Who is that pianist in the room?

Who is that pianist in the room?
Sunday musings...

We've been discussing this all week on Facebook and in the studio so I decided once again to blog about it.

Why oh why, when there are marvelous, exceptional and brilliant pianists out there,  are so many singers complaining about the lack of ability from the keyboard in the audition room?

Many CDs I know work hard to create the best possible environment in the surreal atmosphere of the audition room by having marvelous pianists.  Same for opera artistic directors.

However,  more times than not,  there are barely competent pianists.  Why?

I truly am at a loss to understand this,  when I know so many fantastic pianists.  Is it the lack of funds to pay them well?  Why wouldn't you want a pianist who can truly play the material well so the audition goes as well as it can?  Poor auditions are exhausting for EVERYBODY.  If I am sitting at the table listening,  I get cranky.  If I could have had a better pianist to help lift up those auditions to a better standard, why wouldn't I do that?

So,  let's look at this from all angles.  I hold ALL of us responsible for the success or failure of an audition.

If you call yourself an audition pianist then you need to know the repertoire.  Period.  You need to be an excellent not competent, sight reader.  You need a fantastic sense of time and rhythmic pocket.  You need to know how to re-organize the repertoire - what to play and what to leave out - to support that singer.  You are not auditioning - the singer is.  You need to support that singer.  They are nervous.  You need to given respect,  AND GIVE IT BACK.  Your attitude needs to be checked.

In my experience,  the more the attitude, the less competent the pianist generally is.  You will not make up the lack of skill by giving the singer more 'tude.  Seriously.  You are there to SUPPORT.  You are the one who truly makes or breaks that audition.  Take THAT seriously.

Singers - BE PREPARED.  It is up to you to be so prepared for that audition, that even if things de-rail you can make it work!  Again,  singers who are under-prepared will often play the blame-game.  Stop it.  Prepare!  Don't think by learning that cut the day before will allow you to nail it.  It won't.  If the first thing you do is blame the pianist and not look at your own preparation,  you need to really rethink what you are doing.  Again,  if the attitude is larger than the talent, the craft or the preparation, perhaps it's time to sit down and have a reality check.

Singers - if you demand craft from the pianist, then first demand it from yourself.  Do not allow yourself to be bullied or manipulated in the room.  Know what you are doing,  how you present yourself, how you present your music and  how you address the pianist to engage them, not to dismiss them.  Do not let anyone dismiss YOU.  Stand your ground.  The audition table IS paying attention to your demeanor and ability to handle stressful situations.


Give that pianist your tempo,  make sure it IS your tempo.  Slow yourself down so you aren't speeding through things! Make sure you ask for what you want.  Don't assume they know.  If you want an intro ask for it - mark it in the music.  If you want a bell tone and chord - MARK IT and ASK FOR IT.

You have every right to ask to start again if things derail.  You don't need to blame the pianist or yourself.  Simply smile and say "I think we mis-communicated with tempo or something - I would like to start again please".  Don't get angry.  SING HARDER!!  Stand your ground! DEMAND the best audition you can offer.

If you, the singer, rises above a less than adequate pianist, the audition panel is going to realize they have made a mistake.  If singers make excuses, then the inadequacy looks like it belongs to the singer.

Don't take an inadequate pianist lying down!  Demand more from them - but know it begins with YOU.  If you are not exceptionally prepared,  you have no business complaining.

Great pianists are out there.  FIND THEM.  HIRE THEM.  Pay their fee.  They are worth EVERY penny and more!!

The great pianists will give you support, embrace you,  make you comfortable and will encourage you to do your best and able to create an instant partnership with the singer.

The great singers will be prepared, organized, open and pliable and able to create an instant partnership with the pianist.

We need more of this - from BOTH sides of the keyboard!!

Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking. 

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