I recently auditioned for a MM. in Collaborative Piano at a well-known American conservatory and had a somewhat surprising experience. For the audition, I was to prepare a solo work, a set of 4 songs or arias, and an instrumental sonata of my choosing. I brought my own violinist since I knew a grad student studying at the school, but requested that the school provide a singer for my audition (which they offer to do). When the singer showed up to my warm-up room 20 minutes before my audition, it became clear that she had just been asked by the collaborative piano professor to sing for my audition 15 minutes prior. This meant that she would only perform one song with me Not only had she never been coached on the music, but she didn't use the score in the audition and ended up forgetting half her words, missing pick-ups, etc.
I realize that this is a real-life situation and I deal with it everyday as a voice studio accompanist, but I assumed that the point of a collaborative piano audition was not to see if we can play "catch-up" when our partners do something unexpected. In my opinion, this is one of the simpler skills of the trade. My real surprise came when I was asked to play another song while the collaborative piano professor plunked out the vocal line next to me on the piano (our hands crossing and all). I was quite frustrated after having very conscientiously prepared for my auditions to find that it seemed like the professor did not take collaboration very seriously. I learned from other students that this was not unique to my audition, and that this professor always finds soloists at the last minute and sometimes doesn't find them at all. So, my question to you is...Is this really considered acceptable? Am I crazy to think that if the point of the audition is just to see if we can play the notes, then i shouldn't be a collaborative piano audition? Should I be prepared for this at the rest of my auditions?If you're a faculty member or administrator at a school of music, setting up a day of collaborative piano auditions can be an extremely complex affair, with singers and instrumentalists that need to be coordinated (and paid!) to meet a pianist and perform in the audition with little or no rehearsal time.
I certainly hope that this pianist's experience is the exception rather than the norm. It's also important to remember that the student is auditioning the school as much as the school is auditioning the applicant.
Teachers and students: what are some best practices that need to be put in place in order that a graduate-level collaborative piano audition go smoothly?