Collaborative Performance Training
All performing musicians will collaborate with another musician at some time during the course of their career. Indeed, many perform in groups from an early age. Why then do we place so little emphasis on collaborative performance training in our conservatoriums, universities, schools and private teaching studios?
A successful career in music performance requires ability, talent and hard work. However, in ensemble music, collaboration also needs to be a key focus in all aspects of preparation and performance. The musical partnership is an integral element of the process and must be carefully established and nurtured. I believe that this is the explicit intention of the composer and should be the expectation of the audience. All collaborating musicians should approach rehearsals technically proficient and informed about every aspect of the full score. This promotes a true sense of equal partnership, recognising the possibility of agreement, disagreement and compromise in the overall context of collaboration. In rehearsals, performers contribute a wide range of idiomatic technical and musical perspectives and opinions, in the expectation that these will be respected by their partners. The result should be both a mutually-satisfying and unique interpretation of the composer’s genius and an enhanced audience experience.
Collaboration requires active listening, constructive communication, flexibility and tact. I work with collaborative pianists, coach and perform with vocalists and instrumentalists, and tutor chamber ensembles to develop these skills in order that they may become more sensitive, confident and effective performers. Highly-developed collaboration skills can make the difference between success and failure for any musician, regardless of career path, ability or talent.
While many musicians perform in groups during their studies, young piano students tread a solitary path from the very beginning. The study of collaborative techniques could perhaps reveal any particular affinity with ensemble performance while also offering help in negotiating concerto, chamber and even solo repertoire. The personal and musical affinities required of a collaborative pianist are often revealed at quite an early age but too often ignored, or even discouraged.
Why are we therefore not encouraging these young pianists to consider a career in collaborative piano, with its range of specialisations including opera repetiteur, vocal coach, ballet repetiteur, choral repetiteur, orchestral piano, chamber music and also duo partnerships with either singers or instrumentalists or both? Many of our finest conductors, composers and educators have begun their careers as collaborative pianists.