Monday, November 07, 2005

What is Collaborative Piano?

Collaborative Piano is a term used to denote a field of the piano profession where a pianist works in collaboration with one or more instrumentalists, singers, dancers, or other artists. This field is also referred to with its former name as Piano Accompanying, a term which has traditionally implied inferiority, subservience, working "for" rather than "with" a recital partner. Collaborative piano, on the other hand, is a term that implies equality, association, and teamwork.

Probably coined by American pianist Samuel Sanders, this term gained in usage in the 1990's and is now used by a majority of institutions that offer degrees in this field in North America. Usage of the term lags in Great Britain. The equivalent French term for this field, "le piano collaboratif", was coined in 2002 by Elizabeth Brodivich in Vancouver, Canada when translating admission materials for the University of British Columbia into French.

piano music sheet music at
The Complete Collaborator: The Pianist as Partner

by Martin Katz. "A bible for accompanists/ collaborators!"--Marilyn Horne

Further reading:
About The Collaborative Piano Blog
What Collaborative Piano Is Not
Required and Preferred Skills for the Collaborative Pianist
Degree Programs in Collaborative Piano
The One-Page Guide to Collaborative Piano Playing
The Core Repertoire, a series-in-progress


  1. Anonymous1:34 PM

    Thanks for the informative website. I enjoy your insights. I'm a pianist with a Master's in performance. (neither degree is collaborative) As you know, most non-collaborative programs require a certain amount of chamber playing and possibly vocal accompaniment as well (or might at least offer vocal accompaniment as an assistantship, etc.) In fact, my graduate assistantship was vocal accompaniment. I'm considering a doctoral program in collaborative piano. What is the difference between pursuing a collaborative degree and simply immersing yourself in chamber and vocal music on your own while in a non-collaborative program? Is it simply that there is more chamber/vocal music that is actually required to graduate? I know that languages and other things are emphasized more, but again, some of those things can be pursued on your own if you really desire. I guess my real question is this - if I'm in a great "solo" program with a great voice and string department and I actively seek out these other musicians on my own, continue language studies, etc, what separates the collaborative program from what I'd be doing anyways? What are the main advantages? Perhaps I wouldn't get the vocal coaching training, but I'm not sure that appeals anyways. Any more insights?

  2. Thanks for your comments. I will address them in a separate post--see home page.

  3. Anonymous2:11 PM

    Thank you so much for the wonderful blog. I am interested in collaborative piano, but I don't have training in diction. I am very willing to study languages. Will I have any chance to get into any collaborative piano program in the U.S.A.? Is it better to apply the program after I train myself basic Italian, German and French? or I just go for school training?
    Please give me some advice. Your opinion and experience is very valuable !! Appreciate you very much !!

  4. Thanks for the comment. If you're looking into Master's level degree programs, they should include a lyric diction component. Knowing diction isn't necessarily critical when entering a Master's program, but you should have that knowledge when you graduate.

    Applying for a doctoral degree is different, as a candidate should definitely have lyric diction knowledge going in to the program.

  5. Hi, I'm an Irish Ph.D. student, currently researching Hamilton Harty, who was a leading accompanist in London in the early 1900s. He disliked the term 'accompanist' and wrote a paper on 'The Art of Pianoforte Accompaniment' in 1930, in which he argued that 'collaborator' would be a more accurate term. I think it may be the first use of the term... I was curious, as it hasn't really caught on over here although I've heard it used in conservatories in the States and in Italy. I was doing some internet research to see if there was an earlier mention of the term or if Harty coined it. I think he pre-dates Samuel Sanders?

    1. Thanks for the comment, Aine. That's an amazing discovery!

  6. That is an interesting discovery, Aine. I wonder if Mr. Harty had any contact with Gerald Moore in London and perhaps influenced him to use the term with a more widespread audience that caught on better?