Monday, April 05, 2021

Compensation Survey for Collaborative Pianists in Higher Education

Working at a university, conservator, or college is one of the most common ways to get employment as a collaborative pianist. However, many of these positions don't pay particularly well, offer limited or no benefits, and might not even be at a faculty level. Making things more challenging is that very little information is available about what types of position each university has and how much they pay; this information is traditionally locked down operational info. 

A new survey by Mary Trotter and John Gilmour aims to change that. About their survey and its aims:

Calling all collaborative pianists who work in university settings!

We have crafted a survey to gather data about how professional collaborative pianists are compensated at institutions of higher education in the United States. We hope to make this data available to all so that ALL of us can be paid what we're worth! Please take 5 minutes and fill it out! We hope to reach as many fellow pianists as possible, so please share with colleagues and friends! Contact us with any questions at accompanistsurvey [at] gmail dot com.

It is vitally important that collaborative pianists know the scope of what is available for them in the profession and how much these positions traditionally pay. Please fill out this survey if you have the time - note that this survey at present only includes pianists working at US institutions. Here's the link:

Compensation Survey for Collaborative Pianists in Higher Education 

(Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash)

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Piercing the Singer/Pianist Dynamic

Robert Thies looks at the relationships between pianists, their collaborators, and concert presenters in Might We Accompany Each Other? How Audiences and Presenters Perceive the Singer/Pianist Dynamic in the March-April 2021 edition of the Journal of the New York Singing Teachers' Association. That this is intended as a primer for singers rather than just pianists is commendable, and Robert goes into depth about audience perception, how we refer to ourselves, the nature of the repertoire, and dealing with presenters, especially regarding fees. 

On whether to play at half or full stick:

There is a widespread misconception among instrumental and vocal teachers that a piano lid at half stick is softer in volume. Indeed, when standing or sitting in front of an open piano, the percussive quality of the hammers is pronounced and takes some getting used to. However, an interesting study by DMA candidate Paul Lee measured concert hall acoustics and piano lid height. He concluded that the decibel level between half stick and full stick is nearly imperceptible. “With the impression that the piano’s sound pressure level is less than what it is for the audience, the performer may actually create more issues of balance than trusting their collaborative partner and the response of the concert hall with the piano at full stick,” Lee writes.

I absolutely love this article. It has always been important for a pianist to help singers feel a grounded body of sound underneath them so that they can build their voice. Pianists who can inspire singers in the repertoire and its magnificent poetry are genuinely trusted partners that many people will want to work with. We also need all the tips we can get to achieve greater equity with regards to recital billing and pay.

My fear is that with pianists in collaborative situations relegated to producers of backing tracks during the pandemic, the visibility of pianists in recital situations has taken a major hit, especially with videos where only the soloist is in the frame, the pianist is invisible, and their volume level is largely edited out. 

So I'm concerned that when the pandemic is over, many people will be astonished that the piano in a live situation has a bit more volume than the toned-down backing tracks that everyone will be used to. I'm also concerned that much of the progress that we have seen in recent decades (it has been relatively small progress - the issues that Robert talks about here were serious issues 30 years ago) might be undone and we will once again have a lot of ground to cover. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

HBD!Project MARCH Celebrates Composers' Birthdays in (you guessed it) March

As classical musicians, we love to play their music religiously, but forget our favorite composer's big days year after year. HBD!Project aims to fix that, and is the brainchild of Toronto-based musicians Natalya Gennadi and Catherin Carew. This month's party features the music of Maurice Ravel, Diane Berry, J.S. Bach, and Murray Adaskin.

A big hand as well to the performers:

The very clever video production and animation is also by Natalya. I'm looking forward to what they come up with for the superstar lineup of May composer birthdays.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Participate in a Research Study: Preparing Young Musicians for Performance


Charlene Ryan, Jessica Tsang, and Diana Dumlavwalla are spearheading a research study that will be looking at the habits and processes of music teachers in preparing students for performance. It takes around 20 minutes to complete, and involves reflection on a number of issues such as performance preparation, performance anxiety, teacher expectations, navigating online teaching. If you're currently teaching music, I recommend that you participate in this study - their aim is to receive input from at least 500 teachers from Canada and the United States. 

Preparing Young Musicians for Performance (Google Form)

Monday, March 15, 2021

Rachel Fuller on the Art of the Collaborative Pianist

Auckland-based pianist Rachel Fuller's conversation with David Moriss on New Zealand's RNZ is worth listening to in its entirely. The collaborative pianist vs. accompanist, entering the profession, learning the skillset, and the growing respect towards collaborative pianists are all discussed, and the recorded performances are fabulous. 

I love this quote:

This movement, a global movement, has come to reframe the work that we do. As pianists working in ensembles, working with singers and instrumentalists and chamber groups. Our skills have to be wider and more honed even than that of the solo pianist.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

100 Years of Chinese Art Song with Jialiang Zhu and Friends

Jialiang Zhu's final DMA recital at the University of Toronto goes into depth with the history of Chinese art song, using selections chosen from Chinese-speaking communities around the world. Several the works are both world premieres and Canadian premieres. This performance took place while Toronto was in full lockdown, so an audience wasn't allowed into Walter Hall. I particularly the coordination of multiple camera units to create an highly immediate recital experience. 

Remember to turn on the English subtitles for Jialiang's excellent curation of texts in both Chinese and English. 

The full personnel: 

  • Jialiang Zhu, piano
  • Emily Zixin Lapin, soprano
  • Xin Wang, soprano
  • Maeve Palmer, soprano

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

The 2021 Collaborative Piano Institute

The Collaborative Piano Institute has announced their 2021 summer festival, which will run between June 6 and 26th with the added possibility of a hybrid option. Below is the announcement from Ana Maria Otamendi. The deadline will be March 15, and you can find the application form here:

Dear students and colleagues,

It is my pleasure once again to invite you to apply to the fifth edition of the Collaborative Piano Institute and the Vocal Academy, which will take place between June 6th - 26th 2021 at Louisiana State University. We have a lot of exciting new features!

We are still planning for an in-person festival, but if COVID restrictions make this impossible, we will once again transition to a fully online format as we did last summer with great success. We are also contemplating a hybrid option in which students (active participants and auditors) have the option to come in person or participate remotely. We will stay flexible in the hopes of offering the best experience possible! Our program is open to all pianists who are interested in the collaborative arts, from undergraduate students to professionals.

We are elated to welcome an even larger roster of collaborative piano superstars: Warren Jones (Manhattan School of Music) will join returning faculty members Kathleen Kelly, (Cincinnati College Conservatory, former Director of Musical Studies at the Vienna Staatsoper, and former Head of Music/Music Director at Houston Grand Opera), Rita Sloan (Aspen Music Festival and University of Maryland), Martin Katz (University of Michigan),  Jonathan Feldman (Juilliard School and New England Conservatory), Christopher Turbessi (Rice University), Elena Abend (University of Wisconsin), Ana Maria Otamendi (Louisiana State University) and Elena Lacheva (Louisiana State University) among many others. For more information please see the attachment or visit our website and our Facebook page and also check out the Testimonials of our alumni. 

We continue to offer the intensive learning experience which we are known for,  tailored to the individual needs of every pianist through individual lessons, collaboration with seasoned professionals in recitals and masterclasses, and over 50 group classes, lectures, and performance opportunities. We have several merit-based scholarships available, as well and the deadline to apply is March 15th 2021.

We are also proud to present the fabulous Four Corners Ensemble as our ensemble in residence! The members of the group will be playing standard repertoire and contemporary music with the CPI participants, and will be teaching composers and instrumentalists during the second week of the Institute. The amazing violinist Simon Gollo will also teach, coach, and perform lots of sonatas and chamber music with participants and faculty. If you want to play with some of these amazing musicians, come join us this summer!

The Vocal Academy, in its third year, welcomes graduate student singers, advanced undergraduate students, as well as singers who are getting ready for the audition circuit. The singers will have the opportunity to coach with renowned artists in individual sessions, masterclasses, and group classes, as well to perform in numerous opportunities with the pianists of the Institute. They will also get private lessons with voice professors from renowned universities, as well as lectures specific to their areas of study. For more information please visit our website.

I hope that you would consider sharing this email with interested students. I would be happy to answer any questions and to discuss what makes our program such an exciting offering to any young and mature pianists.


Elena Lacheva and Ana Maria Otamendi, Directors