Sunday, February 06, 2011

On Omitted Pianists

Following the Unsung Heroes? posting, Gretchen Saathoff wrote the following comment:
There is a printed program exhibited in a display case at Westminster Choir College. The soloist is Jascha Heifetz, the location Princeton University. Although the rep is clearly written for violin/piano, there is no pianist listed.

Just a little while ago, a famous singer did a recital at Carnegie Hall. Also a program with piano. She was VERY famous, and performed VERY well. But no pianist was listed. I wrote to the reviewer in protest.

In January, I was hired to play for a choral festival. Every high school music teacher in the area was included in the program, but I was not. The reason? They called me at the last minute, and the program was already at the printers.

The old prevailing attitude toward collaborative pianists may be less prevalent than it was years ago, but I don't think it's going to go away anytime soon.
I can't count the number of times that my name has been omitted from a program over the years. I generally show slightly less patience each time that it happens, which thankfully is happening less and less these days. Maybe one of these days I should start omitting the names of singers and instrumentalists who play on the many videos posted here. For budgetary reasons, in these challenging economic times.

Pianists: have you ever had your name omitted from a program? Tell us about it in the comments.


  1. Not only has this sort of thing happened to me but I am horrified by how early it begins. On many occasions I have had to act as mother bear and champion my young middle and high school students who accompany at school and even church. I once had a high school director tell me that since my student only accompanied at rehearsals and not at the performance,she did not need to be acknowledged or have her name listed in the program- and mind you, this 14 year old rehearsal pianist was teaching the tenors and basses their parts. The worst part was that the student really had no recourse because she was held hostage by a grade. Best part? The other students rallied around her and told her how much they appreciated her and how wrong they thought the teacher was.

  2. Anonymous2:30 PM

    I played for a youth choir for nearly three years and I think I was only included on the program twice regardless of whether I played in the performance or only work during the rehearsal process. When I mentioned it to the director that I wasn't on the program, he hadn't even noticed! Then the first time I made it onto the program, my name got misspelled. I think I only got to be on the program with the correct spelling once, over three years. I always thought it was unfair to go unacknowledged for the work you did in preparing a product that everyone was enjoying.

  3. I love these comments.

    My name was spelled "Gretcjen" on a program once, obviously a typo. I rather liked it.

    Omitting names for budgetary reasons, now that's a thought. Saves ink!

    Thanks, Chris.

  4. If you're playing in the concert, you should be on the program. Period.

    Great comments, Gail and Anonymous. Does anyone have any strategies for ensuring that one ends up on a program?

  5. Anonymous7:05 AM

    I started accompanying choirs when I was a high school student. I was always acknowledged in the middle school concert program and the director even paid me a small amount. My own high school choral director rarely included me in the program and as I was a student at the school, there was certainly no payment. I sang in a church choir around the same time and was often called upon to help plat parts- for free- while they searched for someone they could pay $100/week to accompany the choir. I felt used.

    On the other hand, the youth choir I've been accompanying off and on for over 10 years has always included my name, and I am usually recognized before the audience when we perform outside of church services. Then again, I recently played for a school district choir festival in which my own [choral] students were involved. In the program, my name was misspelled and I received no compensation for HOURS of my time spent on hosting the event and accompanying one of the two choirs, even though I had been paid the year before. (Note: I will not be volunteering to play or host again next time unless I have a written contract outlining my payment- especially since I lost time/pay from my regular gig in order to play for my school district!)
    I'm interested in learning strategies too!

  6. Anonymous, thanks for the comment. This is an important issue, so I've addressed it in a separate posting!

  7. If I'm playing with/for a new organization I make sure to let the conductor know the 'correct spelling of my name for the program' about a month in advance. That way, if they weren't thinking about it yet they are now! The trouble for me pertains more to last-minute gigs and the conductor or soloist doesn't think to mention you during their introductions/thanks.

  8. Thanks, Julie. Anything that we can diplomatically do in order to make headway and be recognized by the audience as an artistic contributor and not an anonymous automaton is a step forward for the profession.

  9. Anonymous12:50 PM

    I have a CD recording of songs, entitled "Songs from Classical Composers." The disc includes works by Liszt, Wolf, Satie, Poulenc, and Nietzsche(!). The pianist's name is not mentioned, but then again, neither is the singer's name. Now THERE'S equal billing for ya!