To Accompany or Not to Accompany

“I wish sometimes I was not a good pianist….” — “George Sands”, MENC Choral forum

Strange thought from a music teacher, perhaps, but the reality is that each choir teacher has to decide just how much or how little accompaniment to provide for choral rehearsals and practices. Discussions on the MENC choral forum show a wide range of opinions and reasoning.

“George Sands” shies away from using the piano in rehearsal, claiming it interferes with ear training. When frustrated, students beg her to play their parts on the piano. “They see it as a crutch, too,” she says.

“Merimom” sees accompaniment as a tool, one of many available to a choral director, and recommends using the right tool at the right time.

“George Sands” sees benefits in working hard to know the music very well so she can sing all the parts confidently for students to imitate. This ensures:

• Better vowels
• Better eye contact
• Fewer management problems

“The students will know the music so well that by concert time you can have someone come in to accompany for only a rehearsal or two before the concerts,” she says.

“Merimom” believes the accompaniment is an important part of the music. A choir needs to hear the piece as a whole more than once or twice to fully understand it musically. She says, “They know their little part, and then they learn to basically ‘block out’ the accompaniment and sing their part. A very important part of choral singing/accompaniment is the ebb and flow between the choir and the piano.”

Christine Nowmos recommends finding a reliable accompanist, one you can give the music to, who will learn it, and who can follow your conducting so you don’t have to work with her in addition to the kids. “Then you don’t need to have an accompanist on a regular basis.”

One secondary choral educator, when asked  how students can best prepare for majoring in music education, recommended they “do whatever it takes to acquire piano skills,” if they don’t possess those already.

Thanks to MENC Choral forum contributors!

-Sue Rarus,   August 11, 2011 © National Association for Music Education