Monday, May 04, 2009

Readers' Commentary - 4 May 2009

More noteworthy comments from the last few days...

The Career in Parentheses? posting continues to generate more thoughts. Lydia writes about the tension between roles of artist/collaborator and pianist for hire: 
I like the idea of viewing myself as a collaborator in an ensemble situation,instruments or voice. I believe in my importance to make the performance a success. However, usually, when they look for a pianist to work with them, for audition or concert, they are the ones paying the pianist which they call accompanist. Because of this payer and payee relationship, we are not on equal ground any more.

Many of them balked on my fee as well. I charge them my lesson fee. I get call from music students in a university near me. Many of them get staff pianists or their school friends to play for free, and only call me when neither option worked. Somehow, they can always find some other pianists that would do it for peanuts.

Often, the thought of only getting paid 1/4 of what I can charge as a piano teacher makes me drop the chance, unless I just want the experience.

I want to collaborate, but I find it hard when considering the payer-payee situation.
GradNovice's response:
I am in agreement with those comments with respect to fees, and charging them the same fee as lessons: it sets a standard and importance for both collaborative gigs and teaching gigs. I gauge both teaching and collaborations to be equal, because no matter what, at the end of the day, you are working with someone else to make music. That, and when peers and parents see you charge the same amount in both scenarios, I find they mentally eventually understand that musical collaborations are also a branch of a one's musical education, and not merely musical byproduct.

I do have a comment re: Lydia - "Somehow, they can always find some other pianists that would do it for peanuts".
Unfortunately, I am one of them, only because I am a novice in the market. I find myself working for friends whom I personally know are strapped financially. In some instances (like in smaller towns, say, Kingston), some teachers just exclusively commit their students to "questionable" accompanists (with whom they are BFFs), but who barely learn the music but still charge an arm and a leg. I have found myself needing to sacrifice even my musical esteem to find work. All in all, I am battling constantly with the insatiable need for experience, and also the worry of "overcharging", especially when the payer knows you're new to the scene, or competition (some good, some not...).
Alex Thio's comment on Creating First Experiences in Collaboration:
Jennifer's article on "Teaching Your Piano Students How to Accompany" is indeed insightful and practical. It's a wonder how so many of us (including yours truly) possess the enviable skills as collaborative pianists, but don't (or dare not) impart said skills to our piano students. Well, this certainly has to change - and it starts with me!
You go Alex! Bring the knowledge to the next generation.

Lizpr adds:
I think any pianist serious about collaborative work, especially with singers, should be *required* to take voice lessons. Back at UBC, as a piano student, boy, did my phrasing change when I switched to voice. When I accompanied singers, I paid way more attention to their need to, well, breathe! I also learned when a singer is hanging on to a high note, that's not the time to dilly-dally on the keys - and an "artistic accelerando" was a good idea! LOL
(Past life disclosure: Liz and I both took Class Voice at UBC 20 years ago.)

Thanks for the comments everyone--your opinions bring a wealth and diversity of viewpoint to the blog. Keep them coming!


  1. Wonderful blog, Chris, not only because you've managed to maintain it for quite a few years, but also because of its unique focus.

    Would you be willing to add your site to my "Best Blogs of the GTA" directory?


  2. Thanks, Patrick. It's added.