Monday, December 15, 2008

Getting Collaborative Piano Work as a Student

Lauren left the following comment on my previous article about How to Get Work as a Freelance Collaborative Pianist:
Do you have any suggestions for how a college student can get work as an accompanist? I was doing some accompanying earlier this semester but had to pass off those students to the person who is now the full-time accompanist. I will not be needed for accompanying at school in the future and I'm not sure how to go about finding other work as an accompanist. I know some of your suggestions apply to students, but others are only for those who are making a full-time career as a collaborative pianists. Do you have any other tips specific to students?
Thanks for the great comment, Lauren. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems that the issue for you is that the work you had previously done had been handed off to someone else (which is often the case at schools with graduate assistantships and staff accompanists) and you're looking for collaborative piano work while you continue as a student.

Schools of music are only a small part of the equation when it comes to getting work playing in the collaborative piano field. I don't know where your school is located, but depending on your location, there are a number of markets available to you while you are still a student. They include:
  • Private voice teachers in your area not affiliated with a university. Voice teachers are always on the lookout for pianists with a willingness to play for singers, either in lessons, master classes, festivals, recitals, and auditions. For a list of voice teachers in your area, check out your local chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing.
  • Find ballet or dance schools located in your area. Ballet teachers are also on the lookout for fine pianists willing to learn the art of playing for dance classes.
  • Find amateur theater companies in your area that are putting on musicals. A few months before rehearsals are slated to start, directors are often desperate to find rehearsal pianists with chops and eager to work with the singers in the company.
  • Find listings of string, wind, and brass teachers in the local chapter of the Music Teachers National Association. Some chapters are more active than others, but at certain times of the year, there is a fairly large demand for pianists who can play the basic repertoire in various competitions.
  • Leverage your Facebook or MySpace friendlist (if you have an account there). Many collaborative pianists at the collegiate level tell me that much of their work is negotiated on Facebook, and many referrals happen through friends of friends (ie. "check out x on my friendlist"). Sending private messages to select contacts to let them know you're available to play may come in handy when crunch time starts in mid-January.
  • Check out other schools of music in your area. If the scene is slow at your school, put up posters at other regional music departments to try to get your foot in the door there. Who knows, you may even develop a caché as the new pianist in town that everyone flocks to.
Am I missing anything? Your comments are welcome regarding any other ideas you may have regarding students getting their feet in the door with collaborative piano work.


  1. Anonymous10:28 PM

    Many thanks, Chris! I checked the NATS web site and found several teachers in my area. Perhaps I'll find work with one of them. :) I'll take a look at the other options as well.

  2. Glad I could be of help, Lauren. Stick around and check out additional comments in the next few days.

  3. Very informative post Chris. It's so important for pianists to be entrepreneurial. Might I add...the church gig! A position as a music director, pianist, or organist at a church that supports and values music and an integral part of worship can be such a musically satisfying experience for a pianist. Information for available positions can be found at denominational websites, at websites like, or at church musician association websites like the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians (

    Get out there and gig everyone!

  4. Also, keep an eye up on the singer's forums, most notably, or, again, any of the singer's Facebook groups. Often singers who have auditions that are a couple of days (or even hours) away turn to the forums desperate for someone to play.

  5. You could also try amateur choirs. I got some great opportunities that way. I started playing for a choir for office workers that met at lunchtime and ended up playing three piano concerti as part of a series of programs that they put on with a freelance orchestra! I also met some great people.

  6. This post is just what I am looking for!! Extremely helpful! I am currently an undergraduate piano student studying in one of the major conservatories in NYC. I've got some accompanying jobs simply through friends and the words of mouths but not a significant amount, and I found it difficult to get the works regularly at school since there are many MM in Collaborative piano students doing all the work especially when there are other accompanists who are available and are just as good as you in the Big Apple ..