Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Music Direction info

Arizona State University now offers a Master of Music in Music Theater Performance: Music DirectionIt seems like a cool opportunity to learn by doing.

The only other degree I've found that's similar is at Shenandoah University, which offers a Bachelor of Music in Music Theatre Accompanying.  The rest of the learning opportunities mainly take the form of 'internships', or brief workshops like the Goodspeed Opera House's Music Direction Intensive.

Another source of info:  
Peter Hilliard's blog, Music Directing the School Musical

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pianist Haikus

Gig haikus* have been floating around the internet for awhile - mostly from the jazzer or bandmember's perspective.  I penned a few to express a different perspective, and will probably add on periodically as the muse strikes. CP's should understand the references:

Love's Philosophy
This isn't my voice jury
But I am on trial

If I never thought
She'd come to rehearse today
Am I still stood up?

Did not check the score
*kicking self repeatedly*
Before saying yes

*My favorite of that bunch:
I'm sending a sub
But don't worry, he'll be fine
He's fresh from rehab

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Article Repost, turn the page

Although violists and bassoon players have long argued over who gets the least respect in the music world, orchestras and ensembles of all kinds depend on the skill of a utility player so overlooked, he or she doesn’t even rate a mention in the program book. Today, a look behind the scenes – and behind the pianist – with LACO resident page turner, Daniel Stott (article by Michelle Weger).

How did you get into page turning? Was it a dream from childhood or something you just stumbled into?
Well, aside from the fantasy I always used to have about standing eerily close to Rick Wakeman while he was taking a blistering Moog solo, I didn’t give page turning much of a thought as a child. My first experience was in college (Isn’t everybody’s?!). A trombone player who was a friend asked if I would turn pages for his accompanist on his junior recital. I agreed to do it because I figured it beat the heck out of actually just sitting through the trombone recital. Just kidding. So, I apparently did a good job. The piano player played all the right notes at the right time and I didn’t get my head caught in the piano lid so it was a resounding success. After that, people seemed to figure out that I am either good enough at reading the music to be okay at it or I am too stupid to be scared of messing up. Now I get the best seat in the house for a concert.

Tell us about your particular technique.
Grab Page
Wait for nod
Turn page fast.
No, no I’m just joking. As you can probably imagine, turning pages is a fine art. The first aspect that requires special attention is the chair in which you sit. You are going to be getting up and out of it often so it better be sturdy and well oiled because nobody likes a squeaky page turner, NOBODY. Secondly, the only other thing to watch out for is that you need to grab the page with your left hand instead of your right. Now, I have never been a “Northpaw” (Is that even the opposite of a “southpaw?”) as a page turner and I have never heard horror stories about this either, but I bet that somebody somewhere has been knocked out by a flailing right elbow to the face. That would be embarrassing. Lastly, always remember to tell the performer “nice job” or “we’ll get’em next time.” They like to hear that and positive affirmation will give them renewed confidence to get back on that stage again.

Do you have a special regime you follow to stay in prime condition for the job?
Oh yes, I pray frequently.  

Etc, etc etc . . .

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Jury Week Relief 2*

Redeem from your voice department.

*What we really want: Bribery.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Jury Week Relief

Jury week generally sucks. It may help pianists to have a game on the back burner - such as backstage bingo, CP-style.

Have a multi -CP competition. Betting is optional.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Article Repost, Playing for Pliés

Juilliard Alumni News Spotlight

Playing for Pliés—A Life in Music and Dance

Marjorie Landsmark-DeLewis (Photo by Chris Downes)
More than five decades since receiving a degree as one of Juilliard’s first African-American graduates, Marjorie Landsmark-DeLewis (Diploma ’48, piano) occupies a special place in the ranks of American dance musicians. Over the course of her distinguished career, she worked with Agnes de Mille as rehearsal pianist for the American Ballet Theater, accompanied classes for dance legends Antony Tudor and David Howard, and served as music director for dance at Sarah Lawrence College. At age 90, she remains active as a composer and performer, and was recently featured as a special guest artist at the International Guild of Musicians in Dance’s 20th anniversary conference in Tucson.

Landsmark-DeLewis was born and raised in Harlem, where she began music lessons at age 5 with her uncle, a classically trained pianist who taught her in the same way he’d been instructed as a youngster in St. Kitts—by rapping her knuckles when she made a mistake. Seven years and a few sore fingers later, she began studying with Edward H. Margetson, a prominent black composer, conductor, and church organist who lived in Washington Heights. Lessons, Landsmark-DeLewis recalled in a recent interview with The Journal, cost 50 cents.

When it came time for college, Juilliard was the obvious choice. Not only did she have the talent and a strongly developed sense of discipline instilled by two demanding teachers, but the School, in its previous Morningside Heights location, was within walking distance of her family’s home. At Juilliard, Landsmark-DeLewis’s instructors included Karl Friedberg, Lonnie Epstein, and Arthur Newstead, with whom she continued to study for several years after completing her degree. As she remembers, there were very few black students enrolled in the School at the time, but “we didn’t stand around and talk with each other—we were so happy being at Juilliard we didn’t want to waste time.”
It wasn’t until the excitement of graduation was over that she asked herself, “Now what am I going to do with this [degree]?” By luck—or divine intervention, if you ask Landsmark-DeLewis—she found the perfect opportunity on Juilliard’s job placement board, where Aubrey Hitchens (an influential dance teacher and one of Anna Pavlova’s last partners) had placed an ad for a pianist to play Bach’s Italian Concerto for rehearsals and performances at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Mass. Having just performed the concerto on her graduation recital, Landsmark-DeLewis immediately contacted Hitchens and aced the audition. She went on to become his rehearsal pianist, quickly demonstrating an exceptional sensitivity to dancers’ needs and gaining a vast knowledge of repertoire from the piles of scores he gave her.

etc etc etc . . .

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Mezzo List


Arias offered by 84 mezzo-sopranos scheduled for auditions for the 2011 season

The Composer is the Winner: 25X
Sein wir wieder gut

Runners-up at 23X
Must the winter come so soon?
Smanie implacabili

Va! laisse couler mes larmes
Que fais-tu
Voi che sapete

Svegliatevi nel core
Give him this orchid
Parto parto
Cruda sorte

Non so più
Pres des remparts (Seguidilla)
Una voce poco fa
What a movie
Faites-lui mes aveux
Wie du warst
Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix
O mio fernando
Non piu mesta
Things change Jo
Vois sous l’archet (Violin aria)

etc etc etc

Want Some Suggestions of Standard Soprano Rep?


These lists are culled from the 4 arias listed by each singer on the application form. Since they allow singers to change their lists, there’s no guarantee that these are the actual pieces that are sung; however, it’s a good general idea of how popular a given aria is among YAP auditioners.

Arias offered by 163 sopranos scheduled for auditions for the 2011 season:

The Runaway Winner at 40X
Ach ich fühl’s

Quite Popular at 15-25X
Caro nome
Deh vieni
Je suis encor
Je veux vivre
No word from Tom / I go to him
Quando m’en vo

Moderately Frequent at 10-14X
Ah je ris (Jewel Song)
Ain’t it a pretty night
Come scoglio
Durch Zärtlichkeit
Embroidery aria
Gold is a fine thing (Silver Aria)
Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante
Je marche / Obéissons (Gavotte)
Mir ist die Ehre (Presentation of the Rose)
Quel guardo / So anch’io

Popping Up Occasionally at 6-9X
Ah! non credea / Ah non giunge
Amour ranime mon courage
Be kind and courteous
Chi il bel sogno di Doretta
Comme autrefois
Da tempeste
Donde lieta uscì
Du gai soleil
Goodbye, World (Emily’s Aria)
Klänge der Heimat (Czàrdàs)
Mi tradì
Non mi dir
Padre germani addio
Per pietà
Porgi amor
Prendi per me
Regnava nel silenzio
Sul fil d’un soffio
Tornami a vagghegiar
Zerbinetta’s aria

etc etc etc

Friday, November 5, 2010

How Far We've Come . . .

'Collaborative piano' is a field that has made huge strides in the last 20 years. It's become so acknowledged that I tend to blink when I find articles from the past like Concert Notes: Rehearsal Pianist Steps Out (written in 1990). It's an interview of Judith Jackson, a principal pianist for Chicago Opera Theatre, and has comments like:
"Jackson is not one to apologize for her chosen field. "I know a lot of pianists who think accompanying and operatic work are boring and limiting, in terms of their own creativity. But I find it very challenging--and I really love it!...."
"Jackson is an accompanist, and proud of it."
Then there's Gerald Moore's book, "The Unashamed Accompanist".

I'd like to suggest yet another title: "The Employed Pianist".

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Article Repost about Becoming a Collaborative Pianist

Preparing the Young Collaborative Pianist by Patricia Stowell, August 1, 2008

As a 12-year-old pianist, I played for my sister, a violinist, at lessons and recitals where her teacher acknowledged my natural accompanying abilities. I didn't recognize them until the evening our parents invited us to play for their guests. With my sister's upward sniff, things were off to a fine start until my score awkwardly fell to the floor, drawing all eyes towards me. Deftly, I kept one hand at the keyboard, continuing to accompany my sister, as my other hand reached to the floor to retrieve the score. My parents and their company described their relief following that tense moment, amazed I never left my sister without support. It also affirmed something I would later value--that this was one of many skills necessary for being a good accompanist.

Starting Out: Identifying Talent Early On
Today I realize how helpful it can be to young pianists to identify good accompanying skills and draw these to their attention early in their studies. We can help students see how the field of accompanying offers a broad range of possibilities beyond that of a solo career or a career as a piano instructor. As director of the Kneisel Hall Maine Young Musicians Program for chamber music, I recently coached a piano-violin duo. Though the violinist lacked rhythmic precision and used an erratic kind of rubato, the young pianist followed her perfectly. We worked on both players' challenges of breathing with the music and learning how to use rubato; the results later that afternoon well surpassed my expectations. This pianist had an amazing ability to listen and follow the violinist. She understood the timing of upbeats, the give and take of breathing and expanding where necessary. She also had an innate sense of harmonic tension and cadential endings-all which she anticipated and prepared. We also addressed the issues of balance and when one instrument needed to yield to the other. After encouraging her to pursue collaborative playing, the pianist asked me how she could work on her accompanying skills. My suggestions included:

* Play often for choruses and voice lessons, which introduce pianists to the art of following singers' breathing.

* Work with other pianists on four-hand literature.

* Continue to work with string players, paying attention
to the violin teacher's instruction regarding bowing.

* Play for instrumentalists from the brass and wind sections in order to get acquainted with the mechanics of these instruments.

* Take language courses.

There was little time to go into detail, but her reaction to what I stated indicated that these ideas came as a surprise. At age 12, however, she was mature and ready to learn about collaborative possibilities and about her musical gifts. That she even had the talent surprised her, which confirmed to me the value of early recognition and acknowledgment of particular giftedness.

The effort I just described involved a duo ensemble, but what are other opportunities we can encourage our students to pursue? How do we lead them into the business of charging money and playing the piano for a living? Might they pursue a career as a professional accompanist or a chamber musician?

Etc etc etc

Monday, November 1, 2010

Pro Bono Piano - Another Perspective

To perform or not to perform - for free, that is. Opinions vary*.

My two cents on the subject: Sometimes.

If you don't have financial security, the question's a no-brainer (you gotta eat). But if you can afford to play for little or no wages, the next question is: what's the end goal? I've addressed the topic from a few angles . . . 'cause it depends.

Opportunities to extend one's education isn't always paid - especially when performers are inexperienced. Volunteering is one way that beginning collaborative pianists can acquire the marketable essentials: repertoire, skills and experience.

Repertoire: What does your repertoire list look like? (Do you have a repertoire list . . .) Standard rep played by oneself is good, standard rep performed is better. Offering a freebie to a cash-poor-but-excellent musician can give you an excuse to learn (insert song cycle/instrumental literature here) and perform it as well. If its for a recital and you get a recording out of it, even better.

Skills: Chops are not enough. Do you know how to:
  • Be useful in a choral rehearsal - follow a conductor, help rehearsals go smoothly by anticipating a conductor's needs, read open-part scores and listen to the choir for sections that need 'help'?
  • Function as an orchestra member by playing orchestral keyboards/celeste - this is very different from most pianist experiences
  • Play an opera or music theatre audition without terror/train wrecks? There is standard rep in both of these genres you have to know on sight, as well as adjust to each singer's interpretation of it (offering to turn pages is a good introduction)
  • Read a musical theatre conductor's score and know what to leave out? Most universities do shows of some sort, get started by 'sitting in' or volunteer to substitute for rehearsals

Experience: An experienced pianist is much more appealing than a pianist with chops who does not know the ins- and outs- of playing for (fill-in-the-blank). This is why it can make a lot of sense for a student to volunteer to play on the cheap in order to say, "Why yes, I've played Dichterleibe/weddings/church service/choral rehearsals before" - and even better, be able to back it up with references. Another angle: If you are a starving student, consider quid pro quo. Barter your piano skills for voice/Finale/tapas cooking lessons.

Professional musicians may want to increase their knowledge/skills base and marketability. Say they want to try their hand at:
  • Accompanying dance classes
  • Church and temple work
  • Providing wedding and funeral music
  • Providing 'background music'
  • Transitioning into musical theatre pit work/music directing (MDing) from a classical background
You may be lucky enough to find a paid training opportunity that gives you an 'in' to learning about a new workplace. But if not, you can create your own training by 'sitting in', watching, offering to substitute or any number of things that will get your foot in the door. Most of these situations do not follow a direct career path, people kind of 'do what they know'. And they've learned by doing.

After moving to a new area, many musicians trip over the scary reality: people use who they know. Volunteering is a way to gain visibility in circles that generally go by word of mouth when looking for pianists (higher education environments, private studio teachers, musical theatre circles). Consider:
  • Community theatre pits usually offer a small stipend - and are also comprised of private studio, elementary and high school music teachers. That an excellent source of referrals for solo and ensemble, audition recordings and recitals etc.
  • Volunteer to play for a lesson or two of private voice students. Their teacher may have students who need pianists
  • Meet other musicians and possibly form a duo/trio/etc, offer services at social functions
My own experience: playing at a university for free/low wages has gotten me hired at two universities since moving to this area. People use who they know.

Sometimes, you do things because you can. Once I played for a solo mandolin recital for a very modest fee - why? because when else will I ever be asked to play a mandolin recital? For you, maybe its a singer with a gorgeous instrument but no cash, a fringe music festival or a jazz opportunity. Pursue music-making experiences that intrigue you on some level - it helps you remember why you chose music in the first place.

Doing things for low cash, food or effusive thanks and a meaningful handshake does not pay the rent. And yet, education and experience, exposure and enjoyment are all important. Which means, evaluate each situation: will this interfere with actual paying gigs, will this benefit me in some way and/or be fun? Your call.

* Musician bloggers Dave Hahn (article 1 and article 2), Jonathan Jaeger, Geraldine Boyer-Cussac and Stephen Taylor have all commented on the subject.

** In these circumstances, be clear what you are doing and why (you don't want to set a precedence of permanent nonpayment). Just have a plan. For example, Jaeger's blog suggested aspiring background music providers "offer to play at a discount at the beginning until you establish a relationship with the venue", or "offer to play five gigs a month with the last one being free".

Further Dance Accompanying Resources


Backstage article on Music for Ballet Class

Two articles from danceadvantage.net, the story of Richard Maddock, who has played for dancers since the age of 14:

Friday, October 29, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Church Gig Top 5

My church job is amusing on many levels, but I gotta go with these as my Top 5 favorite things:

5. Plastic plants
Onstage there are a variety of plastic plants that 'lend color' to the stage . Other than that, they generally collect dust and get in everybody's way, showing up in a different place every week. I'm partially convinced the ficuses have gained sentience and are making diabolical plans.

4. Oreos, fishies and apple juice
In between services they set out a mountain of Oreos and a little dixie cup army with apple juice or cheese fishies. Very handy for 'on-the-go' snacking between playing.

3. The small children's choirs
These are adorable. Slowly herded on- and off-stage like tiny, dazed convicts, the kids generally remember half of the words and/or movements. I love how their levels of involvement range from cheerful enthusiasm to mild disinterest to the kid who's completely removed and staring at the ceiling lights*. And always, there's one kid who sings a little louder than the rest or a little longer than everyone else.

2. The baptisms
A ritual that is deeply important to both individual families and the entire congregation occasionally goes awry. Watching parents chase immaculately-dressed toddlers, squelch multiple flailing limbs or desperately attempt to calm a wailing infant - all under the steady rhythm of the pastor's voice - makes me giggle.

1. The couple who dress their toddler in a bear suit
I first thought the couple was toting an enormous teddy bear. Instead, it was a child, dressed in a one-piece fuzzy brown bodysuit with ears. I looked for that child every Sunday last winter. And I'm hoping the suit still fits him.

*Or playing with the plastic plants

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Some pianos can actually speak. So be careful what you say while practicing - they might talk back.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Perfect Example

Recently I was handed a song to play at a Cabaret rehearsal - a stack of single-sided copies. I spent most of the song grappling to relocate pages from a horizontal location to a vertical one with one hand, while keeping tonality and time with the other. Here was the end result: 

This is what happens when single-sided sheet music is given to pianists. The Moral: hole-punching is good.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What are You Doing Next Summer?

You need to start thinking about this now. Fill out online applications, scribble the paperwork, burn the CDs and bug people for letters of recommendation.

To get you started, consider these collaborative piano opportunities:


Aspen -
Collaborative Artist Program
Banff Centre - Collaborative Piano Internship
Chamber Music Northwest Young Artist Fellowship
Eastern Music Festival hires collaborative pianists for instrumental accompaniment, must be 21 to apply
Interlochen Summer Arts Camp hires 4-5 Instrumental accompanists
Kneisel Hall Chamber Music School and Festival
Meadowmount hires string accompanists - send resume & repertoire list (violin-viola-cello only) to gagnona@uncsa.com
Music Academy of the West - Instrumental Fellowship
Norfolk Chamber Music Session Fellowships
Summer Chamber Music Festival is a four-week chamber music program for string players and pianists aged 18-26
Tanglewood - Instrumental Pianist Fellowships
Texas Music Festival Fellowships
University of Nebraska-Lincoln - Chamber Music Institute Fellowships

Arbor Opera Theater hires three accompanists 
Ash-lawn Opera Festival hires one or two accompanists every summer
Atlantic Music Festival Fellowship Program (I think this is an opera gig . . . )
The College Light Opera Company hires two rehearsal accompanists every summer
Green Mountain Opera Festival - Apprentice pianist
Intermezzo has a 'Festival Orchestra Program'
IPAI Collaborative Fellows/Apprentices in Musical Theatre and Opera 
Music Academy of the West - Vocal Fellowship
New York Opera Studio Intensive - six pianists accepted, $500 for expenses (room, board)
Opera in the Ozarks hires one or two rehearsal accompanists every summer
Opera New Jersey - coach/accompanist apprentice
Opera North - hires pianists
Opera on the Avalon - art song and opera
OperaWorks Summer Intensive Program for coaches
Palm Beach Opera YAP - pianist/coach
Tanglewood - Vocal Pianist Fellowships

Vocal - Art Song:
Asolo Song Festival & Institute for Song Interpretation (Italy)
Franz-Schubert-Institute - summer course for singers and pianists

Musical Theatre:
Bowling Green State U Huron Playhouse
Intermezzo has a 'Festival Orchestra Program'
Interlochen Summer Arts Camp hires 4-5 Musical Theatre pianists
Kalamazoo Civic Theatre hires pianists
Music Theatre Bavaria has Collaborative Piano Internships
Rocky Mountain Repertoire Theatre hires pianists
Surflight Theatre - Musical and Music Directing Internships
SRJC Summer Repertory Theatre - This may be more pay-to-play, but they do use rehearsal/performance pianists
Summer Stars Asst. MD Internships
West Virginia Public Theatre occasionally hires summer rehearsal pianists

Interlochen Summer Arts Camp hires 4-5 Choral pianists

Interlochen Summer Arts Camp hires 4-5 dance pianists each summer

Valleyfair Amusement Park hires pianists for summer shows - the rep is R&B, rock and kid stuff (in other words, easy $$)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Paranoid - or prepared?

Before leaving the apartment last Saturday, I stared at two items: an adjustable piano bench and a music stand. I debated the likelihood of using either [essential] items at my upcoming wedding gig, and ended up being partially lazy: I dragged the metal stand out to the car and left the bench. This partial foresight and the fact I was 30 minutes early was what saved me.

Upon arrival I was led to a keyboard and a keyboard stand [with a sustain pedal, as per my request]. There was NO visible music stand, though, and I was met with blank faces when I asked for one. Fortunately, the spare stand in my car made it so I didn't have to resort to reading-music-in-one's-lap or music-folder-held-by-stranger survival methods. The very low chair/bench created some challenges - and caused me to mentally curse my laziness* - but I made it work.

. . . on another day . . .

I played for a funeral. Unexpectedly, I was required to provide about 15 extra minutes of background music. Due to pure luck, I had included extra music in my folder. This meant I did not have to resort to poorly disguised Christmas carols or Disney tunes** in order to avoid repeated repertoire.

. . . then another time . . .

I had to play for three hour rehearsals, and with a [hard] wooden piano bench that was too low. Just in case, I had brought an adjustable, padded bench in my car - which saved my back AND my butt.

The moral: strive to have too much music and a car stuffed with extra stands and music benches -- plus at least one extra metronome (just because).

*On the other hand, parking was located two blocks away from the site. And it was hot. I was cranky enough discovering the lack of stand & trekking the subsequent round-the-block trip. A third lap would not have been the best idea.

**Am mostly kidding - I have other repertoire in my head and in my fingers. However, its amazing what tunes jump to mind when you are scrambling for an appropriate melody to fill the silence.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Find Some Choral Gigs . . .

While looking at jobs, I was struck by the number of positions listed on ChoralNet.com. Mostly they're part-time gigs and an easy source of cash, with gigs in several parts of the US. Check them out!!

This is the what their jobs page currently looks like:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Other Pleasantries and Such

Continuing on the idea of theatre courtesy, I've also noticed other of their folk saying 'thank yous' that aren't really about genuine gratitude. From the director, stage manager, stage minion or actor, the words mainly seem to acknowledge patience, talent and work contribution. Lots of times, its used in ways such as:
  • Acknowledging an announcement: For example, a places call ("Five minutes to places") is responded to with "Thank you, Five"
  • Conclusion: After general announcements, these words conclude me speaking ("Blah blah blah, thank you")
  • Multi-layered use: Appreciation for patience, Apologies for the wait and Cue to stop/start -insert action here- ("Thank you, name," and the scene continues until the next cue)
Kinda standard. But an outsider, say a pianist, may hear subtle shades of meaning within the chatter. And it can be entertaining - especially in auditions:
  • An actor's potential for being cast (Definitely - Oh, not a chance)
  • An actor's potential for getting a date (I won't cast you but I find you attractive)
  • A director's irritation (Go away - What on earth was that - For the love of God, stop)
  • Groveling (I was a jerk earlier and am trying to compensate for it by being overly polite after the fact)
  • Overeagerness (I'm so excited to be here I say everything with ridiculous enthusiasm)
  • Toadying (You are superior to me - I live to obey your every whim)
Just try not to laugh when the meaning is too transparent.

Another oddity I discovered this summer is something I'll call the 'mid-season meltdown' - a spontaneous crying fit that occurs for no specific reason. I found summer stock really intense, as did several of the students that I worked with (Huron Playhouse is an extension of Bowling Green University, so its a mix of students and professionals). It was challenging, glorious, and astonishingly draining, and any of the following caused many to crack: missing a loved one, learning the lines, songs or choreography for up to 3 shows at once, lack of sleep, constant close contact with the same people, loss of wallet or car keys, not bathing in two days . . . One member found herself sobbing when she couldn't find her dance shoes, another as she quietly did needlework in the box office. My own occurred in the middle of a full-run rehearsal of a show: I'm in the pit, tears streaming down my face for most of the second act (I still have no idea why). All I know is that hasn't happened since I was 10, when my mom forced me to perform for someone and I
really didn't want to.

Friday, August 6, 2010

. . . You're Welcome

Courtesy is big in theatre. In a theatrical collaboration, artistic personalities are shoved together for long hours and deal with stress and deadlines - often without necessities like sleep, caffeine or air conditioning. Manners become very important in maintaining the peace (or at the very least, a functional level of animosity). To my mind, this is why actors and singers always cram pleasant things into their conversations - i.e. 'You're the best', 'you're amazing', etc. Pianists get to hear a lot of positive comments, but it's the courtesy phrase, "Thank You," that tends to get the most mileage. And an astounding range of meanings are wrung from those two syllables.

Volumes are conveyed by factors beyond word choice - the person's facial expression, tone and timing can change the meaning from actual gratitude to mere acknowledgment, hopeful toadying, etc . Here are some common 'Thank You's' that audition and rehearsal pianists will run into at some point:
  • Pure Gratitude Thank You: You saved my life out there!"
  • Relief Thank You: You didn't screw up, I was worried when I saw you
  • Perfunctory Thank You: I am a self-obsessed actor/singer who has already mentally checked out but I have enough experience and training to know you never piss off a pianist
  • Slightly Chagrined Thank You: I know its totally wrong for me to bring this song to an audition but I didn't care enough to bring something else
  • Surprised Thank You: Wow, I was expecting something less professional
  • Impressed Thank You: God, you're actually good!
  • Non Thank You: I secretly blame you for a bad audition
  • Bashful Thank You: Please don't think less of me after you've seen me totally suck
  • Shameless Self Promotion Thank You: I want you to speak positively about me in the future
  • Intelligent Thank You: I will do my damnedest to be charming because I need you on my side

What's funny is that a lot of pianists would prefer to have the stupid LH at the bottom of the page (or to not need to sightread 'The Beauty is" from Light in the Piazza) rather than a sincere thank you . . . Or I may just be speaking for myself.

Please feel free to add on anything from your own experiences.

Monday, August 2, 2010

No Rest for the Wicked

Actually I've been resting a lot today. Summer stock ended yesterday at 4:30am (or so). When a show concludes, something called 'strike' happens. They dismantle everything, pack it up, put it on a truck and clean up whatever is left over. My contribution revolved around the orchestra pit and erasing scores, but then I wandered around and assisted other tasks, which included folding up stage backdrops, pushing wheeled things up a ramp and onto a truck and stacking chairs. There was a lot of shouting and pizza involved.

I drove the 7 hour commute yesterday from Ohio to VA, and have been in a coma for over 12 hours, but wanted to update since I've been MIA since May. I return to my church gig this Sunday, and start up my 3+ academic gigs within a month or so.

I will definitely comment more on the summer, when I get my eyes uncrossed.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Oh, Ohio

It seems that library computer priviledges are pointless when you have rehearsals during library hours. I so need a laptop.

I'm still in Ohio working as a theatre pianist/piano slave. As of now, the first musical - put to bed, second one - in the works, auditions for the last one - coming up. Playing the first show, an Irving Berlin revue called The Melody Lingers On, was an ongoing project in that I was rewriting the score up until the last show. Most of the songs had crap accompaniments, and (non-jazzer that I am) I chose to write out stolen musical ideas so I could do *something* with the music. It was a lot of fun researching, actually . . . I had no idea ragtime conventions existed, for example. A few musicians I listened to:
  • I Love a Piano I liked Sue Keller's version. She's got a lot of stuff on youtube that is a lot of fun to listen to, and great for stylistic ideas. I got some blues ideas from Liza's version (well, her pianists' version) of the same song.
  • Change Partners - a great tune, by the way - I liked Sinatra and Jobim's take, and also this one.
  • Let's Face the Music and Dance - Beegie Adair was helpful to listen to
  • Let Yourself Go - Jeff Healy/Pangman and Kristen Chenoweth's version
The more I researched, the less I liked Bolcom's CD that I mentioned in an earlier post, which ultimately sounds square in comparison. For Puttin' on the Ritz I liked this one the best, although I didn't find it too helpful pianistically. Overall, the project was a fun listening and transcribing marathon for me. I made some recordings of the performances, I may post them eventually, once I lose the computing shackles. 

As for the gig, its been going beautifully. The people I work with are all incredibly talented and sane. I also like that the choreographers actually reference measure numbers when requesting music (as opposed to the "let's go from the kick-step-kick part" requests, which always elicit an internal sigh). This week I'm looking at doo-wop and funk piano. Love it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Taking Stock

Quick summary: I'm playing for summer theatre at a playhouse in northern Ohio*. Time has blurred together and I have no idea what day it is. Since arriving we've had auditions for the first two musicals and a play (two shows left to audition). They cast the shows yesterday, and rehearsals began this morning. Our rehearsal schedule is 8:30-11:30, 1:30-4:30, 7:00-10:00, w/meals and sleep tucked in between. I've been prepping two shows, "Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?" and an Irving Berlin revue called "The Melody Lingers On."

There are different challenges with each score. Black Leather is a (partially legible) handwritten score with several rock numbers, several swung numbers, and some church music references. The large group number harmonies get confusing, so I've taken to color-coded highlighting of different voice parts for easier reading. We start the Irving Berlin this afternoon. There is no show CD (although there is a CD called "The Melody Lingers On" - that's not it), so I've researched youtube, itunes and emusic for pianists who play Berlin with the right feel. So far I've liked: Willie "The Lion" Smith's version of Alexander's Ragtime Band and William Bolcom/Joan Morris' Berlin CD Blue Skies. The score has a lot of boom-chick writing (as in quarter notes LH-RH-LH-RH), so its up to me to 'fill it in'.

I love summer programs like this - everyone is committed to what they are doing, rehearsals are focused and I get a lot of practice time when I'm not in rehearsals. Lately I've been practicing a lot of stride piano, which is getting easier (slowly) and also different scales (pentatonic, etc). Other than that, I have a 24-hour gym nearby, free room and board, and library computer privileges. More randomness: because this is Biker Week, there have been nonstop influx of men on hogs.

*There are no gay midgets named Karl.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Summer in Ohio

Hello, folks -

Just a note to say that I may be absent for awhile (possibly until August). I'm leaving to play summer stock at the Huron Playhouse and may not have gobs of spare time. Or a computer.

Enjoy your summer :)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Second Try

I've been tinkering with the poster idea, mainly because it makes me giggle. It was inspired by this poster which I had as a teenager, and is mainly contains inside jokes for anyone who is or knows a Collaborative pianist. Anyway, this is the latest incarnation. Suggestions are appreciated.

*Disclaimer: Photos chosen randomly, will happily replace if owner requests