5 Ways to Help Your Accompanist
Dec 26, 2015
Your accompanist is your partner and most valuable asset you have at your audition. Take the care to treat them as such. Remember, your accompanist can only play the music the way you want IF YOU TELL THEM EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT! Let's go over the basics of how to help your accompanist help you.
1) Your music presentation: Your music should be bound in a binder in good repair that makes it easy to turn the pages while playing,. You want your accompanist's hands on the keys, not flipping pages. Better yet, your music should be in 2-4 taped-together non-glare sheet protectors that fold out like an accordion, so they don't have to turn any pages at all. They will thank you, and you'll thank yourself, when your song's bass clef doesn't take a two measure break to flip the page.
2) Cutting and marking your music: If you have a 16-32 bar cut, you'll likely have to do an old-school cut and paste and copy job. Take great care to make sure it's straight and nothing is cut off. Your accompanist will be playing it maybe for the first time in her life--make it as simple as possible to follow. If you're lucky, and you're just doing the last 16-32 of the song as written--great! That means you don't have to do cut and paste, but you do have to clearly mark in pencil where to start. Draw a line at the bar you want to start at, and above write 'Start.' Similarly, if you're performing the FIRST 16-32 of a song, mark 'STOP' and a line. No guesswork that could be misinterpreted!
3) Speaking with the accompanist: They're a human being and they've seen people all day. A warm friendly 'hello' is appreciated. Point out the places you've marked 'START' or 'STOP,' and then give them the tempo by singing or humming it at the tempo you want. Let me say again, give them the tempo by singing or humming the song at the temp you want it. Do not be shy about it. It's your song and they want to play it exactly the way you want to sing it--give them the tools to do so.
4) Cue to start: If you don't tell them what their cue is. accompanists may jump in as soon as you assume your spot in front of the team at the table. If you want, let the accompanist know 'I'll nod when I'm ready.' It is another piece of specific direction they'll appreciate.
5) Composers to avoid: Unless the audition warrants it, avoid composers who are especially difficult to sight-read, notably Sondheim, Jason Robert Brown and Adam Guettel.
6) Odds and ends: Never blame the accompanist for anything. It is the hardest job in the world and they're putting their years of practice into making everyone sound their best all day long. And always thank the accompanist after you're done.
Remember how reliant upon your accompanist you are. And remember they are trying their best to make you sound great! You're in it together--so give them every advantage you can. You'll thank yourself after every audition.