Wednesday, September 06, 2006

What's in a Name?

I originally intended to write a post entitled "10 interesting things about Collaborative Piano" as an informative way to touch on many of the issues that many of us feel are important. However, the first few ideas I had actually ended up growing a life of their own, and I decided to break up these ideas into separate posts to address each issue more completely. Here is the first of several installments:

"Collaborative Piano" is a term that has not yet caught on completely. There is a corner of the piano world that consists of pianists that rehearse with, coach, perform, and collaborate with other musicians, whether for financial reasons, personal satisfaction, or love of the repertoire. Traditionally called "accompanying", the pianists that practiced this art had a tendency to be marginalized, treated as second-class musicians, and often were omitted from concert programs. That is, until Samuel Sanders in a late 1980's interview coined the term "collaborative pianist" that several years later started to sweep the major cities of North America as a positive replacement to the subservience implied in the term "accompanist".

I first heard of the term in early 1995 from Rena Sharon at the University of British Columbia, and then that summer from Juilliard faculty member Connie Moore at the Bowdoin Festival. What both Connie and Rena felt needed to be emphasized was the concept of equality in what we do, that we work with rather than for. The term grew slowly but surely, and more and more of us opted to use it both for the profession and its practitioners. One of the reasons I started this blog in November 2005 was that I was starting to feel that too many of us were still being called "accompanists" both in public and the press, often with a negative subtext ("Oh, you played well, too").

Calling my blog "The Collaborative Piano Blog" did seem to me at first as smacking of hubris, as who was I to write on behalf of an entire profession, but I felt it was important to create a site that contained at least some core content on what the profession means, consisted of, what is at stake for us, as well as a little shameless self-promotion of my own projects. Perhaps through osmosis, the people that would visit the site, whether professionals, amateurs, casual readers, in educational institutions, arts organizations, lobbying groups, other blogs, the press, or public and private funding bodies would gradually begin to view our profession as not just a service industry, but an integral part of what makes the classical music profession work (after all, just try mounting an opera without repetiteurs or coaches--it can't be done). Nearly a year later, was the project successful? Hard to tell. However, I do notice the c-word being bandied about around Toronto more than it had been a year ago.

What do collaborative pianists want? Fame? Fortune? Probably not. Respect? Probably. Recognition as being committed performers and teachers alongside their soloist counterparts? Definitely.

What is Collaborative Piano?

My definition
Definition on the University of Colorado at Boulder site

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