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

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