Monday, April 30, 2007

Another Collaborative Piano definition

In previous postings, I've talked about what collaborative piano is and what it is not. A recent Google query brought me to another definition on the Collaborative Piano & Accompaniment Program page of the Australia String Academy website. From Charmian Gadd, honorary artistic director of the academy:

"One of the most rewarding careers a pianist can have is that of the collaborative artist, whether performing as chamber musician, repetiteur or coach/accompanist. There are fine lines separating these definitions, but nowadays the term ‘collaborative’ distinguishes the pianist who, like Geoffrey Parsons, prefers to make music in company."

“A fine collaborative pianist needs to be an excellent pianist first, of course, but a collaborative pianist requires specialist skills that solo training doesn’t often provide: sensitive listening and ensemble skills, a wide knowledge of the duo repertoire, good communication skills, and an ability to work well with a wide variety of ages and temperaments.

I like this line--"prefers to make music in company", which is really what is at the heart of the collaborative piano enterprise.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Keith Klassen's performance of Di miei bollenti spiriti on YouTube

It has recently come to my attention that Canadian tenor Keith Klassen can now be seen on YouTube singing "Di miei bollenti spiriti" from Verdi's La Traviata. Not sure of the company or location (if anyone has any info, please comment) nor is the role of Alfredo mentioned in his list of roles at present, but this is a fine performance in what will hopefully become one of his signature roles.

Opera's New Media Buzz

Two articles from print and blogosphere in the last few days highlight opera's stretching of new tendrils into new and fascinating territories. Jan Breslauer wrote in the L.A. Times about the L.A. Opera's ventures into musical theatre and increasing radio coverage, the Met's expanding repertory and directorial pool, and San Antonio Opera's foray into zarzuela. In the Wolf Trap Opera blog, Kim Witman writes about the new media workshops at the 2007 Opera America conference in Miami.

Ms. Witman's caveat about the use and misuse of new media should be read by all organizations looking to expand their demographics and offerings:

If our hip cyber-efforts don’t bear any real relationship to the product, we won’t keep a single new recruit past the first performance. Even if we get the attention of a new patron, and s/he buys a ticket, if the experience doesn’t live up to the promise of the über-sexy marketing, we’ve won the battle but lost the war. This by no means makes any of the many kinds of satisfying opera experiences inferior. Just incongruous with some of the hype that's beginning to be generated. Sell opera for what it is, and neither apologize for nor mislead folks about what it isn't.

In other words, don't dumb the product down just because you're using technology to get the attention of a new audience. Young people are smart--they'll respond to opera's sex, violence, powerful stories, and great singing just as audiences have in previous generations. The recording industry's ongoing woes would seem to suggest that music in general is going through a rough patch. With too much attention paid to the media, money, and marketing end and not enough going towards really good music, there are bound to be a lot of alienated young listeners out there. Sell the genuine product and audiences will respond. With any luck, they'll come in droves, which they seem to be doing in many opera markets across North America.

But jumping on the "look at us, we're embracing technology" bandwagon without enough real artistic integrity to back it up can result in just as much loss of market share that popular genres have suffered recently.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

This Isn't Silence: Brian Current's first CD launch

Toronto composer and RCM faculty member Brian Current will be launching his first disc entitled This Isn't Silence: Works for Symphony Orchestra on Tuesday May 8 at the Lula Lounge. This Isn't Silence features works played by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, CBC Radio Orchestra, New Music Concerts Ensemble, and Esprit Orchestra.

The launch at Lula Lounge is part of the Esprit Orchestra's New Wave Composers Festival and will include two concerts curated by Brian Current and Scott Good. The evening begins with a reception at 6pm.


Last year I played in a workshop performance of Brian Current's Airline Icarus at the Glenn Gould Studio presented by Soundstreams Canada. I am pleased to report that Airline Icarus went on to be featured at the New York City Opera's Vox 2007.

Photo by Dan Bergeron

Friday, April 27, 2007

Mstislav Rostropovich RIP

The New York Times has reported that legendary cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich passed away today in Moscow.


A remembrance by On An Overgrown Path's Pliable:

Mstislav Rostropovich will be remembered as a genius with the cello and baton, as a champion of human rights, as a consummate ambassador for music, and above all for his love for humanity. He truly reached out and was burnt by the music, let us celebrate that today.

Scott Spiegelberg talks about his favorite Slava recordings.

Valerie Kampmeier reminisces on playing lessons for a student of Galina Vishnevskaya, Slava's wife:

Another time she opened up to us both about the challenges of her life in the USSR with Slava after Rostropovich was disgraced for having publicly defended Solzhenitsyn. They eventually were obliged to go into exile in the West, which she credited with having saved his life. She had been the prima donna at the Bolshoi Opera, and her career was also in ruins at that point. Her autobiography, Galina, which recounts the whole story, including how she survived the Siege of Leningrad, is totally compelling. I felt so much admiration for them both, and gratitude for living in a democracy.
Normal Lebrecht weighs in on the lack of coverage in the US media
Another reminiscence in DownWithTyranny
Quotes by and about Rostropovich from Associated Press


The Guardian's obituary, with tributes from Steven Isserlis, James MacMillan, and Martin Kettle
Washington Post
Associated Press
The Telegraph

Slava and Richter play the opening of Beethoven's Fourth Sonata for Cello and Piano:

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Tapestry's new site design

Take a look at the sleek new design of Tapestry New Opera Works' website. The successful company, now in its 27th year, made news a few months ago for not only retiring its debt but posting a surplus of $125,000 for the previous fiscal year. The earlier version of their site had a lot of information but was a bit difficult to navigate, with a lot of prime content accessible only via search engine. The new look not only features their new rotated-letter logo, but a much more compact style with all the content available on the cleverly crafted sidebar. It's also noticeably quicker than the previous incarnation of the site.

My next project with the company is playing for the workshop of Sanctuary Song, a multimedia opera for young people by Marjorie Chan and Abigail Richardson that shows in early June. After having played the original 2003 liblab version of the work, I am glad to see that the project is finally underway to create a full-length version of the extremely moving scenario. More later...

Back in Toronto

Saying farewell (for now) to the Yukon, Wendy and I travelled back home to Toronto yesterday armed with gifts for the girls. While waiting in Vancouver International Airport, who should I meet in a gift shop but my teacher, colleague, and friend Rena Sharon, en route to Winnipeg to give a lecture to a group of educators. After offering congratulations on the recent Walrus article about her travels to Rwanda, we boarded our plane (now also equipped with a sheaf of VISI flyers) and after a slightly bumpy flight to Toronto, arrived back home.

Today: 4 hours of auditions to hear for singers applying for RCM Community School scholarships, then a full afternoon and evening of teaching. Tomorrow I actually get to make music instead of just teaching it...

Monday, April 23, 2007

Resource Roundup: Join the Club

Feeling like you're the only one on the planet who's got a full day of playing? Want to know what everyone else is charging? Tired of playing only concertos? You're not the only pianist on the planet going through these things. Here are some of the places you can connect with others in either a professional organization or place to rant:

MySpace Collaborative Pianist Group
Created by Hugh Sung, this is a place to chat, discuss issues on a forum, or post an item on a bulletin board.

Classical Lounge Collaborative Pianist Group
Also created by Hugh Sung, you can interact with members and post on a forum here.

Accompanists' Guild of New South Wales
A professional organization in Australia.

Accompanists' Guild of South Australia
Another professional organization in Australia.

Piano World Forums
Like hanging out with other pianists on a forum? Here's the place.

The New Forum for Classical Singers
Like hanging out with other singers on a forum? Here's the place.

If you work as a church pianist, this is the Y!Music group for you.

If you know of any other groups around there, please leave a comment. I'm especially interested in knowing if there are collaborative pianist communities that meet in languages other than English.

Update 5.9.07

Also check out some of the many collaborative pianist groups that can be found on Facebook.

Rena Sharon's piano recitals in Rwanda

Deborah Kirshner writes in the May 2007 issue of The Walrus about pianist Rena Sharon's recent trip to Rwanda, the desire and appreciation of Rwandans for music, and Rena's experiences with musical reactions quite unlike those found in Western audiences. Rena says of a performance at the AIDS unit of the Central University Hospital of Kigali:

“I love the way this audience responds to music,” she adds. “With such immediacy and depth. I suppose it’s the emotional range of classical music that is so appealing. I gave a class for some advanced students who blew me away. I played a virtuosic piece by Bach for them, demonstrating different approaches to the same music. I did it once as brilliantly as I could and then again in a slower more contemplative manner. I was sure the kids would respond to the fast, showy playing like they would in North America, but to my great surprise, they all preferred the second rendition. ‘C’était spirituelle,’ they said, almost instantly.”

Warning: Deborah Kirshner's article may restore your faith in the power of music to inspire and heal.

Running on empty?

This is the time when many of us are at the peak period of the year and end up starting to feel burned out. How to recharge? Adrian Savage writes in about the need to re-energize and reconnect with the reason you're doing something in the first place:

Every flame needs fuel, and your flame of creativity and joy is no exception. Thanks to the Puritan Work Ethic, many people are obsessed with working and studiously avoid allowing themselves sufficient time for pleasure. They’re too busy toiling and striving to lighten up and enjoy their world. Fun isn’t bad for you. Doing something for no other reason that because it feels good won’t undermine your moral fiber. Imagine trying to live by eating nothing but broccoli at every meal. However good it may be, a diet of nothing else would kill you. Every human being needs variety in their life as much as in their diet. Have a little fun. Go wild, once in a while. Goof off. Try something new. You won’t be struck down by a thunderbolt from heaven for that.

Link to article in
Link to Adrian Savage's Slow Leadership

Sunday, April 22, 2007

2007 Yukon Summer Music Camp

One of the great things about coming back to Whitehorse has been reconnecting with some dear friends I made back in November on the Bathroom Divas trip. Collaborative pianist and teacher Roslyn Wilson is hard at work as one of the organizers of the 2007 Yukon Summer Music Camp, with its numerous programs for all ages and ability levels.

Running from July 29 to August 4, 2007, the YSMC offers camps for wind ensemble, strings, jazz, guitar, world music, choral music, kids' programs, and professional development courses in both pedagogy and conducting.

The festival's performance series featuring both faculty and students offers at least one show a day in the Yukon Arts Centre and other venues across Whitehorse.

Those interested in the festival can print out the registration form available on pdf file.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

YouTube of Henryk Szeryng playing Ravel's Tzigane

Any idea who the pianist is on this YouTube video of Henryk Szeryng playing Ravel's Tzigane? He certainly plays the deadly repeated-note tutti well, if a little slow.

Is this blog a resume?

Are the classical music bloggers just a bunch of eccentric hobbyists or are they the vanguard of what is to come in the field?

Adam Darowski at Traces of Inspiration writes that the blog is in fact the new resume:

Blogging is the perfect way for a candidate to give an employer a more detailed sales pitch—to show they can “talk the talk” (as opposed to just fill a resume with buzzwords). I can’t think of a reason for any serious tech professional to not have a blog. Not only does it serve as an excellent notebook for storing ideas and links, but it can come in handy in a job hunt where what interviewers really want to just know what, professionally (and somewhat personally), engages you on a day to day basis. How often do you look at a resume and wonder what exactly the person’s role on a project was? Well, if the person blogged about it then you would have a better idea—and you would know if the role would fit in with your team.
In the classical music field, this would seem to fly in the face of traditional wisdom, where many people with witty, informative, and irreverent writing styles were aghast at my suggestions that they start a blog because of a perception that they would never get hired if they decided to actually voice their opinions. In Canada at least, the experience of Erin Wall, author of the now defunct Chiago Canadienne, seemed to point that the more work you got, the more scrutiny would be levelled at your blog writing. Is this true? I certainly hope not but the idea persists.

At any rate, I've been writing this since November 2005, have got only a few angry comments, have more work than ever, and am throroughly enjoying myself. If I had never started blogging, I wouldn't be as knowledgeable about a lot of things as I am now, although I would certainly be a much better player of computer games.

For those interested in reading more about this issue, Traces of Inspiration also has a discussion roundup on the issue.

Update 23-04-07:

Doing an old-fashioned resume? You might want to check out these bookmarks on

Some thoughts on adjudicating

Today marked the third day of adjudicating beginner and early intermediate piano classes at the Whitehorse Rotary Music Festival (Wendy's here as well adjudicating the voice and choir classes). Festivals in most places are held in churches and community centres, but up here they are held in the state-of-the-art Yukon Arts Centre, both in the main theatre (where lucky students get to play on the centre's Steinway concert grand) and in the smaller studio theatre.

Many people, myself included, that did festivals 20-30 years ago have traumatic memories of trembling with fear performing for scowling adjudicators and then receiving cruelly worded comment sheets. Gone are those days. The type of adjudicator that is becoming more prevalent these days is one that can balance critical honesty with kindness and encouragement, realizing that the goal of the festival process is not to choose the most talented young performers per se, but to encourage them and steer them on toward continued studies.

Case in point: myself. When I was a young and terrified pianist in the late 70's and early 80's I participated year after year in several festivals. I was never one of those that really did too well. Maybe second, third, or almost third, but definitely not one in the winners's circle too often (at least until I started to practice with ever more regularity and determination in my college years).

Which is one of the difficult truths of the local festival circuit: often those who have the best long-term potential in the musical field are not the young superstars but the ones who bide their time, finish second through fifth, eventually find their muse, and then go on to a successful career in music years later. Too often the big winners of local festivals end up burning out and quitting, never to play again.

So it is with a renewed sense of purpose that I try and encourage these young pianists to keep at the process, teach them how to perform in front of audiences, to take time before they start to play, acknowledge audiences during the applause, and generally try to sell the whole art of performing as something that can actually be fun to do. Then we sit and wait as these young pianists grow up and hope that their musical studies will either come to fruition in a musical career or give them at least the courage, determination, and upgraded brain circuitry to succeed in others.

Friday, April 20, 2007

MySpace Classical Music News

Say what you will about MySpace but the launch of their new beta project MySpace News will bring a brand new audience to those of us in the classical music blogosphere, especially since there is a dedicated classical music page.

(Thanks, problogger)

Showcase Festival this weekend at the RCM

This weekend will feature numerous concerts from students the many divisions of the Royal Conservatory of Music in the RCM Showcase Festival, running April 21 and 22 at 90 Croatia Street in Toronto.

Two of my students will be performing together on Saturday's Community School Showcase: soprano Hilary Knox, one of my vocal coaching students, and Mimi Mok from my collaborative piano class in a short set of songs by Richard Strauss.

Here's the full Showcase Festival schedule:

GGS Brass Department Showcase
Free admission

GGS Piano Department Showcase
Free admission

RCM Community School Showcase
Tickets: $10 (adults), $5 (students & seniors)
Proceeds will go towards supporting RCM Community School bursaries.

YAPA Showcase
Free admission

GGS Harp/Percussion Department Showcase
Free admission

SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2:00
GGS Woodwind Department
Free admission

GGS String Department
Free admission

Jacquelyn Familant to sing at Borderless Song this weekend

Christopher Burton's Borderless Song series, now in its second year, continues to bring in new and exciting performers. This weekend is no exception as New York soprano Jacquelyn Familant makes her Toronto debut in a program of works by Franz Schubert, Cole Porter, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Francis Poulenc, and Srul Irving Glick. Jacquelyn Familant appears with fellow Eastman alumni guitarist Alvin Tung and pianist Christopher Burton.

The performance will be held this Sunday, April 22nd at 7:30pm in Forest Grove United Church. Tickets are $25/15/free under 12.

Link to Jacquelyn's Myspace page

Thursday, April 19, 2007

How strong is your social network?

It's not about what you know, it's about who you know--so goes the familiar social networking adage. But is this something that you can actually map and measure?

Flowork Social Network Audit is a free service you can use to actually test this theory and determine how your professional goals can be aided by a clear map of those in your social network, how you relate to them, and how you can improve these links. Developed by Dr. John-Paul Hatala, Flowork is a program currently used by government and educational institutions to train people to harness the power of their social networks in order to organize job searches and achieve professional goals.

Legal Resources for the Arts

What's fair use? What constitutes intellectual property in a digital medium? Are bloggers members of the press? What are arguments for and against censorship in certain contexts?

The Law Portal: Law Primers for the Arts is a Rockefeller Foundation-sponsored site with links to resources that deal with a huge number of legal issues as they relate to the arts.

(Via Butts In The Seats)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Self-Employed Straight Talk on WWD

Thinking of working as a freelance musician? You can either figure it out for yourself or read this article--Mike Gunderloy from Web Worker Daily has written a list of Best Practices for the Self-Employed that covers a lot of stuff that many people need to deal with when they strike out on their own.

To Whitehorse, again

Tomorrow morning Wendy and I leave for Whitehorse, Yukon to adjudicate in the Whitehorse Music Festival sponsored by the Rotary Club of Whitehorse. This will be the second trip for me to the Yukon this season, coming on the heels of the Bathroom Divas reunion in November.

Monday, April 16, 2007

How to Get Work as a Freelance Collaborative Pianist

So you're finished your degree in collaborative piano or accompanying, you've got the skills, you've moved to a new town, haven't got work yet and need to break into the scene. What do you do?

Getting set up

1. Time of arrival. Most pianists arrive in a city for the start of the season in September and then pine for the first few months while they wait for the phone to ring. A better idea might be to arrive in January or February, with the countless master classes, auditions, recitals, and festivals going on. Being able to initially pick up work at the busiest time of the year can give you a huge head start for the following season.

2. Make sure you have a reliable space for both practicing and coaching. If your home studio isn't optimal (geographically or acoustically) it may be necessary to find a regular studio space that can be rented either by the month or by the hour. Often churches in urban centers rent rooms at a reasonable rate by the hour that can be used for coaching or rehearsing, although the pianos often have much to be desired..

3. Figure out the geography of your target area. Do you only want to work downtown or are you okay driving longer distances to the outer suburbs and outlying cities and towns? Will you need a car or is the area accessible via transit? Do you know the major routes and necessary shortcuts? Your geographic comfort area can in large part determine the eventual scope of your work.

4. Arrive with some money in the bank. Just in case things are slow at first.


5. Identify your pre-existing professional network. Do you know anyone in town from a previous job, city, or from your student days? Often these connections are the easiest to maintain and the longest lasting. People you already know are much more likely to pass the word on regarding your abilities in a new place, since they have prior knowledge of what you do. People from your previous place of study or work can also assist you if they have connections in your target city.

6. Find out who the top collaborative pianists are in your area, introduce yourself to them, and ask if they could add you to their list. Most established pianists in urban areas tend to get quite busy and keep a list of others in their area that they can send referrals to when they get booked up. The only unwritten rule is that you send referrals back to those that helped get you started in the first place as soon as you're fully booked.

7. Go to concerts and be seen. You'll gradually get a feel for the area and begin to be noticed by those in the musical community, who will then identify you as one of the tribe and quicken your transition.

8. Join a professional organization in the area. Some examples are registered music teachers' associations, local chapters of the Music Teachers' National Association, and local chapters of the National Association of Teachers of Singing. NATS in particular is an excellent organization to join and is a quick way to get to know voice teachers in the area that might be in need of a pianist. The money you pay to join these organizations will repay itself many times over with the knowledge and connections you can glean from membership.

What's your thing?

9. Determine what your specialty will be. Take a look at my list of Career Options in Collaborative Piano to see the full spectrum of what people do in this field. To make things simpler, figure out if your specialty is in the vocal, instrumental, or ensemble field to determine where you will look for work. For example, if you are interested in becoming primarily an opera coach, you should initially look to not only opera companies but to top voice studios as well to get a start. Also determine if you are going to specialize in one field (ie. cello repertoire, low brass, art song), or work in several. You should also determine if you want to start a regular piano teaching studio, which is tremendously satisfying and provides regular income, but can cut down on your flexibility. Warning: some cities tend to favor either specialists or non-specialists. For example, I am told by many people that when in New York, you should specialize if you want to be taken seriously. In some smaller cities, it is often wise to focus on a wider spectrum of activities because specialists are often seen as hobbyists who aren't capable of playing outside their genre. Often it is necessary to wait and see where the demand is before deciding on what to focus.


10. Advertise in places visible to the musical community. Create flyers that can be put up in places such as bulletin boards in music schools and rehearsal spaces.

11. Get business cards. You don't really need to go to high-priced designers for great logos and layouts, although it might be wise in these design-conscious times to have attractive cards. Otherwise just go to Staples order 500 or so business cards with your relevant contact info that you can quickly hand to someone when they ask how they can reach you.

12. Get your resumé in order. You will need to have a professional resumé in order to be considered for certain positions (such as at an opera company or local college). Many pianists have little or no idea of how to create a presentable resumé suitable for professional work. This is a fairly time-intensive activity, but spend the time creating one and you will reap the benefits. If you've taken a look at my resumé on this site, bear in mind that I have spent well over 40 hours getting it to where it is today. Resumés will also need to be updated on a regular basis in order that they can be readily presentable and not be relics of a bygone era.

13. Have an online presence. A quick and reliable email system is a must. A website is also becoming more and more important. It should also be quickly updatable so that you can add engagements and accomplishments as they occur. Whether professionally created and hosted, a MySpace page, a blog, or a user-created free site on a service such as Google Pages, the modern professional website should be full of relevant information no matter what the design. It's also useful to own a good domain name that people can remember.


14. Have a foolproof organization system. You will need a calendar that can be brought with you on the road and be instantly available. The most common system is still the little black book with all engagements and phone numbers easily at hand. Even better is a PDA such as a Palm or Windows Mobile device that has instant-on capabilities (no one wants to keep waiting while your notebook starts up merely to schedule a rehearsal). The beauty of a PDA is that your info can be synched to a remote computer in case you lose your device. Remember, if you lose your calendar and phonebook info, you're doomed.

Once You're In

15. Be the quickest to respond. Pianists tend to get busy at certain times of the year and dn't always get back to clients as soon as they could. As a newcomer to a city, be the one that is the fastest and most reliable getting back to clients. They will remember this and continue to use your services in a community where consistency is often more important than genius.

16. Your commitments must be written in stone. Many pianists are known to bail on pre-existing commitments whenever they get better work. This is unprofessional. If you get a reputation as someone that has rock-solid reliability, your phone will continue to ring, even though it burns to turn down a radio broadcast when you're already booked to play a concerto class at the local festival.


17. Determine your fee structure. Lessons, coachings, rehearsals, auditions, recitals, festival classes, and full-day competitions out of town will all need a specific fee. Do you charge less for students and more for professionals? Or do you charge only one rate? A flat fee for a recital or per-hour billing? This needs to be figured out and communicated to clients in a straightforward way.

18. Keep track of the money. You'll need to determine who owes you how much and keep track of that once you are paid in order to determine income for personal budgeting and tax purposes. Whether you use Quicken, an online invoicing system for musicians such as Music Teacher's Helper, or just create invoices and receipts using Word (as I do), this is something that must be taken care of.


19. Play at the highest professional level.

20. You must continue your development as an artist. Collaborative piano is not a service organization! Rather, it is field of artistry, expertise, and knowledge just like any other in the arts. You have to find your own path in the profession if you're not to burn out 10-15 years down the road, whether that path requires extensive practice, research, or continuing education.

I haven't finished thinking about this topic. As I come up with new ideas, I'll update this list...

Elaine Brown to perform with Shallaway April 29th in St. John's

Bathroom Divas Season 2 winner Elaine Jean Brown will be appearing on Sunday April 29th with the Newfoundland and Labador youth choir Shallaway at the St. John's Art & Culture Centre. Before the concert Krysta Rudofsky (from CBC TV's Living NL) will be hosting a Q & A session with Elaine. Tickets are $15/12. For more information, visit the Shallaway website.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Writing program notes

I've always been a stickler about college-level students being able to write good program notes. Some of them succeed and go on to write in an engaging and informative style, some of them get bogged down in wooden prose, and others, well, let's hope they don't copy anything from the next time around.

Enter Adam Baratz, who takes the art of program notes to the next level with this eloquent, candid and highly original offering from his recent senior recital at Eastman.

For those interested in writing program notes but don't know where to start, take a look at Writing Concert Program Notes by J. Michael Allsen at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Atelier S presents The Art of Song 3 this summer

Singers and pianists partial to art song and concert repertoire might be interested in the Atelier S workshop happening from June 4 to July 20th this summer in Toronto.

Led by artistic director Stuart Graham, The Art of Song 3 will feature regular coaching, weekly seminars and master classes, as well as several recital appearances, all at the centrally located College Street United Church in downtown Toronto.

For more information, visit the Atelier S website or send email to atelier dot s [at] sympatico dot calm.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Tips for Working as a Freelance Musician

Pete Moser has written a very useful article in MusicLeader about Working as a Freelance Musician, with sections on job roles, the workplace, equipment, skills development, fees, insurance, promotion and lifestyle. Especially illuminating is a list of pros and cons of the musician's freelance life:

What are the advantages of being a freelancer?

-You can choose your own work and hours, you have no boss and you are free to play.
-You can take on projects that inspire you whilst being able to continue doing your own creative work.
-The very nature of freelancing means that your workload is often varied and rarely routine.
-You don't have to do anything that you don't agree with.
-You can always change what you do if you don’t feel you’re good at it or stop enjoying it.
-You can control your own life to an extent. You do in fact answer to many people and/or organisations as a freelancer, but you get to choose what work you undertake and often when and how you do so.

What are the drawbacks of being a freelancer?

-You can find yourself unable to refuse work.
-The nature of freelance work can be erratic, leaving you feeling insecure about finances.
-You have to fill in self-assessment tax forms!
-Holidays sometimes have to take a back seat, as you either cannot afford them, or don’t have enough time because of heavy workloads and/or commitments.
-Your earnings are erratic and you can spend too much time away from home.
-Work can become an obsession. You think that if you aren't working, you should be, or that you can’t afford not to.

To a certain extent, the freelance nature of work in the arts is determined by employers determined to cut labor costs, who then hire people as self-employed contractors rather than actual employees. Perhaps this ultra-efficiency is why there is mounting evidence that the arts are growing at a much faster pace than the rest of the economy in many Canadian cities.

Which reminds me, I have to finish my taxes tomorrow.

U of T Soldier's Tower Carillon

Jamie Thompson of Urban Flute Project continues to scour the sonic landscape of Toronto, microphone in hand. A recent posting features a recording from a Vimy Ridge memorial concert at the University of Toronto's Soldier's Tower Carillon.

Link to Wikipedia page on the Carillon
Link to a global list of Carillons (the Canadian list is not totally complete--there's also one at the University of British Columbia)
Link to The Guild of Carillonneurs in North America
Link to World Carillon Federation

Freelancing Resources

Are you reading this posting in your comfortable Steinway-equipped studio at your brand new Mac (paid for by the deparment) as you enjoy a life of privilege and elitism as a tenured piano faculty at a major university? No?

Well then, chances are you're one of the other 99.9% of us that needs to freelance in order to make a living as a performing artist. Freelance Switch has a list of 101 great resources for freelancers with lots of useful tools for time tracking, invoicing, project management, legal stuff, web tools, marketing, and other resources for those of us in the music profession's silent majority.

This is the first post in a new tag category that focuses on ideas and resources for the freelancing musician. Stay tuned for more--even though you might be one of the lucky few that gets to enjoy your sabbaticals in the south of France selecting wines, chances are your students will eventually need to freelance if they are to make a living in the arts.


Friday, April 13, 2007

The Vista upgrade

We made the upgrade to Vista yesterday, and I've been spending the last day or so figuring things out. The switch was made without incident, and the only problems to sort out were conflicts between programs (MS Works vs. Palm Desktop conduits and MS Works vs MS Office 2007) rather than any Vista issues. One highlight was tonight's discovery of Open Office in my quest for quick and conflict-free word processing. And the Vista sidebar is most cool, especially the Bloglines gadget for desktop feed reading.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Musically notated bird songs

From the Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society, an interesting article on the history of bird song notation. What the Kircher article omits is any mention of Olivier Messaien, who wrote many works based on bird songs.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Recital Wednesday with Laura Rodie at UWO

Here is the program of the recital I will be playing tomorrow evening in London, Ontario.

Laura Rodie, alto and soprano saxophone
Christopher Foley, piano
Wednesday, April 11, 8pm
Von Custer Hall, University of Western Ontario
Free admission

Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano by Robert Muczynski

Saxophone Concerto by Michael Torke


Distances Within Me for Alto Saxophone and Piano by John Anthony Lennon

She Sings, She Screams for Alto Saxophone and Tape by Mark Engebretson

Tango-Etude #3 by Astor Piazzolla

Zino Francescatti and Robert Casadesus playing Beethoven

This YouTube posted by wmozart features violinist Zino Francescatti and pianist Robert Casadesus playing the last movement of Beethoven's Sonata Op. 30 #1. The closeups of Casadesus display a wonderful grace and elegance in his playing of this tricky movement.

Tips for a Successful Audition?

The Dormouse writes in the social-networking reference site Helium about Tips for a Successful Audition. There are some interesting things for singers to take note of here, such as ideas on musical preparation, clothing, pre-and post-audition networking.

Dormouse's claim to have a 33% success rate at auditions doesn't ring true, unless he/she has only done around 3 auditions. An actual success rate, even for professionals with active careers, is more like 10% at most. However, here's something you won't often read in any book on auditioning:
Much as I hate to end an article on a downer, there are few jobs where you are weighed in the balance and found wanting in such a way on a daily basis. I have had my physical attributes and shortcomings in relation to a role discussed in front of me as though I wasn't even there. And I'm far from unique in that. You will be rejected several times a month in some small way by your chosen profession. Make sure you have a solid support network - whether that's friends and family, or musical mentors who believe in you. You need it, or you'll suffer.

Which gets to a few things I've noticed from playing nearly thirteen years of professional auditions.

It's not about always about how well you sing. Directors' reasons for not hiring a singer can span every color of the rainbow--too big a voice, too small, too fat, too thin, too bright a voice, too dark, too young, too old, too North American, too European, too this, too that...the list goes on. I've known singers with major careers that have never got work from auditions. I've also played for singers that showed up late, dressed inappropriately, flubbed their high notes, forgot words, and still got the job because they either managed to pull off the aria or just seemed appropriate for the role. One of the most frustrating things I've had to tell singers is that it's not about the best singer "winning" the audition, but about the most appropriate singer being hired for a specific engagement.

The best way to get hired as a musician, period, is to be known as a respected and worthwhile colleague both in rehearsal and performance and then to proceed to get hired, whether via audition or not, by more people and organizations through your professional network. But then again, getting your foot in the door in the first place is the problem.

More articles on Helium about audition tips

Monday, April 09, 2007

Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit for jazz band

Jamie Thompson came across one of his recent musical finds while walking through the Royal Conservatory building a few days ago and discovering Michael Occhipinti's jazz class rehearsing Nirvana's grunge classic Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Listen to the audio clip at Urban Flute Project

Look inside this title
Nirvana: Smells Like Teen Spirit - sheet music at
Nirvana: Smells Like Teen Spirit Performed by Nirvana. Single for voice, piano and guitar chords. F Minor. 6 pages. Published by Hal Leonard. (HL.356081)
See more info...

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Pianists who knit

PianoKnits is another new blog about, well, exactly what the title implies. Written by Eusebius, this blog gives away no hints about location, but there is ample evidence that it may in fact be yet another Canadian classical music blog sighting--witness the Heintzmann & C. label on the piano pic by the title, as well as the reference to the last week of classes in early April congruent with the schedule of most Canadian university programs.

See also:

Martha Beth Lewis, piano teacher extraordinaire and avid knitter

FWD:Music Acknowledgements

I would like to thank a number of people for doing so much of the work to make FWD:Music such a success on Saturday night.

  • First of all, the RCM faculty performers on the concert:

    Susan Gagnon, cello
    Brahm Goldhamer, piano
    Alan Hetherington, percussion
    Helen Jacob-Stein, violin
    Joel Katz, bass-baritone
    Anne Lederman,fiddle
    Robert Loewen, baritone
    Wagner Petrilli, Brazilian guitar
    Karen Quinton, piano
    Helen Russell, clarinet
    Margot Rydal, flute
    Stephen Satory, piano
    Donna Sherman, soprano
    Christine Surman, piano
    George Thurgood, piano
    Jennifer Tung, piano, soprano
    Subhadra Vijaykumar, Carnatic violin
    Alla Zacarelli, piano
    Monica Zerbe, mezzo-soprano
    Christopher Foley (me), piano
  • The non-RCM faculty performers:

    M. Mayuran, mrdangam
    Ivan Zilman, guitar
  • The members of the subcommittee I chaired with the task of getting this series off the ground:

    Joel Katz
    Christine Surman
    Jamie Thompson
    Stephen Satory
  • The entire Faculty Association Executive Committee for their input on various matters, especially John Graham, president of the Faculty Association.
  • Jessica Lovett and Jacquelyne Beriault, Marketing Managers of the RCM Community School for their tireless work creating and distributing press releases, posters, and brochures.
  • Jeremy Trupp, Payment and Adjustments Officer of the RCM Community School, also wearing his hat as box office manager.
  • Josh Grossman, Performance Manager of The Glenn Gould School and production coordinator for the show, who ensured that all the stage business associated with having 20 faculty members on stage in one evening went off without a hitch.
  • And finally, Stephen Green, Acting Dean of the RCM Community School, for having such enthusiasm and support for this project.
What I found particularly satisfying about this concert was the first-rate quality of the performers and how seamlessly the classical, folk, and world music works blended into each other. Congratulations to all for what might very well become one of the RCM's most unique and engaging concert offerings.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Another Canadian classical music blog

At last...another classical music blog in Canada. Otto von Karajanstein writes The Transcontinental, named after a long-running show on CBC Radio Two of the same name. A recent post on What To Do With Radio Two highlights some of the soul-searching that has been going on since the announcement of the revamping of the Radio Two lineup with a drastic reduction in the amount of classical music programmed:

While I appreciate their motivations, I am still saddened by the sheer lack of talk about culture on CBC anymore. When I grew up, you could actually learn something about classical music and other arts on CBC, every day. And it wasn't restricted to classical music - I fondly recall a Saturday evening spent learning all about the metal power ballad, its origins and development.

That seems much less likely these days. There are fewer musicologists, fewer composers, yet unsurprisingly enough, more performer interviews.

Christopher Foley's Resumé

Dr. Christopher Foley, pianist

Email: collaborative piano [at] g mail dot calm


Doctor of Musical Arts in Piano Accompanying and Chamber Music, Eastman School of Music, 1994. Studied with Jean Barr. Minor field in Twentieth-Century Music, Theory, and History. (A list of related coursework is available upon request.)

Master of Music in Piano Accompanying and Chamber Music, Eastman School of Music, 1991. Studied with Jean Barr (Accompanying and Chamber Music) and David Burge (Solo Piano).

Bachelor of Music, University of British Columbia, 1989. Studied with Robert Rogers (solo piano), Rena Sharon (accompanying) and Douglas Finch (chamber music). Graduated with the highest marks in Music.

A.R.C.T., Royal Conservatory of Music, 1985. Studied piano with Margaret Brew and Margot Ehling. Studied harmony and counterpoint with Mary Fraser.


Faculty, Royal Conservatory of Music, 2003-. Faculty member in both the Glenn Gould Professional School and the Community School. Duties in the GGS have included coaching singers enrolled in the Performance Diploma and Artist Diploma programs, playing in master classes by visiting artists, teaching Vocal Literature to Performance Diploma singers. Duties in the Community School include teaching piano, collaborative piano, small ensembles, and vocal coaching. Presented a lecture at the 2004 Art of Teaching Conference entitled Collaborative Skills for the Developing Pianist. Currently a member of the Faculty Association Executive Committee.

Coach/Repetiteur for Tapestry New Opera Works, 2002-. Productions include Opera To Go, an evening of one-act operas, Nigredo Hotel by librettist Anne-Marie Macdonald and composer Nic Gotham, Facing South by librettist Don Hannah and composer Linda C. Smith, and workshops for Over the Japanese Sea: An Office Opera (librettist Julie Salverson and composer Juliet Palmer) and The Shadow (librettist Alex Poch-Golden and composers Omar Daniel). Duties also include serving as coach/pianist on the creative team for Tapestry’s unique Composer/Librettist and Director/Musical Director workshops held in August. These one-week intensive workshops highlight interdisciplinary collaborations in order to explore the full potential of music in live performance and to take full advantage of a shared artistic vision. Participants have access to singers, repetiteurs and dramaturgical staff while collaborating on selected works in development. Recent performances include appearances at the Word on the Street Festival, Toronto City Hall and the Algoma Fall Festival.

Faculty Resident Accompanist, Bowdoin Summer Music Festival, 1994-. Pianist for the studios of Lewis Kaplan, Zakhar Bron, Lynn Blakeslee, Cheryl Staples, Peter Kurau, Steven Doane, James Dunham, Yehuda Gilad, Cynthia Hoffman, Sylvia Rosenberg, and Rami Solomonow, involving coaching and rehearsing with students, as well as playing on both faculty and student recital programs.

Noye’s Fludde, Benjamin Britten Celebration 2003. Vocal coach, orchestral contractor and duo pianist for this production in collaboration with Musical Director Nicholas Goldshmidt and Stage Director Joy Coghill. Leading roles were played by Gary Relyea, Marcia Swanston, and Douglas Campbell. This performance was broadcast on the CBC Television program Opening Night in March 2004.

La Fedeltà Premiata, Mooredale Concerts, September 2003. Vocal coach for this production in collaboration with Musical Director Julian Kuerti.

Sessional Faculty, University of British Columbia, 1996-2002. Duties included coaching students enrolled in collaborative piano courses in both the vocal and chamber fields. Other duties include a teaching a two-year song repertoire course that covers the history of the solo vocal repertoire from the Middle Ages to the present and a chamber music survey course for piano majors.

Sessional Faculty, Vancouver Academy of Music, 1994-2002. Duties included coaching singers and instrumentalists enrolled in the Academy's Bachelor of Music and Artist Diploma programs; playing for lessons, recitals, auditions; coaching the Academy's opera Training program for productions of The Magic Flute and Albert Herring as well as numerous opera scenes workshops; teaching vocal repertoire; teaching sight-singing and ear training to students enrolled in the first two years of the Bachelor of Music program. Many singers coached at the Academy have gone on to success in major competitions such as the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (Tamara Hummel and David Lee were both finalists in New York) and the Eckhardt-Grammaté National Music Competition (Heather Pawsey won first prize in 1996). Also served as adjudicator for the Academy’s Senior Secondary Piano Competition in 1998 and 2001

Undergraduate Chamber Music, Eastman School of Music, 1993-94. Coached students regularly for their undergraduate piano chamber music requirement.

Teaching assistant for Undergraduate Accompanying class, Eastman School of Music, 1993-94. As Jean Barr's assistant, coached students regularly in both the instrumental and vocal repertoires.

Teaching assistant for Freshman Sight-Reading class, Eastman School of Music, Fall 1993. As Jean Barr's assistant, provided individualized instruction to students in class on such subjects as ornamentation, transposition, keyboard harmony, and clef-reading.


Pianist and Coach for the first two seasons of Bathroom Divas, a reality television show airing on Bravo!Canada. Bathroom Divas is a reality show that follows the progress of six young amateur opera singers chosen from national auditions as they attempt to survive a weekly elimination from Opera Boot Camp. The winning singer performed with Toronto Symphony Orchestra in season one and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in season two. Episodes with appearances include the Toronto auditions, numerous appearances in the Opera Boot Camp, as well as the final elimination that determines the winning singer in the season finale.

Festival of the Sound, Parry Sound, August 2006. Performed with season two Bathroom Divas finalists Elaine Hefferton Brown, Phillip Holmes, Paul Abelha, and Laura Landauer in a performance of operatic arias.

Divas Over the Top, Whitehorse Performing Arts Centre, November 2006. Performed Bathroom Divas season one finalists Sonja Gustafson, Sonja Anderson, Emilie Losier, Sergio Restagno, and Gail Malcolm and season one judges Mary Lou Fallis and Gary Relyea in a program of popular operatic selections. The trip to Whitehorse also involved judging a mini-competition (Outhouse Divas) and presenting a lecture and master class on the art of collaborative piano.

Women in Music Festival, Eastman School of Music, April 2006. Performed excerpts of Laura Schwendinger’s Pointillisms and Barbara Pentland’s Sung Songs with mezzo-soprano Wendy Hatala Foley.

Eastman School of Music Faculty Concert Series, February 2006. Performed two-piano eight-hand repertoire with Eastman Faculty member Jean Barr, fellow guest artist Judy Kehler Siebert, and Eastman graduate students.

University of Western Ontario Faculty of Music Friday Noon Hour Series, January 2006. Performed an all-Schubert program with tenor Kevin McMillan and flutist Anne Thompson.

Popera, a presentation of Opera Ontario, Hamilton and Kitchener, December 2004. Performed various cabaret selections for voice and piano with Jean Stilwell, mezzo-soprano.

FestItalia Opera Cabaret, presented by the Algoma Fall Festival, Sault Ste. Marie, October 2004. Performed with Tamara Hummel, Xin Wang, Lynne McMurtry, Martin Houtman, and Ian Funk. This was a concert of various operatic arias and ensembles presented by the Algoma Fall Festival in honour of the Italian community’s contribution to the civic life of Sault Ste. Marie.

So You Want to Sing a Show Tune, Helliconian Hall, September 2004. Pianist and coach for a one-woman show written and performed by Rebecca Hass and directed by Michael Albano. Works include various operatic and broadway favorites.

Sharon Temple Concert Series, Sharon, Ontario, June 2004. Performed with Colin Ainsworth, tenor. Works of Britten, Hahn, and Schubert.

Trinity in the Square Summer Series, Toronto, June 2004. Performed with Zorana Sadiq, soprano. Works of Golijov, Pack, Raminsch, and Ryan.

Music Around Us Young Artist Series, Glenn Gould Studio at CBC Toronto, October 2003. Performed with Peter MacGillivray, baritone and the Accordes String Quartet. Peter MacGillivray appeared as First Prize winner in the 32nd CBC/Radio Canada Young Performers Competition. This concert featured works by Schubert, Rachmaninov, and Vaughn Williams.

DISTILLATION: the water project, a production of Continuum Contemporary Music at the DeLeon White Gallery, April 2003. Performed with the Continuum ensemble for this multimedia project that explores water and its nature through interaction between different media. This instillation/concert featured the work of video artist Ramona Lamlochand as well as the music of Linda C. Smith, Andriy Talpash, and Juhan Puhm.

First Annual Karin Kieser Award Ceremony, Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto, Jan. 2003. Performed with Ryan Scott, percussion, and Sanya Eng, harp, in Abigail Richardson's dissolve, winner of the first annual Karen Kieser Prize in Canadian Music, presented at the Glenn Gould Studio at CBC Toronto and recorded for the CBC Radio Two program Two New Hours. This recording later won Ms. Richardson first prize in the under-30 category in the International Rostrom of Composers competition and was broadcast over 100 times the following season in various European countries.

Loras College Guest Artist Series, Dubuque, Iowa, Jan. 2003. Performed with violinist Mitchell Johnson, first prize winner in the 2002 Concert Artists International Competition in works of Grieg, Beethoven, Debussy, and Kreisler.

Six at the Beginning, a presentation of the School of Toronto Dance Theatre, Dec. 2002. Performed with Mike Kane and Linda C. Smith in John Sherlock’s Line Dance Variation for three vintage electric pianos with dancers. This work was a result of the first musical commission ever offered by the School of Toronto Dance Theatre.

Canadian Contemporary Music Workshop, Toronto, September 2002. World Premiere of Space for solo piano by Toronto composer Jackie Shin.

furtherEASTfurtherWEST Festival, Vancouver, June 2002. Presented by Vancouver ProMusica, this is a festival that highlights connections and collaborations between Eastern and Western ensembles and musical traditions. Performed Eliot Weisgarber's Japanese Miscellany for solo piano, as well as with the Vietnamese ensemble Tak Chi in works of Mark Armanini.

Filumena Workshop, Banff Centre, May 2002. Coach, repetiteur, and member of the creative team for this musical and dramaturgical workshop for John Estacio's opera Filumena, to be premiered at the Calgary Opera in early 2003.

120 Songs for the Marquis de Sade, Modern Baroque Opera and Vancouver NewMusic co-production, Vancouver, Feb.-March 2002.This work was the winner of the 2001 Alcan Performing Arts Award. Vocal coach and pianist/MIDI keyboardist for the production. Libretto by Peter Hinton, music by Peter Hannan, co-directed by Kate Hutchinson and Peter Hinton. This work will be the subject of an upcoming television documentary co-produced by French and English CBC to be broadcast nationally, in addition to a radio broadcast on both CBC networks.

Vancouver New Music Ensemble, Core member, 1996-2002. Pianist for Vancouver New Music Ensemble. Highlights include Shifting Tides, a concert featuring women composers as part of the VNMS’s Vox Femina festival; Inner Space, featuring chamber music with brass and electronics; and was a featured soloist on Countdown: The Odd Decades, a six-hour retrospective of music from the 10’s, 30’s, 50’s 70’s, and 90’s. Other concerts include the first three Vancouver International New Music Festivals, the VNMS's 25th Anniversary Concert, a tour of eastern Canada featuring concerts in Toronto and Montreal, and solo appearances on a concert entitled The Wanderer: Chamber Music of Africa.

Musical Director and Pianist for the 3 Divas, 2001-2002 season. The 3 Divas are a “trio of talented entertainers with beautiful voices, gorgeous stage presence, and a delightful sense of irreverence.” Musical selections are chosen from the operatic, art song, and popular repertoires. Recent engagements include two sold-out concerts in Kelowna and Vernon, British Columbia.

B.C. Tour with Canadian violinist Judy Kang, September 2001. Music of Beethoven, Massenet, and Wieniawski. Concerts in Prince Rupert, Kitimat, Terrace, and Summerland. Ms. Kang performs on a 1689 Baumgartner Stradivarius on loan from the Canada Council.

Nicolai Korndorf Memorial Fundraiser Concert, University of British Columbia, September 2001. Pianist for Music for Owen Underhill and his Magnificent Eight. Broadcast for future broadcast on the CBC Radio 2 Program 2 New Hours. All proceeds toward the Korndorf Foundation.

Sonic Boom Music Festival, Vancouver, Spring 2001. Performed solo piano works of John Baker and Matt Rogers at the Western Front.

Richardson's Roundup on CBC Radio One, Fall 2000. Two performances with soprano Heather Pawsey of Canadian parlour music from the 19th and 20th centuries have be featured on this popular and eclectic radio show.

CBC Regina Galleria Series, May 2000. Performed with soprano Heather Pawsey a program of historical Canadian music written before 1914. Works chosen were from the art song, opera, parlor music, patriotic, ragtime, and march genres. Highlights from this performance will be performed in September 2000 on the nationally broadcast CBC Radio Two program “Richardson’s Roundup”.

Visiting Composers Series, Cleveland State University, April 1998. Performed Pointillisms, a work for solo piano by American composer Laura Schwendinger.

April in Santa Cruz New Music Festival, April 1998. Performed Pointillisms, a work for solo piano by American Composer Laura Schwendinger.

Eckhardt-Grammaté National Music Competition Winners' Tour 1996. Pianist for the winner of the 1996 competition, soprano Heather Pawsey. The tour included recitals at McGill University, Carleton University, Mount Allison University, the University of Toronto, Lakehead University, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Brandon University, the University of Regina, the University of Saskatoon, the Calgary Centre for the Performing Arts, and the Vancouver Academy of Music, in addition to a residency at the Banff Centre.

Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music, Brunswick, Maine, 1994-. Works of Elliott Schwartz, Colin Holmiski, Witold Lutoslawski, Christopher Winders, Gordon Beeferman, and Laura Schwendinger, broadcast on National Public Radio station WPKM Portland.

Vocal Arts in Concert, Vancouver, February 1995. Performed with soprano Diane Lewarne and baritone Craig Morash in a program in honor of the 50th anniversary of Anton Webern's death.

Inaugural Concert of Eastman-Dickinson Concert Series, Dickinson College, February 1994. Performed with flutist Julie Tunstall and cellist Richard Eckert.

Opus Classics Concert Series, SUNY Buffalo, January 1994. Performed with violinist Shannon Nance, broadcast live on National Public Radio station WBFO Buffalo.

Performed with Francesco Manara, concertmaster of the Orchestra del Teatro dalla Scala, Milan, August 1993. Platten Stenen Brug, Alkmaar, Holland. The performance was broadcast live on North Holland Radio.

Guest Artist Series, Cornell University, October 1992. Performed with violinist Shannon Nance.

Toured Japan with the Eastman Wind Ensemble, June 1992. Performances in Hiroshima, Osaka, Gifu, Tokyo, and other cities on the main island to promote their new Sony Classical disc.

Toured with Toru Miura, February 1992. Toru Miura is an internationally recognized euphonium soloist and records for Denon. Concerts in Mount Holyoke College, Ithaca College, Cornell University, and Eastman School of Music.

Performances with Intermusica Ensemble at Eastman. Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano (selections) by John Cage, as part of a concert In Memoriam of John Cage; Nocturnes for violin and piano by George Crumb; Warble for Lilac-time for soprano and piano by Elliot Carter; Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo for tenor and piano by Benjamin Britten

Pianist with Musica Nova Ensemble at Eastman, 1992-94. Works by Simon Bainbridge, Christopher Rouse, Ned Rorem, Ruth Crawford, James Willey, Leslie Bassett, and Peter Maxwell Davies.

Over 150 recitals at the Eastman School of Music, 1989 to 1994, with students of voice, violin, viola, cello, flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, french horn, and percussion.


Owner and Author of The Collaborative Piano Blog, November 2005-. The Collaborative Piano Blog is a regularly updated weblog that addresses issues of importance related to the piano in ensemble, advertises current events I am engaged in, as well as those of selected colleagues in Toronto and elsewhere. Some articles include a definition of collaborative piano, a list of required and preferred skills for the collaborative pianist, collected ideas on how to learn a song or aria, and a list of viable career options in collaborative piano. This site is hosted by Blogspot, and is also accessible through the domain This site is currently the top collaborative piano site in the world (as ranked by Google and other leading search engines) and is also the top classical music blog in Canada.

Member of the Executive Committee of the Faculty Association at the Royal Conservatory of Music, 2005-. Co-opted in the fall of 2005 and elected in the fall of 2006. Duties include participating in the business and projects of the Executive Committee, including organizing FWD:Music, a faculty recital series started to create a projected Faculty Association scholarship for the Community School.

Vice-President of Special Projects, National Association of Teachers of Singing Ontario Chapter, 2002-2006. Full member of NATS since 1997. Current duties include serving on executive committee, as well as creating and organizing activities bringing together the talents of the diverse chapter membership, the Toronto musical community, and the broader NATS community throughout Canada and the United States. Recent accomplishments include a panel discussion for the fall NATS workshop that highlighted the unique difficulties and challenges facing high-school level singers as they go through the audition process for universities and conservatories. Representatives from nine Ontario post-secondary institutions were on the panel, and because of the high turnout it has been decided to re-mount this workshop in the fall of 2005.

Board Member and Treasurer, National Association of Teachers of Singing Vancouver Chapter, 1998-2002. Duties included managing finances for the chapter, finding investment opportunities for the scholarship fund, budgeting for workshops by visiting artists, as well as participating in the process of re-writing the chapter's constitution and by-laws.

Cofounder, Vancouver Song Club, 1998-2002. Begun along with NATS member Carol Brauner, the Vancouver Song Club is a round-table discussion group and performing venue for young singers. Membership includes young professionals, students, and amateurs that meet on a monthly basis to perform for each other and exchange input regarding their professional development.


French, German, Italian--Reading knowledge, knowledge of diction in the International Phonetic Alphabet.

Latin--Knowledge of diction in the International Phonetic Alphabet.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Ligeti's Poeme Symphonique for 100 metronomes

Here's a relaxing soundtrack for all the metronome aficionados out there. If you watch to the end, you may figure out how the metronomes could be prepared to do what they do and why this work can't be done with digital metronomes.

More collaborative piano in the blogosphere

Mat's little world of pianos, theatre, and performance showcases the adventures of Mat in Worcester, a pianist with a keen interest in amateur theatre. Recent happenings on his blog include an account of a recent opening of Merrie England that he had repped:

By the end of the tech rehearsal on Sunday, there was a distinct sense of panic, and no-one thought the show was ready, but we’d all ran out of time. I’m told the dress rehearsal (full orchestra, so I wasn’t needed) was more of the same. Everyone was thinking they needed another week of runthroughs.
But by Wednesday, the comaraderie of the cast shone through, and everyone got together, and put on a blinder of a show. I saw it Friday night with Will, and Saturday night with the parents, and it was astonishing...

By the way, Mat, thanks for the nod. Your blog's feed shall occupy a permanent place on my Google Reader lineup.

Elton Lammie and Laura Landauer as impersonators in concert.....together

Fans of Bathroom Divas will be pleased to hear about a pair of upcoming dinner theatre appearances by season two finalist Laura Landauer (as Celine and Cher) and season one winner Elton Lammie (as Roy Orbison). Also appearing is Elvis impersonator Rick Alviti.

Tickets are $59.95 for dinner and the show.

Here is some more info:

Friday, May 25, 2007

Beacon Harbourside Resort
2793 Beacon Blvd, Jordan, Ontario
Doors open at 6:00 pm Dinner: 7:00 pm Show: 9:00 pm Reservations:

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Casablanca Winery Inn
4 Windward Drive, Grimsby, Ontario
Doors open at 4:45 pm Dinner:5:30 pm Show: 7:30 pm Reservations:

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Some interesting Google queries

There was a hit here earlier today (from Redmond, Washington) from a Google query "why do i practice piano".

My response to this noble Googler from the Land of Microsoft:

You practice piano because playing the piano is a never-ending voyage of discovery. It's not just about achieving an end product, but learning about the value of process. As much as the satisfaction of mastering a work, it's about showing up every day and revelling in the physicality of being able to push down keys on a complex mechanism made out of wood and metal that creates these amazing sounds and works of art that can do so much towards making life more enjoyable.


Another Google query was for "Bathroom Divas season three"--I've noticed a few of these recently. For the record, I don't know anything about a third season but if and when I do, you will definitely read about it here.

Monday, April 02, 2007

FWD:Music this Saturday

It's only a few days until FWD:Music at the Royal Conservatory of Music. This Saturday at 8pm in the RCM Concert Hall, you can see music from a variety of traditions on all sorts of instruments, played by Community School faculty to raise money for a projected scholarship on behalf of the Faculty Association.

Baritone Robert Loewen and I will be performing "Eri tu" from Verdi's Ballo in Maschera. In addition, I'll be doing MC duties for the evening.

Tickets are $15/10 and $30 for families. Don't miss this opportunity to see RCM faculty in performance and support a brand new scholarship initiative at the Community School.

Another pianist with excellent wind-up skills

I recently found another video of Olympia's Doll Song from Tales of Hoffman featuring a pianist doing the wind-up thing. This time it is pianist Michael Dauphinais with soprano Makeda Hampton at an AIMS artist recital. Notice how Mr. Dauphinais does the full wind-up reminiscent of operating 19th century machinery, rather than Mr. Scalera's debonair use of a fan.

What do I do when performing this aria? I must admit that I have in previous years utilized the same technique that Mr. Dauphinais so aptly demonstrates. However, in recent years I have begun to discover the benefits of technology and now, using a remote, wind up sopranos singing this aria without even leaving the piano.

John Adams interview on WGBH April 5

On April 5, renowned American composer John Adams will be interviewed by WGBH's Richard Knisely at 3pm. WGBH 89.7 FM broadcasts in the New England area but you can also hear the interview via live streaming on the well-equipped WGBH website.

I have only had the pleasure of working with John Adams once, about 7 or 8 years ago in the Vancouver New Music Ensemble as part of the Vancouver International New Music Festival. Adams conducted Gnarly Buttons (with Lori Freedman on clarinet) and the Chamber Symphony in a concert at Vancouver's Arts Club Theatre on Granville Island. I must say, the electronic keyboard part of the Chamber Symphony is one of the trickiest, most involved, but ultimately satisfying keyboard parts I've played in any orchestral work.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

What collaborative piano is not

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.

Further reading:

What Is Collaborative Piano?
Career Options in Collaborative Piano
Some Ideas on How to Learn a Song or Aria
10 Ways of Improving Your Sight Reading Skills
Degree Programs in Piano Pedagogy
Degree Programs in Collaborative Piano