Pianist, Collaborative Artist & Coach, Oh My!
A great deal of my work involves collaborations with others. Some people refer to it as having an accompanist. The term ‘collaboration’ came onto my radar during my work as a doctoral student many years ago. The difference between an accompanist and a collaborative artist became clear very quickly as my studies unfolded.
The long and short of it has to do with the interaction, difficulty and chamber quality of the piano part in conjunction with the soloist or fellow performers. The collaboration takes place between musicians in many ways: interpretations, phrasing, tempo, rubato, dynamics, breathing, etc. Many times a discussion is necessary to communicate the inflections by the soloist or collaborative artist, to come to an agreement on a particular element, style or physicality of the instrument’s needs. Often times, the collaboration happens naturally and feels in-sync for the previously mentioned qualities.
Another aspect of my work involves coaching the students with whom I collaborate. Some have not worked with an accompanist on a regular basis, and need helpful advice in order to create a smooth, well-working ensemble. Very often, I find that students are unfamiliar with the piano part and do not understand how it all fits together. Many will have listened to a professional recording, but only in observance for their solo part.
An important message for students is to be more observant of phrasing, dynamics, style and harmonic movement, which can also influence ‘rubatos’ and a relaxation or forward movement of tempo. Many times the student’s main concern is the tempo, or metronomic marking at the beginning of the piece or song, and this element becomes their primary goal. While I understand their concern and desire to meet the goal of the tempo, it is my responsibility to help them understand the importance of musicality and execute this element of the piece in order to perform it as the original composer intended.
As the school year and semester comes to a close, I have a deep appreciation for the students I’ve worked with and coached. As a veteran teacher, coach and collaborative artist, I am well aware of the influence one can make on young minds. I consider it a privilege and an enormous blessing to be in this position. I am so grateful for the ones who cross my path and hope that somehow I’ve made a positive impact on their life as well.