Monday, September 21, 2009

Oh, the Humanity

I had a *headpiano* moment this weekend. And of course, it was in front of several hundred people.

At my church gig, I regularly play hymns with the music director/organist. This particular Sunday we had strings playing with us as well. A last-minute discovery of key differences (strings had hymn in D, hymnals were in Eb) meant I had to play the hymn a half step different than written. Which is fine - I've become so familiar with the repertoire that changing keys is a no-brainer (similar to transposing happy birthday). However, it helps when you remember the correct
the key is supposed to be moved.

After the intro, I entering strongly in the key of E. I was immediately disconcerted by how bad the music sounded against the accompanying players. I immediately wondered if something was wrong with the other players as the pastors glance at me oddly . . NO, I realized a nanosecond later: wrong key - wrong key - change key now!!

Churches generally put a positive spin on things - which means I heard several versions of "you have a real gift for transposition" after the service. I am fully aware that the phrase really translates to, "wow, that sounded really bad before you changed keys", so it takes some will power to accept the comment gracefully.

Events like this are examples of why pianists should transpose well. And why they should write things down.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Repertoire Lists and You

Collaborative pianists usually have to make a repertoire list at some point in their life, either as a student or as a professional. It is just like making a CV/resume: the accumulation of information is easy - making it look good is challenging. The most crucial aspects of a repertoire list are organizing and formatting. Organization ensures that specific info can be found quickly, while formatting keeps the document's length under 19 pages.

Understandably, a beginning collaborative pianist may simply have their repertoire divided in to Vocal and Instrumental sections. A more experienced pianist with a larger repertoire list needs more than two categories, however. What many pianists do is arrange their vocal music repertoire into smaller categories of art song, opera, and musical theatre sections, and arrange their instrumental music by instrument or instrument family (brass, winds, strings). Using italics and bold fonts can be visually helpful when used to specify composer or show title. Other formatting tip: pianists with larger repertoire should avoid single columns, as they lead to epic sized lists. Double columns utilize space more efficiently.

Sometimes it helps to see what other pianists do to their lists. Here are one page samples of what I like to do with my formatting: Art Song, Opera and Operetta, Musical Theatre, and Instrumental. Also, I found more examples of how pianists can present repertoire lists, picked totally at random off of a Google Search: Amanda Johnston (click on repertoire), Casey Robards.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

This Vacancy is Not Vacant

It happens quite often. A piano job vacancy is advertised, people mail in application materials, and then an inside candidate gets hired. Which usually means the person was selected before the ad was even written. It seems a bit silly to advertise a filled position, but the act serves a purpose beyond toying with job-seekers. In many cases, an ad must be published to satisfy a human resources policy requiring an official advertisement for each job (giggle factor: the policies exist to ensure fairness in hiring).

I have no problem with the morality of pre-hiring. My issue is the time taken to apply for a job that doesn't exist.

I propose that a code be invented for these occasions, some clever turn of phrase that clearly communicates 'this ad is just for show, no job here'. Some suggestions: insert the phrase "preference given to our own candidate"; specify candidate requirements to an obvious degree (5'9", mid-thirties male with DMA in X from XXU, brown hair, blue eyes and 2 dogs preferred); insert 'not' at the beginning of the entire ad (XXU is not looking for an accompanist). Or just tack on "No one is encouraged to apply" at the end. Win-win!