Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dear 1999 . . .

This is my response to a Musicianwages.com group blogging event, written on the topic "If you could go back to 1999 and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?"

Dear 1999 self,

Right now you are 2.5 years into your undergrad collaborative piano program, and the skills you are gaining will mainly be useful for employment in academic circles. 'Great', you say, 'I want to stay in academia'. True for now, but in a few years you will realize that you have no interest in teaching, which in turn makes a professor position undesired, and a doctorate unnecessary. You will also realize that living in Nowhere, USA is the only way for you to occupy a full-time (yet untenured) Staff Accompanist position. Short answer to the above: no.

Now that I've wiped out your present career plans, here's the good news: opera, vocal and instrumental repertoire are only one aspect of an enormous range of possibilities in collaborative piano. Your future work ideal will be variety: variety in workplaces, in collaborative partners and in repertoire - so do yourself a favor and switch back to piano performance (or to the B of Arts track, if necessary). Continue to develop your solo classical chops, and also continue to work with classical singers and instrumentalists, but spend the rest of your time looking into these areas:

  • Go to the dance department: they have excellent pianists you can observe (study with them if you can) in the area of providing accompaniment for ballet and modern dance classes
  • Go to the musical theatre department: offer to be a substitute pianist for rehearsals, offer to turn pages for the audition pianists, learn the standard repertoire, listen to CDs of shows - get involved
  • Look into Community theater: offer to be a substitute pianist for rehearsals, for shows, etc - learn by doing
  • Sit in on vocal coachings of all kinds, write down their tricks, their warmups, try them out yourself
  • Learn Finale (or equivalent programs of the time) and transcribe things - look into arranging if possible
  • Study improvisation and/or jazz - get to where reading a chart is a simple exercise
  • Take voice lessons - singers will make a lot more sense when you do
  • Practice jazz scales in addition to your other warm-ups - it will set you up for the future in several ways (learning contemporary music, studying jazz in-depth, etc)
  • Finagle as much private study as possible with people who do things you wish you could do (look inside and outside the university)
  • Look for opportunities to perform, anywhere and everywhere

Doing any of this will expand the venues you (we) can work in the future, and will be more satisfying for you in the short run as well. Last tidbit - for gradschools, focus on teachers and performance opportunities within the school over the actual names of schools.


1 comment:

Vashti said...

Excellent advice!!! Wish I knew this in 2004!