Friday, August 15, 2008

Getting Started as a Rehearsal Pianist

Jeremy Fisher has just written an extremely useful introduction to getting work as a professional theatre pianist, based on his 20 years of experience in London's West End. His description of how a rehearsal pianist fits into the theatre production process:
The contract usually runs for four to six weeks, from 10am to 5pm five or six days a week. During the technical week (the week before opening night or the first preview, when all the sets and costumes are added) the hours can extend quite dramatically - I would sometimes be working 12 or 13 hour days.

As a rehearsal pianist you have to be very patient, and to enjoy watching the process of performance creation. In addition, you should be able to perform musical numbers repeatedly to a consistently high standard. And you need to like working with actors! You may or may not have a conductor there, and occasionally you are given the task of training the singers, or playing for the dance calls.
You'll also need to be mentally alert for long hours, as well as have a reliable technical setup that allows you to play consistently for 8-hour days.

When you're moving to a new city or breaking into the profession, the rehearsal pianist route can generate a reliable income and prove very satisfying. Since the cast and crew of a show is a built-in social network, you can often rely on them in the future for staying connected.

Also read Jeremy's account of his dogged determination to get his foot in the door. The first engagement is always the most difficult one to get. Once you're active on the scene, producers and contractors are much more comfortable hiring someone that is already well-known as a valued colleague.

More articles:

How to Get Work as a Freelance Collaborative Pianist

Poll Results: How Much Do You Charge Per Hour for a Rehearsal or Coaching?
Poll Results: Should Accompanists Charge Clients for Practice Time?

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