Friday, June 26, 2009

Resources for Musicians - jobs, fellowships, etc.

I stumbled over this yesterday, and was very impressed:

New England Conservatory's Career Services page has several useful links. My favorite by far (and which has a free trial period during June 2009 - 5 more days to go look!) is the Bridge Worldwide Connection. Jobs (academic, church and beyond), Fellowships, Competitions - all are listed. It's $55 dollars to join, but highly worth it.

Here is their Opportunities and Resources page - provides great ideas

Music Career Handouts - several are free, the rest are $2 to $3 dollars apiece. They have varying information which look useful - examples: Grants, Teaching, Publicity/Marketing.

Their Music Resource Library has lists of reading suggestions according to subject.

Also - here is YAP, a tracking website for Young Artist Programs. It's mainly for singers, but its a great resource in general about programs, competitions, mainstage opportunities, workshops, and more. Your singer friends will love you when you forward them stuff. It's $60 to join.

OperaAmerica has a similar site, called Opera Source that also tracks the upcoming auditions and deadlines of all kinds of opportunities. It's $45 to join.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Job Application Prep for Collaborative Pianists

This post gives a starting point for pianists who are putting together a job application for the first time. You'll need to slap together three things: a resume/CV, a cover letter, and a CD of your playing.

First off - the difference between a CV and a resume: a resume is shorter. Seriously, that's it. A CV is used to apply for academic positions, while a resume is usually more appropriate when applying for jobs outside academia. CV stands for Curriculum Vitae - which is Latin for 'job experience from kindergarten'. In contrast, the resume needs to be deliberate and focused in its delivery of information. Less is more. I keep versions of both.

Length of your Resume/CV: for University job applications, a few pages is OK. For anything else, fit it on two pages or less. I also tend to tailor each resume to each job I apply for. It's time-intensive, but well worth it in the long run.

To begin - look at who you have studied with, what degrees you have earned, and your experiences in your chosen field. Compile information on what you have participated in: masterclasses, competitions, summer festivals. Any awards, scholarships, or assistantships? Did you accompany any choirs, vocal and instrumental studios, recitals, opera scenes, operas or musicals at your university? Did you have other performing related jobs, such as a church gig, jazz group, or a high school choral gig? Do you have a private teaching studio? Ideally, professional experience will replace experience earned as a student ('college experience') ASAP - but to start, you go with what you have.

Some articles - Musician Wages has this article on musician resumes. Eastman's Resume Handbook for musicians. Berklee School of Music has an online resume tutorial.

You also need a basic cover letter. Here's Eastman's Cover Letter Handbook for musicians. Also Cover Letter Samples and Cover Letter Tutorial from Berklee School of Music. They are all good ways to get started. Here is some cover letter advice from

Finally, you should have a demo CD of your playing. Record your recitals! Ideally, you will have recordings of a variety of repertoire: arias, art song, instrumental literature, choral, and pop/broadway.

You may also need a DVD of your teaching, depending on what job you are applying for.

In many circumstances it is helpful to have a repertoire list. Compile all of the repertoire you have performed. I keep them in these categories: art song, opera, instrumental repertoire, musical theatre, and choral repertoire. Further formatting and grouping of these lists (which becomes necessary, the more repertoire you amass): I like to do my instrumental rep by instrument group, then composer (Strings - Mozart, piece; Brass -Strauss, piece). Some people group their art song according to language, others by composer. Use whichever has the strongest presentation. When formatting, try getting as much info on one page as possible in an elegant, clear way. For example, list your rep using two columns instead of one.

Some job-search advice from a Prof who has been on multiple job search committees in South Carolina.

*Always check if the position has been advertised in the past 5 years. Some positions are vacated quite regularly = red flag.

More to Come, as I think of it . . .

Friday, June 19, 2009

Paid to Sell Pianos (?)

I went to Jordan Kitts Music today, to check out their pianos. They'll be having a huge liquidation of their Steinway and Steinway-produced pianos in MD, VA and DC starting July 3rd. Imagine my surprise when the saleslady, after vigorous use of advanced sales tactics, tried to recruit me as well. Apparently they have career opportunities for sales associates.

I never imagined a life selling pianos - but hey, if nobody comes in, does that mean I can practice?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Play and Learn - Opera Apprentice programs for pianists

These opera apprentice programs train pianists, in addition to singers:

National Opera Studio - in London  
Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio
Opera House Zurich - in Switzerland
Contemporary Opera Lab - in Canada

Banff Centre Opera
Center City Opera Theatre
Des Moines Metro Opera
Florida Grand Opera
Glimmerglass Opera
Houston Grand Opera
Indianapolis Opera
OPERA Iowa Musical Director & Apprentice Musical Coach
Kentucky Opera
LA Opera
Metropolitan Opera -
Lindemann Young Artist program
Minnesota Opera
Nashville Opera
Opera Colorado
Opera New Jersey
Pensacola Opera
San Francisco Opera -Merola
Seattle Opera
Utah Opera
Virginia Opera
Washington National Opera
Wolftrap Fellowships 

New England Conservatory has a great website, Bridge Worldwide Connection. Young Artist/Apprentice stuff is all listed. It's $55 dollars to join, but highly worth it.

YAP is a tracking website for Young Artist Programs. It's mainly for singers, but its a great resource in general about programs, competitions, mainstage opportunities, workshops, and more. Your singer friends will love you when you forward them stuff. It's $60 to join.

OperaAmerica has a similar site, called Opera Source that also tracks the upcoming auditions and deadlines of all kinds of opportunities. It's $45 to join.

Online music scores - free downloads!

I've found several sites online that have useful music available for free download. I listed specific links to some of the repertoire, mainly to show that the literature available was unlike the typical "free sheet music" literature available for download. There really is a lot out there. So when you need the rep, but don't have the book handy - try these sites:

For Art Song Literature
Also try - Art Song Central
It has a crazy variety of links, such as:
Another site for Opera Literature
For Chamber music literature
Mozart chamber music and concerti
Brahms clarinet/viola sonatas
Repertoire for cello and piano (for these sections, scroll down a bit, after solo rep)
Repertoire for viola and piano
Repertoire for violin and piano
Repertoire for flute and piano

Examples of literature:
(choose BW PDF for black and white prints)

The Petrucci music library has all kinds of scores, as does this music archive.

Yes, it's legal.

Play and Learn - Musical Theatre/Music Direction Internships

From what I've managed to observe, I've come to this general conclusion about music directors in musical theatre: they do not follow a definite career path. Usually they are pianists who like the repertoire, play for a lot of shows, and then find themselves making the musical decisions (being a MD). If you want the process to be a little more deliberate, consider these options:

Goodspeed Musicals has a Music Direction Intensive

The Kansas City Starlight Theater in MO has a music directing internship. (Some pay)

The Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts has a music direction/conducting internship. (Some pay)

The Muny in St Louis, MO has a summer music direction internship. (Some pay)

Studio BE in Chicago has a music directing internship.

The Surflight Theatre in Beach Haven, NJ has a music internship. (Some pay)

Pittsburgh CLO in PA has a summer internship in music direction. (Some pay)

Here's an article from on becoming a Broadway conductor. It has other related articles on the bottom of the page.

For those looking for actual degree programs, Shenandoah University has a
Bachelor of Music in Music Theatre Accompanying. It involves the study of jazz, conducting, arranging, instrumentation and more!

Arizona State University has a masters degree in Music Directing, also.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Paid to Play - Dance Accompanist

Yet another career path at the piano: accompanying dancers.

At the University of Arizona, there is a Masters degree offered in the study of Piano and Dance Accompanying (page 11). Suzanne Knosp is the head of that degree - she is a great pianist, with a wide knowledge and love of dance. I studied dance accompaniment with her for one semester, before I traipsed off to CA.

Shenandoah University offers a Masters degree in Dance Accompanying, also.

There is also an International Guild of Musicians in Dance, if you are curious about the career choice and would like some contacts in the field.

Collaborative Piano outside Academia - a different perspective

I don't want to start a debate on what is Collaborative Piano. I'll just give my take on the field, and run with that.

Practically speaking, I think it is whatever combination of piano + _____ that a pianist can get paid to play with.

I apologize for immediately focusing on paid employment, and sidestepping any reference to artistic merit, pianistic training and study. Believe me, I am aware of the complex depths of knowledge that pianists need to spelunk in their university-led studies of Collaborative Piano. I have come to realize, however, that those hard-earned skills are often best used
in a university/academic setting. [the phrases often and best used were chosen deliberately] Opera houses are the next useful setting.

Which is fine. Especially if one's passion is in the area of instrumental collaboration or opera and art song interpretation, etc, and their wish is to specialize in those areas.

But outside of the university environment, I found that knowledge of opera, art song and Brahms sonatas, while neat, was less in demand. Alternate piano skills were requested. For example:
  • improvisation
  • transposition
  • sightreading 4+-part choral scores (often mentioned, but not always enforced as something to actively study in the university setting)
  • sightreading musical theatre/musical theatre score interpretation
  • being an audition pianist
  • knowledge of jazz repertoire and voicings
  • knowledge of musical styles - latin, funk, etc
  • knowledge of pop music
and so on.

I've also noticed that outside academia, timelines are different as well. Getting music in advance is a luxury, and sightreading has become the norm. Requests to accompany auditions and concerts are often last minute (for which you can charge accordingly). Limited rehearsal time can lead to you waltzing out onstage with no idea what your partner is going to do. Scary? Yes. But sometimes, that's the gig. My point: employable in multiple venues = flexible. Mentally prep yourself for situations that are not ideal. Study improvisation. Observe and eventually play for vocal and instrumental auditions. Add regular score sight-reading to the [already busy] practice schedule, etc. Get used to performing on the fly. In other words - diversify your skill set, both at the keyboard and mentally.

Classical piano training is an asset in so many ways - but one's training and education needn't stop there. Especially if you enjoy variety in your work. My goal for this blog is to call attention to the spectrum of educational and employment opportunities available for those who wish to play well with others. And not only in the University setting.

While I'm at it - here's a website from along the same lines, that I like: It has great information on ways to find playing gigs, including being a cruise ship musician. You don't have to be a jazz player - there are positions available playing as a part of a classical ensemble (with at least one string player). The site is geared towards all working musicans, of all backgrounds, so there's something for everyone. Check it out.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Paid to play - Summer Gigs and Opportunities

**Updated List from 2015 click here

When I was in undergrad and grad school, I used my summers to practice and knock out extra class credits in summer school. Which was useful - but I wish I had considered other options:

Gain professional experience and/or study with professionals:

Interlochen Summer Arts Camp hires 23 collaborative pianists each summer to fill the position of Choral, Dance, Musical Theatre, Vocal and Instrumental accompanying. You do NOT have to be a counselor, you just play. There are tons of masterclasses, opportunities to work on German language and diction, concerts, chances to network with heads of Collaborative Piano college programs, etc. It looks great on a resume (which they can help you edit in their career seminars). Pay is not great, but room and board is included. All in all, a good gig. Just bring a fan if it looks like the summer will be warm, you'll need it. I think you apply around Jan or so, so keep an eye out. 
Eastern Music Festival hires collaborative pianists for instrumental accompaniment. I've never done this gig, but I've considered it. You have to be 21 to apply. 
The College Light Opera Company hires two rehearsal accompanists every summer.
Opera in the Ozarks hires one or two rehearsal accompanists every summer.

Ash-lawn Opera Festival hires one or two accompanists every summer.
Berkshire Choral Festival has a paid Apprentice program for accompanists
Franz-Schubert-Institute - summer course for singers and pianists

Intermezzo has a 'Festival Orchestra Program', using accompanists for both Musical Theatre playing and Operatic playing. No pay, but great experience.

Opera North - hires pianists

San Francisco Merola Program - hire 5 apprentice coach/accompanists each summer

Songfest - for singers and pianists

Summer Chamber Music Festival - a four-week chamber music program for string players and pianists aged 18-26

Tanglewood - Vocal and Instrumental Fellowships

West Virginia Public Theatre occasionally hires summer rehearsal accompanists (musical theatre).
Go Outside the US:
Collaborative Piano Internship at the Banff Centre - study for free (Tuition, room and board are covered)

Vancouver International Song Institute

Asolo Song Festival & Institute for Song Interpretation (Italy)

A mind-blowing list of festivals:Summer Music Festival Websites

I'll keep updating this post as I find opportunities . . .

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Collaborative Pianist or Accompanist?

Either way, I still have to explain what I do to 90% of the population.

Piano accomplice, perhaps?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Paid to Play - Army Pianist

They call it the "best kept secret" as far as music jobs go - being a musician in the military. This including pianists. It involves steady pay, excellent health benefits, and remarkable cash bonuses as well.

Job descriptions:

Find jobs:

Don't let the use of the word 'band' throw you.

It seems that the best-paying gigs that a classically trained pianist would be interested in are usually filled up, like accompanying the choirs of the US Army Field Band and US Navy Band. I did see that presently, Pershing's Own has a keyboard opening, but you need arranging skills as well for that job. And unfortunately, musicians DO have to go to basic training. Do a lot of push-ups if you choose to enlist. And read up on what BT entails. I found the following while considering the military (I was shortlisted for the US Army Field Band audition in April '09). Wrapping your mind around the ordeal will help determine if you really want to do it.

Paid to Play - Church Staff Pianist

Ok, some basic websites to start looking (keyword - pianist or accompanist):

Presbyterian Association of Musicians

These are less specific as far as denominations go:

That just gets you started - Google is an amazing thing, usually if you combine a few key word like city/state | pianist | accompanist | church you'll come up with quite a few hits. I have an RSS feed of Craigslist and Google that saves a lot of time.

As for the music that you play, that depends upon numerous things. The music director, first of all, but also the age and musical tastes of the congregation. Services can be traditional, contemporary, or something they call 'blended worship'. Translated, that is Hymnal, organ and piano vs Contemporary Christian, electric keyboard and band vs a mix of both.

A classical pianist confronted with contemporary christian sheet music may experience a range of emotions. Amusement, confusion, pain - these are all normal. Because their music comes in many, many forms, often without the small, black, reassuring notes and rhythms we like so much. Charts are very common, and sometimes, just the lyrics are given to you and you scribble in the chords. Sometimes the charts have wrong chords, are in the wrong key, or have wrong chords in the wrong key. If you are working with untrained musicians, they won't realize this until you are in the middle of the song and it sounds off. If you find yourself in this situation, breathe deep, get a pencil, and start rewriting the *cough* music to suit your needs.

You will probably play "Open the Eyes of My Heart" several times, so go ahead and learn it.

Other odds and ends - at the Catholic gig I was at, I played Ave Maria in every key possible. Also know Here I Am, Lord and On Eagles Wings. While I was there, I did over 50 weddings. Most of them had Canon in D, Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring, the Wedding March and the traditional Wedding Fanfare closer. Also: 'the Prayer' and 'How Beautiful'(Twyla Tharp). So learn those tunes, and you're halfway home.

Finally, get some arrangement books of church music. You'll need them for preludes, postludes, offertory and communion music. ark Hayes is a good place to start, most of his arrangements are great. I also like Fred Bock, Don Wyrtzen, Bill Wolaver, Carl Seal, etc. Chuck Marohnic wrote some great jazz arrangements, if you are looking for something different. I have a stack of arrangements, some books better than others. If you have any suggestions, please add on.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Paid to Play - University Staff Accompanist

Or Staff Collaborative Pianist, etc. Whatever the title is, the job is the same: piano slave.

Want to be one? Look here:
College Music Society - The music vacancy list on this website isn't free, but has a student rate of $35.
New England Conservatory's Bridge Worldwide Connection - $55 for non-NEC community
The previous two websites are free. Keyword - piano, etc

I've held three different university staff accompanist gigs, in three different states. Each position was unique, due to the specific needs of each university's music program. One position used me mainly for vocal and choral, a little instrumental accompaniment, plus that extra 'whatever needed a pianist'. The next position was also a mix of everything, and the last one was all vocal. The positions were all performance based - I was not required to teach any theory or piano classes. Also, I was the sole accompanist in each position - there were no adjuncts to point at and say 'ask them', which makes my experiences, well, singular.

Being a staff accompanist is great for several reasons, namely steady $$ and health benefits. You usually have your own office (translation: place to practice, compute and nap). There is a steady flow of repertoire to learn, all in varying styles, instrumentation and difficulty. You get to work with undergrads and/or grad students. Usually, you get the summer off (not always). Being employed doing what you love can be wonderful. Fulfillment from helping people achieve their recital goals, enjoyment from being surrounded by college-level musicians and fellow faculty, free access to a library and being able to use the faculty extended checkout dates are all beautiful things. I loved that I was constantly learning new repertoire, and essentially being paid to practice.

What they don't tell you before you look for and/or get the gig:
  • Finding a full-time position in a city that you want to live in can be problematic. Will you really enjoy living in Nowhere, Texas? In other words, do you want to pick up your entire life and move where they may only have one Thai restaurant?
  • The position rarely has tenure - job security can be iffy, when it is dependent upon the state of the school's budget.
  • You don't pick your repertoire or your partners - they pick you. So you must eat your vegetables, and play that [fill in disliked composer/instrument/undergrad here].
  • Seasonally, Spring is hell (recital season).
  • Workload overload: the Staff Accompanist easily becomes the go-to person for just about anything that needs a pianist. Burnout can happen as soon as the first semester you begin work, as you fight off vocalists, instrumentalists, choirs, musical theatre and opera scenes, and so on - all needing you, all seething if they do not get you. Boundary-setting is essential, along with the great little word "no".
You get the picture, I hope. Much depends on your ability to be flexible.

And have wrists of steel.