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The Cost of Piano Accompanists

Performing: Piano Accompanist, what to do?

From Cynthia Matthews
Posted November 15, 2008 at 02:39 AM

We are stuggling with finding a slightly-lower priced piano accompanist, perhaps even an advanced student, in the Ottawa, Ontario area. Might anyone have a recommendation? Are others challenged with this cost? How do you manage?

 

From J Kingston
Posted on November 17, 2008 at 04:34 AM

I will be interested in any responses. We are having the same difficulty and I don't know where to begin to find someone reliable. As the pieces get more complicated all the good players are booked.Also, do you pay hourly or by the piece? How many rehearsals is reasonable to expect and what are average rates for a qualified player?

From albert yen
Posted on November 17, 2008 at 06:04 AM

Here's my experience with accompanists.

If quality of performance matters to you, I would always hire the best person you can find.  I have also found that it's the best value.

My experience with really good pianists is that they can show up and play your concert/lesson/audition tape/etc. It's just no problem.   The good accompanists have already played your piece with different people so it's just a rehearsal so that they know what you are going to do.  Good pianists always play well - just like all good musicians.  They have experience.  They don't get nervous about a performance or a recording.  They don't need to practice to play well.  They are really good at adjusting to you (this includes any "mistakes" you might make lol)

You don't have to pay for their practice time because there really isn't any.

So if you hire someone that's really good, we are talking one rehearsal (3 hours tops) and you are pretty much good to go.  Make sure you come prepared, unless you want to pay them to watch you practice.

How they charge is up to them, but my experience has been hourly and maybe a little more for the performance (which is fair if there is travel, parking etc.)  That is a better value than paying someone for 5 rehearsals and getting a mediocre performance out of it.

The better your accompanist, the better you will play.

And Best of Luck on your performance :)

 

OK now for social commentary ....which has NOTHING to do with the above or anyone that has posted in this thread.

There have been some threads on why the arts are in trouble and I can tell you one reason why.

In my experience, there is NOBODY cheaper than a musician hiring another musician.  I mean if you are a professional musician, you have spent years of your life learning a skill.  If you are good, you can do something that someone else cannot.  To me, that is a valuable skill.  So if you are hiring someone else that has put that kind of work in to develop a skill (and maybe more than you).  Then maybe you should pay them what they ask, and thank them afterwards. 

I mean, if you're a professional musician, how many people do you know that charge $1000 to do a wedding, but when they get married, they don't want to pay more than $250, lol.

Musicians don't value each other, so nobody values them.

From Cynthia Matthews
Posted on November 17, 2008 at 11:32 AM

No doubt, an accompanist should receive their price and deservedly so. However, you can't get blood from a stone. If you simply don't have 50 or 60 dollars an hour for each performance, you have to settle for less. In our case our young son has performances with two different music clubs and other performing(non-paying) opportunities. We have decided that he is not doing any competitions because of the cost of the accompanists for us. We feel that our limited resources are keeping him from reaching his potential. There also is an incongruency with accompanists and performers in that a young child player, not being paid in any way, and having still to pay for lessons and other music programs, still needs a good accompanist that costs. If he were a paid musician, then the cost of an accompanist would be a more manageable part of the package I would think.

From Dottie Case
Posted on November 17, 2008 at 01:40 PM

Cynthia, I can relate....my 17 yr. old plays, and come festival time/masterclasses, etc. I end up shoveling out a good amount of $ for accompanists.  But, is really is part of what has to happen to accomplish the goal. 

The point of playing in public with an accompanist is usually for the student to gain performace experience, or in the case of masterclasses and festivals, feedback and instruction. This makes it crucial that a good accompanist be on board, so that the student is freed from the worry of how to fit things together, but also has be the musical experience. 

When my daughter was younger, I would play for her, and I still play for some of my less advanced students, It takes a special person to be a good accompanist....it's not enough that they are just good players.  They have to be good accompanists, which is an entirely different skill.  The pianist needs to know their own part AND the students part so well that they can adjust to anything the nervous student might do.  I've seen students skip whole sections, and the pianist have to find them on the spot.  Some students acquire serious rhythm issues when nervous, and the pianists will have to adjust the speed of the acompaniment in order to stay with the student.  I heard a student one time get so lost  the pianist had to sit and wait until they could recognize a fragment of something familiar, then jump in with something that would show the soloist where student where she was. 

The point is, it's a very difficult job, and one unlikely to be handled well by an inexperienced student musician, unless you are perhaps speaking of a university piano major, etc.  In additon, the piano parts are just plain hard.... piano parts for concertos can be more difficult than the soloist parts.  These are usually orchestral reductions, so there is a great deal to cover. 

There is some unaccompanied violin stuff that your child could play that would dispense with the need of an accompanists.  For the rest of it though, it's as much a basic of learning the violin as the cost of the lessons, strings, etc.  And, as with your violin teacher, it's important to get a highly qualified person.

Good luck, and may you find a perfect fit that you can afford. 

From J Kingston
Posted on November 17, 2008 at 02:30 PM

I am hoping to get my sons someone they can get to know a little bit. Do you think that matters...to stick with one person? It seems with kids it would really help. My plan was to meet up with them once every month or two if possible to keep the kids on their gameI agree with the comments about money by the way. Musicians are pretty cheap but parents...that is another matter in some cases. Also, do you pay different for recordings? I want to record a performance and I assume as long as they are not in the video we should be ok. But....we have to find them first!

From Sue Bechler
Posted on November 17, 2008 at 02:29 PM

I used to offer to accompany any of my PS students for the New York State Solo Festival. But when my total participants headed towards 60 kids and some small ensembles, all of whom needed me to tune them, do emergency repairs, borrow a viola (left at school), offer last bits of encouragement, provide spare music gone missing at the last moment, etc.,etc., as happens with young players, I stopped offering. I couldn't have taken $$ anyway, but never had any offered. Now retired from PS, I am considering accompanying my private students at this year's competition. But in NYS we can't plan on having a piano in every judging room, and finding & hauling an acceptable keyboard feels like a much. Playing accompanied is only required at the highest level, and some sites just don't put pianos in other rooms. I get it: it is time-consuming, there is the potential of damage moving pianos around a district, or $$$ to rent pianos & get a tuner in in a very short time frame. I do see a little red reading about folks looking for an accompanist since the player is young or is playing for free. In my experience, a fine accompanist for this age group not only plays well, he or she comes with other skills like teaching the young player how to make eye contact (many teachers don't seem to teach this), explaining how the solo and accompaniment fit together (ditto), how to start the piece if there is no intro.(ditto), and knowing how to play in a way that supports and does not cover up the soloist. As a NYSSMA judge, I have had to ask accompanists to play less loudly, and have gone so far as to close a lid & turn the piano away since the students' sound was overwhelmed. If the pianist thought they were covering up errors or clueing the kid in, they were wrong. ;)  As to practice, yes, if I can't sightread it, I probably can't play it at all, but I would never go to a rehearsal w/o having practiced my part, and likely have also played through the soloist's part, too, unless I have been actively teaching it in the same time period.  Sue 

From J Kingston
Posted on November 17, 2008 at 02:32 PM

Sue, 60 kids is over the top for any teacher! Our teacher tries his best but the stuff is just too difficult these days. I notice good ones are teacher like and can explain the sticky parts the best.

From LyeYen Tien
Posted on November 17, 2008 at 02:45 PM

I know nothing beats a real pianist. What about pre-recorded piano accompaniment? Well, it is not  "real-time", doesnt adjust with the soloist. But it helps with the budget conscious.

I got the recordings for my kids to practice before their recital to save rehearsal time. If you buy the entire piece (ie, all mvts of concerto/sonata), the practice tempo comes free. For some period pieces, it even comes with a harpsichord version. The price is quite reasonable, if you considered all of them together.

http://www.piano-accompaniments.com/

From Rosalind Porter
Posted on November 17, 2008 at 02:44 PM

Have you tried talking to your nearest university with a music department?   Make contact with the head of the keyboard department and find someone who is perhaps in their final year of piano major and specialising in accompaniment might be interested in helping out  - perhaps as part of their practical course requirements?

I'd also be wondering why the child's violin teacher can't help more - either by accompanying the child themselves or using their own professional contacts to suggest someone who can offer a reasonable hourly rate.

Thinking back to when I was a young student and needed an accompanist for exams, it was always a case of a quick run through on the day of the exam and that was it, but the accompanists were so professional and used to working with youngsters that seriously that was all one needed.  As mentioned above, a good, experienced accompanist needs minimal rehearsal time and only needs to come in at the last minute.  Why can't the teacher suffice for the rest of the learning process? 

Maybe it is indicative of another problem in musical training these days?  Certainly all my teachers were more than able to play to a lesser or greater extent the piano parts of my student pieces - at least to give me - the student - a sufficient understanding of what was going on in the accompaniment.  For the performance - if necessary - the pro accompanist would step in.  Perhaps we need to see more emphasis and insistence on training potential string teachers to also be competent pianists able to accompany their students?   Perhaps it should be a compulsory requirement of degrees and teaching diplomas that the graduate should have a certain level of keyboard proficiency? 

From E. Smith
Posted on November 17, 2008 at 03:19 PM

 A good collaborative pianist is hard to find, and when you find that person he/she is bound to be very busy. These people are worth their weight in gold, so to speak. You should expect to pay them an hourly rate of at least what you would pay for a lesson if you were their piano student. In some cases, you will pay more (if the accompanist needs to learn new, difficult repertoire.) A lot depends on what you are asking the accompanist to do. If you're playing a difficult sonata that is not in that person's repertoire, you're asking for a lot of behind-the-scenes work for which the pianist should be compensated. Ditto for an unfriendly orchestra reduction for a concerto. But if your child is a young student playing standard pieces that are already in the pianist's fingers or could be easily sight-read, then the cost will be lower. 

When my kids were small, my husband (not a professional musician) played their piano accompaniments. As they got older, they began playing with staff pianists at their music school, often with only a short rehearsal because these pianists were very familiar with the repertoire. But securing a pianist for a competition or outside recital became so difficult (since these people are very popular), that we developed a rol-o-dex list of local pianists. For one of my daughters, we booked a weekly session with a collaborative pianist at a regular lesson fee (as though she were studying piano with him, although in reality they work together on sonata and other repertoire.) Even so, this pianist is not always available when she needs to do a competition or performance, so it's back to the rol-o-dex. 

My sense is that the original poster has a young child. My advice would be to start building a file of local collaborative pianists. Realize that not every pianist will be a good accompanist-- collaboration is a particular kind of skill and some very excellent pianists make poor accompanists. 

Yes, it's expensive to hire a pianist, but the truth is that it's part of your child's education to learn to play in collaboration with pianists. It's a good idea to work with more than one pianist since in the future, at auditions and performances, your child will inevitably need to work with musicians who are not familiar with his or her playing. If your music school or teacher has staff pianists, by all means have your child play with as many of them as possible. As for the music clubs who are hiring your son for non-paid performances: at his age, these performance are educational opportunities (which give him performance experience.) If I were you I'd enquire whether the sponsors have a fund to help pay the accompanists (some do, in my experience.) It's a long haul before the amount you invest in his education will begin to translate into earnings (for many of this, there is never a break-even point as far as music education is concerned; the rewards are not monetary.) My kids often make a few hundred dollars for themselves at a gig, but what they earn doesn't begin to measure up with what we spend on tuitions, pianists, instruments, etc. 

From Anne Horvath
Posted on November 17, 2008 at 03:21 PM

I think the most important characteristics of an accompanist are:

  1. Piano ability.  The concerto reductions are NOT easy.
  2. Accompanist abilities.  The pianist has to be on top of everything, at all times.
  3. Genial personality.  This is important when working with children.
  4. Reliability and professionalism.  Being there, on time, prepared.

If finding such a musician costs $$$, so be it.  When I was a student, I always played with my Mom, who happened to be marvelous in every category.  Not everyone is so lucky. 

The best way to find a decent pianist is word of mouth.  Already suggested are Uni profs that have accomplished students.  Church pianists are also a good place to start.  (If they can follow singers...)  Private piano teachers could also be a way to go.

I paid hundreds of $$$ back in college for accompanists.  I pay a lot now too.  I do not begrudge the pianist one dime.  You get what you pay for, like any other service.  Just as the cost of home maintenance must be factored into the affordability of a house, I guess the cost of a pianist must be factored into violin expenses. 

 

 

 

 

From Jodi B
Posted on November 17, 2008 at 03:21 PM

I used to accompany my daughter when she was younger and played less demanding pieces. Then as she got older, I couldn't do it. I would get nervous for her and me both. So I hired accompanist.

Here is what I have learned: Just because they are a piano performance major, doesn't mean that they can accompany well. As Dottie said, it takes a special person to accompany; it is more than playing the notes on the page at the right tempo etc.

Some charge by the half hour or hour. Some by the number of pieces. We have usually paid for two rehearsals (one hour total) plus performance. I usually rehearse with my daughter before on piano so that she can at least hear how the part goes.

If you don't have a lot of cash, I would suggest., as many here have done, to make sure that you are ready for your rehearsals. We usually run through the piece from top to bottom no stops, work on transitions, keychanges, tempo's etc. Then run through it again.

This thread reminds me that I have to find an accompanist for ISSMA... UGH

Best wishes

Jodi

From Sue Bechler
Posted on November 17, 2008 at 05:55 PM

Dear J Kingston, 60 is how many kids I was taking to NYSSMA competition. When I retired from PS, I left a roster of 180 students total. I didn't open attending the festival to everyone ;) Sue 

 

 

From Ihnsouk Guim
Posted on November 17, 2008 at 06:19 PM

What would you do if a pianist refuses to get paid? My daughter's school music teacher is an wonderful pianist and excellent musician. He had played with a violinist friend in college and quite familiar with standard violin repertoires. He and my daughter seem compatible. A few times after they got together, my daughter's playing got much better. It seemed to flow more naturally. So far, he is shying away from getting paid. He insists that he thinks it is part of his job helping young musicians and that he enjoys playing with my daughter. I did force the payment once which probably was not a good idea. I would like her to go back to him but reluctant to send her if I can't pay him.

From Jodi B
Posted on November 17, 2008 at 06:26 PM

If they refused to get paid, usually giving them a gift or gift certificate will do. We sometimes do that with payment.

From Ihnsouk Guim
Posted on November 17, 2008 at 06:41 PM

Thank you, Jodi. How would you do that? At the end of each session? This is turning into something regular, once every other week. 

From Jodi B
Posted on November 17, 2008 at 08:28 PM

By each session do you mean at the end of the term? If it is an every week or every other week and they refuse payment, I would use holidays or every two months give them a "thinking about you" gift. Of course, what ever you are comfortable with.

From Rosalind Porter
Posted on November 18, 2008 at 01:24 AM

Ihnsouk - the gift card idea is certainly one I think would be appreciated, but another suggestion is perhaps the occasional plate of freshly home baked cookies or similar taken along to a rehearsal!

From Sue Bechler
Posted on November 18, 2008 at 02:01 PM

If your teacher/accompanist is in a publically-funded school of any kind, there may be  conflict-of-interest rules regulating what he can accept payment for. Here in New York state, I can teach or accompany by operating what amounts to a small business, but I cannot use the school buildings, instruments, sheet music, or accept additional payment for my services if I do use those. We are required to be very circumspect about recommending school students study privately, or taking them on as our own private students. We can confer with parents and include information about extended opportunities; if the parent asks about private lessons, we may say we teach privately outside of school, and also have a list of  area teachers. A gift certificate at the end of a semester, or if giving teachers something at the holidays is commonly done where you are, sounds good. Something at a music store or good online catalog? Concert subscription? A very nice letter, suitable for framing or inclusion in a portfolio? Many music teachers have more than enough "music stuff" like posters, wallhangings, Xmas ornaments, jewelry, clothing. Though my colleague gave me a VERY lovely silver violin necklace when I retired, and that was fine. Sue

From Ihnsouk Guim
Posted on November 18, 2008 at 05:16 PM

Wonderful suggestions! Thank you. Keep them coming.  

From Ihnsouk Guim
Posted on November 18, 2008 at 11:00 PM

Wonderful suggestions! Thank you. Keep them coming.  

From Mendy Smith
Posted on November 19, 2008 at 03:46 AM

Cynthia -

It depends mostly on what you are needing and the situation.  If you have a serious musician who is needing a professional or near-professional grade accompanist for a major audition or competition, find a professional accompanist.  Someone here already mentioned that the skills of an accompanist are different than one who performs mostly solo. 

If you have a younger child doing a not so serious performance or audition, try contacting a few piano studios or pianists in your church.  Either the teacher or one of the teacher's students may meet your needs just fine. 

Either way, look for someone who has accompanied string players before at the skill level of the violinist.

From Caroline P
Posted on March 26, 2009 at 02:52 AM

Hi, there;

This site came up as i was googling piano accompaniment positions in ottawa.

I am a novice accompanist and teacher who is looking for more work, especially during the summer when school is out.

I have my Gr.8 and Gr.2theory, as well as my BA in Music. I play at two churches weekly and teach four nights per week.

If you are in need of an accompanist, and would like to, please contact me.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on March 26, 2009 at 12:16 PM

Really, you are better to pay less practice with the super accompagnist than to pay more with a good player that don't know what a violin is.  My accompagnist is way too good for me. She has a PhD and play with people who do national contest etc...  But she knows my mistakes almost as much as a real violin teacher!  She can really help me to see what is going on in each bar!  Many pianists just play and if you miss your shot say, do you want to do it again?  Then the mistake will always come back and you have no idea of what to do musically!      Really, if you had the chance to work with a super violin teacher, you would take it no?  It's the same with pianists!

Anne-Marie

From Rachel Nichols
Posted on July 25, 2009 at 09:25 PM

Just a note, I'm a piano accompanist as well as a violinist.  I usually charge by the piece ($10 for elementary up to $45 for advanced and concerto).  I agree that a good accompanist knows how to help, not just how to play.  In the past, my performers have always been really grateful for the insight given during our rehearsals.  If you want a good accompanist who will rehearse with you, not for you, expect to pay more than I charge.  After all, i'm just a senior in high school, but I'm past advanced (think Czerny and Mozart are sight-reading).  I really hope this helped.

 


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