It has recently come to my attention from various circles that there is a mistaken definition of collaborative piano. It is this:
Collaborative pianists distinguish themselves from the common accompanist by being able to bring a wealth of experiences and skills to the table, such as knowledge of poetry, diction, or style. Being able to draw on these related skills as well as having a higher standard of playing and working with other musicians is what sets apart collaborative pianists from mere accompanists.
This definition is wrong.
Although it seems to be a good explanation of what collaborative piano is on the surface, I must disagree for the following reasons:
Having a distinction between collaborative pianists and accompanists creates an apartheid system in the profession where:
Accompanists=hack pianists that suck
Collaborative Pianists=really good accompanists
If this nomenclature is used, then usage of the cp term denotes nothing more than a "premium brand" of accompanist. Worse yet, it can easily become used only as a politically correct term in academia, which is something I've definitely felt and is one of the reasons I started this blog in the first place.
So what is collaborative piano?
Nothing less than the field of pianists who choose to work and perform with other musicians. Period. It is not a service industry as so many people seem to think (see NFCS discussion thread on the topic), but a genuine field of artistic expertise and a profession that seems to be more viable than most in the piano field these days.
The idea of the collaborative piano nomenclature, as exemplified by Samuel Sanders--who invented the term--and those who worked to spread its usage in the early 1990's is that it would subsume and rename the entire profession formerly known as "accompanying", bearing in mind that accompanying does not really take into account all the activities of those who work in this field. For further explanation, please read my career options posting from last year, especially the angry anonymous comment (I actually have a pretty good idea who posted it thanks to my Sitemeter stats) that came in not long after, for the crime of suggesting that a collaborative pianist could also be hired as a singer (and they are--I now know of three in Toronto alone).
There are also those who take offense at people mentioning the word "accompanist" and will angrily correct those who utter the word. I'm not one of those people, and for now I'm okay with both terms being used interchangeably. However, one of the great ongoing battles in both the freelance world and academia by practitioners of this art is simply to be recognized as a pianist, nothing more, nothing less.
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