Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Readers' Commentary - 28 April 2009

Some of the most interesting writing on the blog these days is coming from readers' comments. Here are some recent examples:

Amen! I actually just had "the talk" with my main voice teacher, telling me I needed to take more time to dissect each phrase. I've added an extra 45-60 min to my practice- going from 1 1/2 hours to 2+. I warm up in the mornings from 9-10, and also work on technical exercises. From 2-3 before I teach I work on phrases. I force myself to go through every phrase and every vowel! Ah!! Very tedious, but I know I'm done when the doorbell rings :) When I'm through with my day of teaching, usually around 7:30, I go through my pieces in bigger chunks. It's great because I am completely warmed up and so satisfying to finally sing through something and release some emotion. I've also started looking at music beyond opera and running some musical theater rep. Definitely keeps my acting in check and is such fun! Thanks for this amazing post on practicing- if you have more tips for professionals, they are welcome!!
Yesterday's A Career in Parentheses? is also generating some excellent commentary. Jennifer Peterson (aka @gaspsiagore) writes:
Those of us who do this for a living can truly sense our value as collaborators. We are fulfilled by our contribution in a way those who are driven to be the soloist or the *star* may never experience.

Speaking for myself, the rewards unique to collaboration and facilitating to advance my particular corner of the creative arts far outweigh any possible rewards I might find in another field. I'm not sure the NYTimes would be able to see this satisfaction I'm able to live on, nor could they easily spin it into something the masses would be interested in reading, and I'm okay with that for the time being....

If I craved that attention, I think by definition I wouldn't be as good at what I do.

That's not to say I don't appreciate being appreciated!

And re. the term "accompanist" -- it's occurring to me that an unwritten, perhaps unofficial, standard in NYC is for operatic coaches to be referred to more often as "pianists" and "coaches" (if they coach), and the term "accompanist" mainly used for broadway pianists.
And finally, some personal perspective from ChiarinaEstrella
As I haul through the heaviest part of kids' competition season, I have the opportunity to notice - and feel quite keenly with my high stress level - the microcosm of attitudes towards accompanists just through the group of kids I'm working with.

Some have never known another accompanist, while some have had three, four or more. They are always incredibly eager for feedback - especially with competitions this weekend. I do my level best to do as much as I can for them. This is helped in large part by the teachers, who generally treat me like a goddess. Most of the parents go along with it, and learn as they go, and many treat me like gold. A certain few (mostly strings, the ones that see me most) bring me jewelry and chocolate and coffee gift cards at Christmas!

But then there are exceptions, and they are hard to take when I'm really stressed, sometimes even from the people I know best that know better. Forms were turned in by a teacher for one competition mere seconds from the deadline, for a kid I've never met before - without so much as word one to me from the teacher. She has yet to say boo to me at t minus 4 days. What is the teacher thinking? One parent who really ought to have known better waited a very long time to contact me, and then gave me a super limited window of times to work with for rehearsal, all based on her convenience and included the child's social schedule, not reality - I had to drop her and let someone else pick her up (for whom she suddenly had workable times - gee!) The mother doesn't seem to understand how these things work - or, more to the point, apparently does, and just wasn't willing to put out the effort. Another does seem to hold my playing and coaching in high regard, but is flaky as fine pastry.

It's really eye-opening when some parents are astonished by my pricing. I'm charging about the same as the going rate as a lesson at the school they go to for this kind of thing, yet every year, at least one parent seems unpleasantly surprised. I often undercharge when I know the family is under financial stress, and even then, one person will always nickel and dime me (generally someone that could afford far more than my rates). Some seem to think that I'm a service employee and will have wide swaths of time open just for them, yet would never hesitate to wait weeks for an appointment with their doctor or their hairdresser.

The good outweighs the bad in the long run, or I wouldn't do it, but I feel the wrong attitudes and abuses of my work far more keenly when I'm under stress; as well, at this time of year, a lot of yahoos come out of the woodwork for these big events, so I see more of the bad attitudes at this point as well. I just try to remind myself of the little 9 year old pianist who thinks having an orchestra for his Mozart is the coolest thing *ever*, or the one teenage singer that had never met me before and came in bubbling over with gratitude before I had even played a note, and then it's all ok.
Thank you for the level of thought and writing that went into those comments, and keep them coming! Readers' Commentary (with links to authors wherever possible) will now be a continuing series on the Collaborative Piano Blog.

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