Advertise on ChoralNet 
ChoralNet logo
The mission of the ACDA is to inspire excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy.

Accompanist-conductor for performances?

Hi all,
I am a first year teacher in a private school teaching the 4th/5th grade chorus and the 6th grade chorus. My main instrument is piano, but I do most of teaching accapella and add in the piano part later.
What are your opinions for hiring an accompanist versus being my own accompanist for performances? What are the advantages/disadvantages for each scenario?
on December 21, 2013 6:32am
Hi, Teresa -- I am also a pianist/director and have always accompanied my choirs (some of which are quite large with over 100 singers.)  YOU know them best and can tailor your accompaniment to fit their needs in ways an outsider can not.  A colleague of mine once questioned whether or not my singers were learning to follow a conductor -- until she watched a concert and saw how much they watched me for cues and cut-offs.  Personally I would not ever bring in someone else to play when I can provide what my choirs need.
Kelly Truax
Applauded by an audience of 1
on December 21, 2013 8:52am
Although directing from the piano does give that 'tailoring' that Kelly mentions, I have come to prefer using an accompanist, with grade school chorus, high school choirs, and also adults. I feel that the meeting of conductor and singer, of teacher and student is much more direct when I stand in front of them. The authority is more natural, and I can concentrate more completely on their singing, as well as giving better visual cues, and we can maintain eye contact. This brings the choir together. I also do a lot of a cappella teaching, and it is just more natural. A good accompanist is a valuable addition. Having just seen one of our great choral masters, Ragnar Bolin, conduct the Messiah last night, I an even more convinced that the immediate and constant contact between singer and conductor is what makes for a vibrant whole!
David Weber
Applauded by an audience of 2
on December 21, 2013 3:52pm
And yet another option is to accompany your own rehearsals, maintaining your distance from the piano as much as possible, so the singers can learn independence from the piano and develop their ears to tune to the other singers rather than to the piano. Then you can add your own accompaniment later in the rehearsal process, when they are comfortable with their own parts and intonation. And THEN hire an accompanist whom you trust for the concert! :-)
Applauded by an audience of 1
on December 27, 2013 5:52pm
Hello, Teresa,
  Thank you for your perspective and your question.
   My experience in the last forty years tells me that ACCOMPANISTS are few and far between.  I'm with Kelly on this one.
  Playing the piano is as different from accompanying as running is different from being an Olympian.
  Conducting seems to me to be more about the ability to communicate the spirit of the work,  the understanding of the repertoire, embracing its message and transformiing it to something an audience can expeience than it is about 'authority'.
  Conducting from the piano is its own challenging (and disappearing) 'art form'.  There are few I know who would even begin to consider its multi-tasking demands.
  Bless your heart!
  Carry on.
on December 28, 2013 7:10am
Hi Theresa,
teaching accapella you are doing is excellent!  That way you can fix the pitches as necessary.  When you are behind the piano everything sounds better than actually is.   Also, this gives you the opportunity to teach your young students what each of your conducting motions holding the note etc...and you are not just waving your arms. (Yes, sometimes they actually think that).
What I would say is...teach as much of the pieces accapella before adding in the full piano accompianment.  Then,  add in your piano so the kids can get the 'sound' of the music.  Next,  for the last couple rehearsals before the performance...bring your accompanist in.  Make certain you are ALL in sync with your motions, tempo, and conducting style.  
It is important for you to conduct the students...their dynamics (for one), as well as focus improve tremendously with a good director in front of them.  Enjoy!
  • You must log in or register to be able to reply to this message.