job. But the next time, that same person never calls me first.

I'm a friendly, if not fawning personality. I'm kind and I'm open. And I'm honest if you ask. I try not to offer an unsolicited opinion. But the feeling I get is that many singers don't really want to know if there's a problem. They're perfectly happy working on a vowel mod in the passaggio without acknowledging or fixing a rhythm gone commando in the first phrase. I feel as though many such would-be pros have walked through my door expecting to hear how wonderful they are, and are disappointed when I expect to work through whatever it is they're having trouble with. If not, then why did they call me in the first place?

I figure it this way: if you're paying me for my time and expertise, then I'm obligated to provide it. Otherwise it's a stupid circle jerk and you've wasted your money looking for some kind of affirmation.

Don't get me wrong -- I love singers! I understand the problems facing most singers today --- how do you know who to trust? You're faced with so many opinions every day on what you're doing, how you're doing it and why. But everyone has a built-in shit-o-meter. Many have sublimated it so that it only works in generalities. When inundated with so many opinions, sorting them out is part of the job you have to do in order to get on.

But that's the core of who you are as a person. Sometimes the growth you experience is in letting go of ideas you had about how things should be. "Should" is a malleable concept. Don't let it dictate the way you live.


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(Login Radamaxifal)
NFCS Member

Nice post! -- nt

March 10 2007, 1:51 PM 


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