Wednesday, June 20, 2012

10 Things That Should Never Be Said to a Collaborative Pianist (but still are)

Part of coming of age as a collaborative pianist includes dealing with the regular insensitivities that get said in the profession. These quasi-insults cause us much consternation, but in the interest of politics and expediency, we must bite our tongue.  So without further ado, here is a top list of 10 things that are unfortunately spoken in our presence:

1. "You should really wait for the singer to take their bow before taking yours."
2. "Some accompanists these days are calling themselves collaborative pianists. Who on earth would dream up a ridiculous name like that?"
3. "So you just do accompanying?"
4. "Who do you tour with?"
5. "Did you study accompanying in college? You mean they actually teach that shit these days?"
6. "You can find your own page turner. We do not cater to accompanists."
7. "Keep it down a bit. Singers don't like accompanists with strong personalities."
8. "Thanks for playing, bro. And by the way, my mom forgot her cheques at the cottage."
9. "I'm sorry, but we don't pay accompanists. We simply cannot put that in our budget for the concert season."
10. "Oh, yes, you played well too."

Got any other classics to share? Leave them in the comments.

67 comments:

  1. I've heard two of these in the past 24 hours!

    I'll add, "Too bad you're not good enough to be a soloist."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. EJH, you should have replied "Too bad you're not good enough to be a collaborative pianist."

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    2. As a voice teacher in Los Angeles, I spend a HUGE part of my time teaching my singers how to work with other musicians, particularly accompanists: how to present their sheet music, how to ask politely and professionally for what they want/need, how NOT to waste an accompanist's time (e.g., it is not their job to teach you YOUR music). Some of these stories are brutal!

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    3. Thanks, Wendy. The more musicians are educated about interactions, the smoother the entire profession will run.

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  2. "I'm sure you can find the music on the internet somewhere." - every out-of-town singer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My response: "I haven't got time to find the music. If you want me to play, you're going to scan your music and send it to me as a pdf file. Thanks!"

      Delete
    2. Anonymous1:36 PM

      I've heard horror stories of singers doing that. Once, a singer said that very thing to a friend of mine. My friend was so mad, but he said alright and got the music...in keys three steps higher for each piece. The singer failed his audition and had to retry two years later.

      Delete
  3. Anonymous2:17 PM

    "oh yeah, it's super easy, i can pretty much sight read it." says the musician looking for a last minute collaborator.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ack! Some people say this all the time. Makes me livid. I don't think you'll ever catch a pianist saying to a singer that we can sing their rep.

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    2. "I just need you to confirm the tempo. Could you play the piano part for me? Thanks!"

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  4. Mike Langlois9:42 PM

    In response to Becky: "It's on IMSLP" is an absolute classic. Seriously? You're going to make me print out your five audition arias?

    Also, I hate when they email me PDFs. Is it so hard to mail a binder?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm actually OK with mailed PDFs. I load them into forScore and play them from my iPad. Then I'll have them in my library for next time. When I tell this to singers, they're usually eager to scan me their music w/markings so I'll know exactly what they're doing.

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    2. Just buy a printer dude

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    3. Amy M.2:42 PM

      I'm a singer. I always ASK. "Is it OK for me to email you the pdfs? (always pdfs, never from Petrucci. Pdfs that I email you have my markings.) Or would you like me to mail you a binder?" Always ASK.

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    4. That's a great best practice, Amy. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. "I'm sure you can find the music on the internet somewhere." - every out-of-town singer.

    "Oh, the music office was supposed to tell you I was playing the Brahms clarinet sonata. I just assumed they'd have a copy."

    Yes, someone really told me this. It would have been funnier if it weren't a grad student.

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  6. Anonymous9:20 AM

    "Sorry, I didn't have time to mark the music. This is a new score.... but I do the standard ritards, cuts and cadenzas, you know. Just follow me."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Um, excuse me...your score won't stay open. Do you mind if I take it out to the parking lot and run over it with my SUV?"

      Delete
  7. I was once told that being an attractive woman is a hindrance to being a collaborative pianist--no singer wants an accomapanist that people will look at. I guess I should have felt complimented by that? Or should I feel insulted that I'm actually making a living in the business--does that mean I'm unattractive? :-)

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    Replies
    1. I've known people in the field who make pianists feel that just by showing up they're being a hindrance.

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    2. I've heard about more than one female pianist who's been told by their (usually male) soloist not to dress attractively, look too good, etc. Mostly these are pretty old stories so I hope times are changing.

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  8. In graduate school I was once fired by a singer just before a performance. Then she had the nerve to say, "but [my replacement] can't come to the dress rehearsal, so can you play for that?"

    I am happy to report that she never amounted to anything as a performer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, there are many who rely on their pianists being at Friend Level 99.

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  9. Anonymous5:49 PM

    Singer:"oh no, we do it much faster than that, WAY faster."
    Me: "okay, please sing it for me so I'll know your tempo."
    Singer then proceeds to sing the piece SLOWER than the tempo I had originally played it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love it when that happens.

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  10. Two questions I am commonly asked:
    "Can you do an extra (choir) rehearsal on Sunday between 9:30 and 11:00 am?"

    "Can you transpose it up a major third?"

    **n.b equally un-sociable time for rehearsal requests :Friday 6:30pm - 10pm - I mean don't people have a social life? :/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Friday evenings are prime time for rehearsals. A worthwhile reply would be "Actually I'm in rehearsal until 11pm across town. Could we rehearse at midnight instead"?

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  11. Oh, I made that mistake on purpose. I just wanted to make sure you could follow me.

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  12. Replies
    1. FFFFFUUUUUUUU......

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    2. Casey Baker9:38 PM

      You don't even know how many times I've been in a conversation when a person(even pianists!) has said "accompanyist." I try to reiterate the word "accompanist" in the conversation as much as possible. I never seem to change their vocabulary though....

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    3. That's an easy one. Just say "What?" after they say accompanyist. Observe:

      "Are you the accompanyist?"

      "The what?"

      "Accompanyist."

      "Excuse me?"

      "The accompanyist. Are you the accompanyist?"

      "The what?"

      "Are. You. The. Accompany. Er. Oh. Are you playing piano?"

      Delete
    4. And then there's the variant "accompianist," which at least makes a kind of crazy sense...

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    5. Almost as funny as the email subject heading "lookig for accomapnist"

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  13. Anonymous6:42 PM

    at a choral conducting workshop where I was there to sight-read about 50 choral scores, I once had a conductor laugh at me when I said that many are using the word "collaborative pianist" rather than accompanist explaining that we bring a lot of experience and musical decision making to the rehearsal and performance and collaboratively work under the conductor's baton. (I really wanted to say I'm not a robot) he told me "you've obviously haven't worked with a lot of conductors..where I'm from, we still call them accompanists." in which the only thing I could spit out was , "well yes, I have." but I was so shocked at his indifference.. Who says that?!! there are some real "control-hungry" people out there (can you tell I'm insensed?) The worst part is that the guy spent the day talking about building up confidence and the spirit of each person, and then he belittled me right there in front of everyone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Scumbag Conductor:

      SPEAKS ABOUT BUILDING UP CONFIDENCE

      INSULTS PIANIST

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  14. Anonymous6:45 PM

    sorry. I forgot to put your name in the program. Hope you don't mind." meanwhile, they have a bio the size of a small novella. divas..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That has happened to me more times than I wish to count.

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    2. One reply might be "That's okay. I didn't want my name attached to this project in the first place."

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    3. Another apt reply might be: "As long as you don't mind if I only turn up for the performances I'm credited for."

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  15. The look that so many musical theatre people have given me upon asking "What's your tempo?".

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  16. Anonymous9:25 PM

    Singer: I'm just going to do this one in C flat. :-/

    ReplyDelete
  17. Anonymous9:28 PM

    Singer: "The autumn leaves, drift by..." sung a tritone above the key that the song was rehearsed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In that instance, I would play with my most expressive gestures and facial expressions, without a hint of irony.

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  18. Anonymous10:36 PM

    I find myself weekly in the position of having to listen (usually silently) as the conductor of the choir I play for incorrectly, incoherently and incompetantly teaches and leads rehearsals. Unfortunately, the members of the choir are very talented amateur musicians who believe most of what comes out of his mouth. I've had the conductor blame me - in front of everyone - for incorrect notes when doing a performance on a piano that was so terrible octaves sounded like 9ths, been blamed for incorrect tempi when following his terrible conducting exactly, had him recommend that I put my music in plastic covers to keep it in place (after an audience member repositioned a FAN right behind my head during one performance!) and had to listen in disbelief as he taught the choir what a hemiola was - ie. syncopation. If I didn't like the choir members so much, and wasn't getting payed as well as I am I would love to just point out every one of this egotist's errors... but alas, I am 'only' the accompanist.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A great way to fluster conductors who constantly bother you about playing with their beat: politely mention that you can't discern where their downbeats are. Works every time.

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    2. Anonymous1:45 PM

      *hugs* I was singing in a choir once that had a very similar situation against my friend who was graciously working with us (and for free). I always felt so bad for him, as did most of the choir. I can't imagine how hard that kind of insensitivity has to be. :( Many of us were friends with him, and when the conductor would blame him for things he didn't do most of the choir would pipe up and shift the blame on themselves.

      Delete
  19. Anonymous10:48 PM

    My performance partner didn't like the term collabrative pianist, hence the partnership. Worked for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are some English pianists of a certain age who dislike the term collaborative pianist, as it implies that one works for the Nazis.

      Delete
  20. Anonymous9:57 AM

    I don't favor either "accompanist" or "collaborative pianist" -- both are mispronounced, misspelled and misunderstood. Why can't we just be "pianists?"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I totally agree, and rarely refer to myself as anything but these days.

      Delete
  21. Anonymous12:00 PM

    "I'm sorry, but I didn't have time to punch holes in this/tape it together/put it in a binder/make a better copy of this 17-page song...I know it's kind of faded out so I drew some of the lines in for you...I'll just stand here and sing right in your ear while I take the pages away one at a time. Oh, and there's a repeat from page 3 back to page one, but I'm only doing half of the repeat then I cut to the last measure of page 7, then there's a D.S. from page 9 back to page 5, and the Coda is on page 15. Is that OK?"

    ReplyDelete
  22. "Are you merely sloppy and irresponsible or is this a genuine effort to torpedo my performing career?"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous12:20 PM

      LOL. Usually followed by "And can you record it for me?"

      Delete
  23. I've just broken down and photocopied those crazy numbers with all the odd repeats back two pages, forwards three, half page here, end page there, so the piece just goes forwards in one direction.

    But the day I showed up for rehearsal and director asked, "Would you be able to play this [brand new entirely unrehearsed] piece? We're recording it today," I had nothing to do but scramble through a few times and then in a state of shock, play through. An out-of-body experience.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's an easy one. Act like a superstar. Without breaking a sweat, play through as best as you can with complete confidence, wrong notes and all. If the conductor gives you trouble, just shrug and say "You have just asked me to sight-read a piece and record it the same day. If I can't do it, nobody can."

      Delete
  24. Anonymous1:12 PM

    Having the choir conductor e-mail you the night before rehearsal staying he is stuck overseas and is unable to return in time for rehearsal the next day....THEN following up by asking me to conduct and accompany at the same time as his less than reliable fill-in has prior commitments.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Time to call in sick.

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    2. Anonymous1:50 PM

      The following week the choir informed him that it was the best rehearsal they had since the season began. He stopped criticizing my playing shortly afterwards.

      Delete
  25. Joe Severyn11:00 AM

    "Can you record my voice part and then the piano part?"
    I'm sick of this and will no longer be nice about this, even though I'm at a university. "Damn, guess you better learn how to play a single line on the piano. I thought you were a music major."

    "Stop playing so loud. This is *her* solo."
    Excuse me, this is a Rachmaninov song. Have you seen all these closed chords marked triple-forte?

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  26. Anonymous8:53 PM

    why do it?

    ReplyDelete
  27. Anonymous11:44 AM

    I love my pianist, or collaborator, or unindicted musical co-conspirator, or accompanist! I have been privileged to make music with some AMAZING musicians, and they have made me sound better! The rare exception, we can "draw the kind curtain of silence" as Mark Twain said when Tom Sawyer was caught trying to win the Sunday School Bible to impress Becky Thatcher. :-) Bravi to all you fabulous players out there!!!

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  28. @Chris Foley, I think I love you.

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