An Open Letter from an Accompanist

Dear Musicians,

I love accompanying. It’s my favorite form of playing piano. I love the collaboration with other musician(s). I love taking in different teaching techniques from the array of your teachers. I love supporting you as you do your best.

However.

If I may, I’d like to offer a few pearls of wisdom. I am by no means an expert, but I have been accompanying for more than a third of my life. I have my share of stories.

Rule #1 Be friendly. Yes, you are paying me, but I consider our partnership more than a business transaction. Please don’t treat me like another tool to get you through college, like your aural skills book or Finale.

Rule #2 Get me your music yesterday. As much as I like to sightread (and I truly do, I’m a total geek) I would rather not have to do so in front of your professor. If you don’t have the music, get it from the library and copy it. Or ask me, I have accumulated a lot of music over the years. Apologies don’t magically produce notes and rhythms. Easy rule: After you have completed the task of securing me as your accompanist, task number 2 is to get the music to me as fast as you possibly can.

Rule #3 It’s up to you to schedule rehearsals. A permanent rehearsal time once a week is preferred. If that isn’t possible, be aware that the longer you wait, the fuller my schedule gets.

Rule #4 Learn your music. I am absolutely here to help you and support you. But if you spend less time on your music than I spend on your music, it’s kind of a drag.

Rule #5 Unless you are a pianist yourself, you do not get to decide if something is easy to play. Two enormous hints are key signature and tempo.

Rule #6 Give me clean copies of the music. When you give me your music yesterday make sure all notes are visible and nothing is cut off. I’d rather have the bass line of the bottom staff than the name of the song. MT’s: have cue lines and cuts very clearly marked.

Rule #7 If it’s an orchestral reduction, cut me some slack.

Rule #8 Think very very carefully before you hand me anything handwritten. (This one’s a joke, sort of.)

Rule #9 If your lesson is canceled or you can’t make rehearsal, please remember to let me know. Common courtesy.

Rule #10 Say please and thank you.

One thing I tell all of my accompan-ees is: It is my job is to make it look like I messed up, not you. If you skip something, I’ll jump ahead and find you. If you lose your pitch, I will plunk it out for you. I will feed you lyrics in rehearsal. I will encourage you when you get it right. I’m on your side.

Let’s keep it that way 🙂

Yours truly,
A cheerful but occasionally disenchanted accompanist

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