Monday, August 30, 2010

Steve Danyew's Come Home featuring Ashley Morgan Garofalo

Steve Danyew's Come Home for alto saxophone and piano actually started its life as a work for viola and piano. Steve writes:
The music of Come Home is an extraction from the second movement of my work "Fantasies for Viola and Piano." The music of that second movement is quite song-like, and in the summer of 2008 I decided to create a work for mezzo soprano and piano based on a section of the movement. Contrary to the viola work, which features additional contrasting material not used in the vocal arrangement, the song version is essentially in strophic form. After writing the song for mezzo soprano and piano, I thought that it would work well as a saxophone and piano duo. Thus, this version is a transcription of an arrangement of an original composition of mine.
This performance with composer/saxophonist Steve Danyew and Ashley Morgan Garofalo on piano is a gem and worth listening to the full 8+ minutes. Congratulations are in order for Ashley, who starts her first college position at Fitchburg State College this fall. Ashley is also a blogger, and her music, poetry, arts [transcribed] should have a permanent place in your RSS subscriptions.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Definitive Guide to Building and Maintaining a Repertoire List

One of the most important things about being a collaborative pianist is developing depth of repertoire, whether you choose to specialize in one area or play a wide variety of genres. When you're applying for graduate school, a young artist program, or your first staff accompanist position, it's important to be able to present a complete repertoire list so those who are interested in you can get a better sense of the works, styles and genres that you've played so far.

The problem is that very few of us actively maintain a rep list and are able to keep track of what we've played over time. It takes a lot of time and regular updating to be able to offer a complete rep list (especially one as jaw-droppingly awesome as Amanda Johnston's) and this post will tell you how you can start, update, and offer one that will impress at hiring time.

Getting Started

Back in the old days, those of us diligent enough to be updating our rep lists did so on a weekly or monthly basis, when we would frantically search our books and photocopies, find out what was new, and add it to our list, most often a word document that lived on our home computer.

Fortunately, things have changed and the process of rep list-building can benefit greatly from the advances made with cloud computing technology. I recommend using a Google Docs spreadsheet for keeping the data in your rep list, and have created a template that you can use for this purpose:

You'll need to create and be signed into a Google account to save the template and start adding your own rep to the spreadsheet. The advantage of a Google Docs spreadsheet is that since it's stored on Google's servers, you can update it from any internet-enabled computer or smartphone. This is much more efficient than the old practice of having a word document on your hard drive that you only added to once in a blue moon.

Updating Your Rep List

Once you've saved the template to your Google account, you can start putting your repertoire on it. I've listed columns for composer, title of work, title of larger work (if applicable), genre, and sub-genre and added a few commonly known works to give you an idea of how the setup works. Here are some things to keep in mind when adding data to the fields:

  • There is no need to insert rows. Simply add the latest data to the bottom of the spreadsheet, click on the arrows on the lettered columns, and choose "Sort Sheet A ---> Z" in order to alphabetize, ie. by composer. 
  • When listing composers, it's a good idea to put the last name first for the purpose of alphabetization.
  • I've used the genre field for dividing between Instrumental and Vocal repertoire. You can also add Solo to this field.
  • You can use the Sub-Genre field to even further segment your rep, ie. sonata vs. concerto, aria vs. art song. 

Presenting Your Rep List

The time will come when you need to present your list in various elegant guises. Here are some ways that you can segment your full repertoire list in order to present it when the time comes:
  • Select and copy any groups of fields and then paste and format them into a word document for official presentation. You can also paste them into WYSIWYG editors if you're building a website.
  • For a complete alphabetical listing, sort the entire list alphabetically by composer.
  • To divide into instrumental and vocal groups, sort the genre field, then the composer field, then copy and paste into a word document. 
  • To list a specialization such as violin concertos or lieder, sort the sub-genre field, then sort the composer field, then copy and paste the alphabetized contents of the chosen sub-genre field.
  • For even more input, sorting, and presentation options, you can download the spreadsheet and then import it into a database program such as Microsoft Access or Base. 

A couple of caveats
  1. Update your list regularly. Doing a mass update the night before you send out your DMA application is not a good idea. Setting up your list early as a Google spreadsheet and adding to it via smartphone or internet whenever you learn a work takes less time over the long term and results in a much better, flexible, and marketable product when you need it.
  2. Don't falsify the contents of your repertoire list. Only list the works that you actually can play. You're going to get burned if you pad your list. I recall a "cello specialist" I once worked with who only knew a few sonatas and no concertos. The best rep list in the world cannot mask a pianist with repertoire deficiencies. On the other hand, every single one of us has a slightly different specialization, the nuances of which can rise to the surface with a consistently revised list.
Although the template I created on Google Docs was intended for collaborative pianists, a few tweaks can make it work for any singer or instrumentalist. 

Do you have any useful repertoire list and/or spreadsheet tips? If so, tell us about them in the comments.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Andrew E. Simpson on Silent Movie Accompanying

The art of silent movie accompanying is alive and well - a recent Ryan Kearney article in TBDArts looks at the work of Andrew E. Simpson, who specializes in utilizing a variety of traditional and contemporary techniques to bring these silent classics to life. About his preparation process for the 1925 movie Maciste all'Inferno, recently screened at the National Gallery of Art in Washington:
It's a challenge, to say the least, because Simpson must play for an hour and a half straight, no breaks. "You have to pace yourself," he says. "The good thing is, most films have very few moments where there's outright action all the time. There's almost always a place where you can play a chord and settle, and the audience needs a break, too." And yet there are other films, Maciste being one of them, which are packed with action. "You look for opportunities to save yourself, so you're not exhausted, but with that film I did sort of leave it all out there," he says. "I have to tell you, this was one of the more exhausting performances I've done."

In this instance, at least, Simpson had the opportunity to watch Maciste beforehand. For many of his 50 or so performances since becoming an accompanist in 2006, he's gone into the screening cold, including when he plays the Slapticon festival in Arlington. (He also regularly plays the Library of Congress' Mt. Pony Theater in Culpeper, where he's the house accompanist.) "Often I play something I've never seen before, which is another special challenge because I have to anticipate what's happening," he says. "The more films you play, the easier it becomes to spot patterns, and it becomes a little easier to predict what will happen." For instance, if there's a vase prominently displayed in a scene, "you're pretty sure that vase is going to be broken at some point." And when the vase breaks, he's ready to replicate the sound of breaking china on the piano's upper register.

Picture of the Day

From Maximilian Van London, a great publicity shot of Vienna-based collaborative pianist (and Eastman grad) Chanda VanderHart. You can read more about Chanda's projects here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Accompanist Needed by Sean Adams

This evening I found yet another accompanist poem, this time from McSweeney's realm of the bizarre and postmodern. An excerpt from Accompanist Needed by Sean Adams:
To build intrigue, the accompanist may be billed as an android, caveman, confirmed serial killer who is shortening his prison sentence through a musical community-service program, or all of the above. Therefore, it is necessary for the accompanist to play from music sheets of binary code, create music by striking the keys with an oversized faux-wooden club, and play with ankles and wrists cuffed.

Some of my singing engagements take place late at night, in the homes of strangers, without audiences or music, and may appear to be elaborate art or jewel heists. For engagements like this, the accompanist may be called on to pick locks, crack safes, break windows silently and jump over large, sometimes barb-wire topped fences with me riding piggy-back at all times.

The Hahn Piano Quintet

Most of us know Reynaldo Hahn's work through his exquisite songs, but what most people aren't aware of is the large body of chamber music that he wrote from 1891 through 1946. Here is the first movement of his 1921 Piano Quintet with pianist Benoit Zhou, joined by violinists Eva Zavaro and Aliisa Barrière, Antonin Le Faure on viola, and Mina Rodriguez on cello in this 2009 performance from the École Alsacienne.

Also check out James Chute's review of Cho Liang Lin and friends performing the quintet recently at SummerFest in San Diego.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Flavio Ferri-Benedetti and Olgierd Bohuszewicz Perform Schumann

Zwielicht, Im Walde, and Frühlingsnacht from Liederkreis Op. 39 by Robert Schumann
Flavio Ferri-Benedetti, countertenor
Olgierd Bohuszewicz, piano

March 3, 2010 at the Elisabethen Kirche, Basel

Stealing from Jason Robert Brown

Earlier this summer, musical theater composer Jason Robert Brown discovered that people were illegally offering his sheet music for downloads, so he engaged one of the downloaders in conversation via email and posted it on his blog. He wraps up his main argument most eloquently:
I'm sorry if you still think I'm a jerk, but what I'm talking about here is not "insignificant." The entire record business is in free-fall because people no longer feel the moral responsibility to buy music; they just download it for free from the Internet, from YouTube, from their friends. When I make a cast album or a CD of my own, I do it knowing that it will never earn its money back, that I'm essentially throwing that money away so that I can put those songs out in the world. That shouldn't be the case, and I suspect in your heart you believe that too. All of us who write music for the theater are very much concerned that the sheet music business will eventually go the same way as the record business. I'm doing my little part to keep that from happening.
The wild free-for-all in the comments is also worth a look. Congrats to Jason Robert Brown for standing up for his right to make an honest buck selling his first-rate music. I've always been a fan of JRB's music, especially Songs for a New World, The Last Five Years, 13: The Musical, and Parade (BTW those are links to legal copies of his music).

(Via Piano Addict)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Collaborative Piano Studies at the University of Cinncinnati College-Conservatory of Music

The College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cinncinnati offers a two-year Master of Music degree in Collaborative Piano. You can find information on collaborative piano majors and assistantships on Page 9 of the Application Handbook and in the Graduate Assistantship Application for Vocal and Instrumental Studio Accompanying. Professor Ken Griffiths also sent along some information about collaborative piano studies at CCM:
All CCM undergrad piano majors are required to take two years of Collab Piano classes taught by my colleague Prof Donna Loewy. For those interested/gifted pianists there is a possibility of a third-year elective (in their Senior year) where the instruction is much more one-on-one. The MM in Collab Piano has been undergoing changes and will do so again in 2012. At the end of the 2008-09 academic year we officially did away with the previously required choice of either Instrumental or Vocal track programs.

So currently all MM pianists must pursue the same degree requirements. In addition to the standard MM academic classes our Collab Piano majors are required to take piano lessons with a member of the Piano Faculty for four quarters, take three languages, take vocal seminars with me, instrumental rep seminars with Prof Sandra Rivers, play four degree recitals in two years. On at least one of these recitals the pianist must include rep for different kinds of ensembles (vocal,instrumental sonatas or chamber works, two-piano works, etc). At the end of the second year each major must pass a 30-minute orals exam before the combined Collab Piano faculty.

CCM is currently preparing to move on to the Semester system – as will the entire University of Cincinnati – in the fall of 2012. This preparation included an entire review of the MM program and there have been some major changes made.

Grad vocal diction classes will be required of all majors, language studies regrettably become elective choices rather than required, three recitals required in semesters 2,3,4 of the two-year program. In addition, majors will be required to take an Arts Administration course “Managing your own professional career”.
CCM's collaborative piano program has been around since 1970, and its graduates have a long track record of success in the profession. For more information, fill out the CCM information request form.

Complete list of Degree and Diploma Programs in Collaborative Piano

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Collaborative Piano Studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music

The Cleveland Institute of Music offers a Master of Music, Artist Diploma, and Doctor of Musical Arts in collaborative piano. For full information about the program, check out the CIM catalog - information specific to the collaborative piano programs is on pages 24, 41, and 42. In case you're interested in auditioning, you can also find the complete repertoire for the vocal and instrumental repertoire lists online.

Here are the complete course requirements for the Master of Music (40 credit hours):
Principal Performance Studies
MUAP 501-504 Principal Performance Area (12)
MUAP 551-552 Graduate Recitals (0)

Secondary Performance Studies (8)
Four semesters of secondary keyboard studies are required. Area of study is determined by principal teacher.

Music Theory*
MUTH 407 Analytical Techniques and Terminology (3)
MUTH 598 Comprehensive Examination in Music Theory (0)

Music History or Literature (6)
Two courses, 400-level or higher (MUHI 401 may be required based upon
MUHI 598 Comprehensive Examination in Music History (0)

Ensemble (4)
Assigned by department to MUEN 300, 358 or 364

Electives in fields other than performance (3)
Conducting is required if not completed in a previous program of study.

Specific to Major
MUGN 461 Collaborative Piano Seminar (2)
MURP 461-462 Vocal Interpretation for Collaborative Pianists I, II (2)

*General theory review: MUTH 400A/400B may be required based upon
examination and is/are not applicable toward degree requirements.

Here are the course requirements for the Doctor of Music Arts in Collaborative Piano (63 credit hours):
Principal Performance Studies
MUAP 601-606 Principal Performance Area (3 credits per semester)
MUAP 751, 752, 753, 754 DMA Recitals I, II, III, IV (0)

Secondary Performance Studies
Collaborative Piano majors are required to enroll in two credits of Secondary
Keyboard study in each semester of full-time study.

Music Theory* (9)
MUTH 423 Analysis of Musical Styles
MUTH 424 Schenkerian Analysis
MUTH 495 Seminar in Music Theory [20th Century]
MUTH 798/799 DMA Written/Oral Comprehensive Examination in Music Theory

Music History or Literature (6)
MUHI 610 Bibliography and Research Methods in Music
MUHI 611 DMA Seminar
MUHI 798/799 DMA Written/Oral Comprehensive Examination in Music History

Music History, Literature or Theory Electives (9)
Courses determined in consultation with DMA Advising Committee upon
review of diagnostic examinations and the candidate’s interests.
Documents (3+)
MUGN 751 Recital Document I

Ensemble (4)
Assigned by department to MUEN 300, 358 or 364

Specific to Major
MUGN 461 Collaborative Piano Seminar (2)
MUTH 401-402 Harmony/Keyboard V, VI (4) are recommended

*General theory review: MUTH 400A/400B may be required based upon
examination and is/are not applicable toward degree requirement
For more information, consult the CIM's admission page and application checklist.

Complete list of Degree and Diploma Programs in Collaborative Piano

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Mac Donald vs. Sandow

There seems to be an awful lot at stake in the ongoing battle of words between Heather Mac Donald, who argues that we are in the golden age of classical music, and Greg Sandow, who claims that classical music is in a dangerous period of decline and redundancy. Here's a rundown of the articles from each writer:
Other well-known classical music bloggers have also weighed in on the debate:
My opinion on the matter?

I'm of two minds. On the one hand, this is a tremendously exciting time of renewal for not only classical music but for the arts in general, with all sorts of new growth brought on by multiculturalism, technology, and the sizable entry of a new crop of brilliant emerging professionals each year. The standard of playing is getting higher and higher, and not at the expense of artistry.

But at the same time, there are serious flaws in many institutions, which need to be addressed. Rare indeed is the classical music organization that has arrived at the winning combination of artistic agenda, audience engagement, and business plan without jeopardizing one for the other. There are plenty of people in positions of power who just don't get it.

But who the hell are we to predict a future that will eventually be determined by those who come after us? As arts professionals, all we can do is work to the best of our abilities to figure out which processes new and old are the ones that have the greatest impact, do our best to make them work, educate those that come after us, and then pass the baton to the next generation.

The ultimate destination of the ecosystem known as classical music simply hasn't been discovered yet.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Conductor Seeks Pro Orchestra

Via Helen Hou, I got word of this hilarious ad on Dallas Craigslist, reprinted in full below:

Where all the ORCHESTRAZ at??? (DFW)

What is up Dallas I am a classical orchestra conducter looking to conduct a GIGGING orchestra. No startups, I don't care how rehearsed you are. Not looking to make it big, been there, done that, bought the T-shirt, just looking for a well trained professional orchestra that wants to jam on the weekends maybe play a few open mics or operas once in a while. NO ORIGINALS, just looking for covers. You know, Brahams, Mozart, Beethoven, maybe a little Rachmaninov for kicks. I can conduct the sh*t out of those! I have been conducting since I was 12. I have conducted the London Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, The Philidelphia Opera Company, to name a few. Like I said, not looking to make it big again, but still want to work with PRO players with PRO attitudes. I have connections with the Myerson, and can get us booked there no problem. I have pro attitude and pro gear and pro transportation. My gear includes:

Newland Custom "Silhouette" Conductor's Baton
Mollard Lanico 12" Baton
Mollard Lanico 14" GOLD series Baton
Manhasset M48 Symphony Music Stand (with podium light mod)
Perry Ellis Italian wool Tuxedo- regular Dinner Jacket or TAILS!
Patent Leather Shoes

YOU- Must have pro gear, tuxedos, shoes, 420 friendly, Hit me up and send me a sample of your orchestra-ing. I don't care if it's just a crappy demo your orchestra recorded in the garage. I'll know if it's good or not, and I'll know if I can conduct the sh*t out of you!!!!!!!!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Nijmegen University Orchestra's Symphonic Bus Tour: A Free Online Flash Game

The members of the Nijmegen University Orchestra needed to fund their upcoming tour to Hungary. So what did they do? Simple - they created an free online flash game to both publicize and raise money for it (via ads).

Use the L/R arrow keys to make the bus go forwards and backwards, the up arrow to jump, and the down arrow to brake. The space bar drops the instruments onto the bus and the mouse can pick up the instruments you might have dropped along the way. Hint: put the tubas at the bottom of a pile of instruments, as they tend to drop off the bus rather easily.

Play Symphonic Bus Tour

Readers' Poll: When is your best practice time?

In a regular practice day, everyone has that über-productive time when your working process seems to come in place, you get into the zone, or merely have less distractions to deter you from relentless focus and pianistic awesomeness. When I was in graduate school at Eastman, it was always the morning, as early as possible. Afternoons work for many of us - on any given day across the planet, practice rooms are packed from noon to six for a reason. On the other hand, evenings are a quiet and peaceful time to get work done, whether you like to work North American style (practice your face off until the security guards kick you out after 11pm*). or European style (practice your face off until 10:30pm or so, then meet your friends for a nightcap and couple of smokes at the local Studentenpub).

This week's poll asks the question:

When is your best practice time?

You can find the poll near the top of the sidebar on any page of the blog or vote here. The poll will be open until Sunday at 9pm EDT.

*Then again, many of us at Eastman learned that there are places where the security guards rarely venture to go, such as the depths of the bomb shelter basement of the annex, where you could theoretically practice all night long. Once I discovered this, I could even fit in rehearsals past midnight on those extreme workaholic days. Since I've officially slipped into the years which one might call "mid-career", I have the luxury of scheduling rehearsals at more sane times of the day, rarely going past 9pm unless it's tech week.

Fran and Marlow Cowan Play in the Atrium of the Mayo Clinic

Fran and Marlo Cowan have been married for 62 years and still have that piano duet mojo. Here they are playing Old Grey Bonnet in the atrium of the Mayo Clinic:

(Thanks Sheila!)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Best Voice Forward at Wilfred Laurier University September 11-12

Those darned voice auditions...

If you're able to get to the Kitchener-Waterloo area on the weekend of September 11 and 12 should definitely look into attending Best Voice Forward, a voice audition workshop to be given by mezzo soprano Kimberly Barber and collaborative pianist Emily Hamper.

Those interested should fill out the applicant questionnaire and send a CV/headshot to kbarber [at] wlu dot ca. The workshop's schedule looks interesting, with a combination of moderated and peer-led groups, aria coaching, and mock auditions. The cost is $95 until August 15, $150 after August 15, with auditor fees running from $25 to $50. You'll also need to fill out the registration form and return it in person, via snail mail, or fax.

Best Voice Forward: A Voice Audition Workshop at Laurier

Monday, August 09, 2010

More About Injuries and Careers

Another perspective on the playing through the pain debate, this time a comment from an anonymous reader:
One of the best collaborative pianists in the US who was also my teacher had this conversation with me once:

Him: Could you help me lift the piano lid? I've hurt my arm...
Me: Oh my god... Will you still be able to fly to New York and Europe for your concert tour? What will you do?!
Him: Of course. I'll just play anyway like everyone else who maintains a performing career.

I have to agree with him that sometimes, if you want/need the work, and the job is important enough, you would play through some pain. On the other hand, I hurt my arm very badly typing and the same pianist/teacher immediately suggested that I cancel everything for six weeks, except one concert which was very important, and that I see a specialist he knew if it was not better immediately. So he didn't always advocate playing regardless of the pain. While those six weeks off was necessary and healthy, like anyone who has gotten a serious injury, it actually took me almost 6 months to feel completely normal and healthy in my playing and arm again after that incident. I wasn't going to cancel work for half a year-- how would I have supported myself?-- I couldn't afford to do so and wouldn't want to.

I also know pianists who have played after slamming fingers in closets, doors, cars, hurting themselves exercising, etc. Painful, of course, but they weren't going to let someone else step in at the last minute to events that people bought tickets to hear them play.

In contrast, I know a pianist who, literally the week that he got tenure at a good school, declared that he had critically injured his arm and has not performed as a pianist in four years. I believe him to be lazy and irresponsible. Who would want to study with a pianist who could not maintain a playing career and who stopped playing as soon as he conveniently settled into a good job because of pain? Yet tenure keeps him on the faculty.....

With these issues in mind, I don't see the issue as simply black and white: pain=no playing. Sometimes you can/must go on and sometimes you can't. Successfully navigating these options actually seems to me to be what keeps a long career-- knowing when you can afford to pull out of playing versus when you can and should keep going. 
Hive call for CPB readers: I would like to hear your own personal injury stories, and how you healed and coped with them. I also have a story, which I'll share in the next few days.

Stories of injuries and healing are often taboo in the music business, so if you don't feel comfortable sharing your identity, you're always welcome to post anonymously.

Melody Moore Sings Jack Perla's Lilacs

More from the Noe Valley Chamber Music Fundraiser in May -- here is Melody Moore singing Jack Perla's setting of Walt Whitman's When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd (complete text here), with Jack once again at the piano:

Compare Jack's voice/piano setting with Hindemith's setting in the Requiem.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Playing Through the Pain?

Since last month's article about a 15% discount offered to CPB readers for the Armaid device, there have been some interesting articles in the blogosphere about musicians and performance-related injuries. Gretchen Saathof makes the point that massaging devices need to be viewed in a much larger dialogue about injury prevention and awareness.

On the other hand, Norman Lebrecht puts forward the opposite argument, that sometimes you need to play through the pain. I disagree with Mr. Lebrecht for the following reason: unlike the 10-15 year career of the professional athlete, the professional playing career of a musician can typically last from 40-50 years. With that time-line in mind, the goal of a good technique should by necessity include the smartest and safest playing setup, so that when one reaches artistic maturity (often in one's 40's or 50's), there is a solid technical foundation in place to extend that maturity as long as possible.