Tuesday, April 01, 2014

An Australian Guide to Careers in Music

The Music Council of Australia's Music Career Wiki is an excellent resource for discovering the many options available in the music field, even if you don't happen to be living Down Under. The Performance category is quite large, and has sections for musical directorsballet pianists, repetiteurs, and accompanists.

On the repetiteur skillset:
Repetiteurs need a broad range of performance and musicianship skills. They need good piano technique, excellent sight-reading skills, and to be quick learners. They have to be able to follow a beat, accompany singers (including conducted music), transpose music at sight, understand conventions of scoring, reduce orchestral music to a keyboard part at sight, reduce accompaniments and orchestral reductions further, and reduce vocal lines, ensembles, and chorus parts. They have to be able to cue singers and prompt in rehearsals and performances. Facility with foreign languages, especially the languages most commonly used in the standard opera repertoire (Italian, German, French and Slavic languages) is essential. This includes understanding the nuances of meaning and pronunciation necessary for correct interpretation of the repertoire. When accompanying, they need to be able to play and sing simultaneously, sing parts that are missing, and play the piano as if simulating the orchestra, including interacting the way an orchestra would with a singer. For the baroque repertoire they need skills as a continuo player, to be able to interpret figured bass in a stylistically appropriate way (particularly in recitative), and proficient harpsichord technique. Conducting technique is also essential, as are a strong knowledge of the repertoire and its performance practice and a love of imparting artistic knowledge.

Repetiteurs need teaching skills for the coaching, training and direction aspects of the job. They also need good interpersonal and communication skills, an even temper and patience, and the ability to stay calm in crises.

The outlook for accompanists:
The prospects for an accompanist in Australia are quite good, because there is a marked shortage of very good practitioners. There is a certain attitude among good solo pianists that it is demeaning to be an accompanist, but in actual fact very few concert pianists have the high levels of sight-reading and other performance skills needed to be successful in this field. Apart from the top professional level, working with instrumental and vocal soloists, there are literally hundreds of opportunities accompanying students doing exams, as well as choirs and theatre groups. Some tertiary music institutions also employ accompanists to play for students having lessons. Possible career pathways include specialising in vocal accompaniment, leading to the job of repetiteur in an opera or dance company. Accompanists, particularly repetiteurs, often become conductors because of their abilities in directing musicians and experiencing and interpreting vast amounts of repertoire.

Awesome job, Australians! Why can't North Americans get together and create a wiki as useful as this?


  1. Alice9:32 PM

    The answer to "why don't they?" is usually either time or money...maybe you should get it started! (Or ask the Australians if we can have a sub-page, perhaps?)

    1. It's a great idea, but I'm booked solid this spring and just don't have the time to take on a project of that magnitude. However, you can check out my career options article from several years back: