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The Joy of Being a Piano Accompanist

by Valentina Jotovic on March 29, 2012
Remember the game of jump-rope? As a youngster, it was one of my favorites!piano lessons flemington There were so many fun ways to play, but I especially enjoyed the "team" aspect of the game. Two people would hold the "reins" on either side and slowly begin a circular motion, hopefully together. That would "set the tempo" for the line of eager participants, just waiting to jump-in! Once a good "rhythmic flow/pace was established, you could enter that ongoing motion by jumping, hopping, twisting and turning! As long as that "ever steady rhythmic foundation" was provided beneath your feet (and you kept in sync!) a great feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction followed! Of course, that would lead you to get back in line quickly, to try it again...with even more "gusto!"
Sounds a lot like our musical "ensembles", doesn't it? We are in "unison" at that point as musicians, relying on and "supporting" each other, (with occasional "feats" of creativity!) As we anticipate the 'turn of the jump rope, or conductor's baton', together we "gracefully" make way for the next friend to enter in - simultaneously jumping out (hopefully, smoothly, with no tangle-ups!) That continuous ebb and flow and supportive strong foundation beneath is, shall we say... "key" in making music together! :)
To me, being a piano accompanist, is akin to the word picture or visual-aid of playing jump-rope! To accompany means to "come alongside with, to help, to agree with and support." Together we "interpret, portray and communicate" by "capturing the mood and personality" of each piece, bringing an important message or feeling we wish to give to others through the wonderful gift of music. That mission is made even more special by working in tandem as a team, with eager young musicians and fellow colleagues.
I would like to encourage piano students who enjoy working with others to look for opportunities to grow and to help others by serving as an accompanist. As a young teenager, I was encouraged by by my friends when our church youth choir director asked if anyone would like to accompany our choir. What a new world of that opened up to me! I was amazed at with my piano/clarinet background, it was easy to "jump-in" and try to help! I loved serving in this way, with all styles of hymns, songs and instruments tuned together to touch other hearts. We joined together in making the music breathe- as a prayer- or pulse with praise- to the Lord! We also had a wonderful bell choir that I subsequently joined with many new friends, as we "made a joyful noise!"
These experiences led to accompanying for school choirs throughout Jr. High, High School, College(...and beyond!) Accompanists learn to "adapt" with all the varied opportunities to assist others-i.e. as soloists, for festivals, concerts, etc. The fun is in all the relationships formed and the joyful musical expression made. As a choral accompanist, with every "nuance" a soloist or conductor may direct, you have the position of gently nudging young performers toward fluidity in their expression. Sometimes it is simply to keep that rhythmic framework solid and "going with the flow"-(you don't have to play every note--and some improvising is allowed!) Stylistic touches, dynamic and tempo changes are all to be "predicted and followed exactly as led", to promote a "fluid and seamless presentation." Then everyone succeeds- together!
For me, like my childhood game of "jump-rope", being an accompanist continues to be a blessing that I cherish and hope to bless others with, as well!
My advice to future student accompanists?
Keep up the good practicing, enjoy the love and support of your family and friends and step out into new musical opportunities. Piano lessons, scales, sight reading, memorizing, modulating, and listening/playing many styles of music are really enriching you as a person and your musical path will continue to grow-as well as your friendships.
So what was your favorite game as a child?

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