Accompanying, Accompaniment, and Accompanists

Whether you have adequate or excellent piano skills, it’s challenging to teach and manage your classes when you’re directing from behind a keyboard. If you’ve been fortunate enough to have a paid accompanist, that luxury can be threatened in this strapped economy. To survive, a bit of creativity is in order.

How to Find an Accompanist (suggestions taken from the MENC Chorus forum):

  • Retirees: Find them at retirement homes and places of worship. Advertise at the local library.
  • College students: Local colleges and universities. But don’t contact only the music department; talk with the education department. Most education majors need to fulfill community service hours, and some of them are good pianists even if they’re not majoring in music.
  • Parents: Yes, your students’ parents! Offer them free fare when they go on your trips.
  • Students: If you can, use your own students. For an elementary or middle school program, contact the high school in your district. Don’t forget local private piano studio teachers.
  • Advertise at your local music store.General suggestions:
  • Barter if you need to. Offer for one of your choirs to sing somewhere in the community in exchange for someone’s accompanying services. If you have adequate skills, accompany another director’s group and have them accompany yours.
  • If paying an accompanist becomes necessary and you don’t have the budget for it, ask your parent booster group to fund raise to cover the cost.
  • Take advantage of 21st-century technology. Several choral directors suggested sequencing accompaniments with digital piano and computer sequencing software, at least for rehearsals. This frees the director to focus full attention on the singers.Thanks to MENC Chorus forum contributors!

-Sue Rarus, January 7, 2009, © National Association for Music Education