Has your child always wondered about what it would be like to have a music career? Have they wondered how to pursue these different careers and what steps to take to get there? In this series, we will be taking a closer look at what it is really like to pursue music as a career. In today’s post, we will be exploring all things that go into how to be a piano accompanist.
1. What is a piano accompanist?
A piano accompanist is simply a pianist who plays under an instrumentalist, soloist, ensemble, choir, for a wedding or event, or for a drama production. An accompanist helps play in rehearsals and may help play for a small group that needs to work on a certain part. At a wedding, they will be responsible for coming up with the music and playing for the actual ceremony. For soloists and ensembles, they will rehearse with these musicians and then also play when they perform. So basically, a piano accompanist has many ways they can play for other musicians.
2. How do I become an accompanist?
First of all, you need to know how to play piano. So, if you are already playing piano then keep it at it! If you are in middle or high school and your friends are in choir or band and need an accompanist for solo and ensemble competition, then I would say this is the perfect place to start. You could even begin by playing the piano part of a song your brother or sister wants to sing and that will give you experience with how to play underneath the main part. Earning a degree in music helps you not only continue developing as a musician, but also will put you in the lead with the competition when it comes to getting the accompanist jobs.
3. How much do I get paid?
How much you get paid honestly depends on which gig you’re accompanying for. When I played for Tulsa Children’s Chorus, I would get paid every other week just like any other job and earned about $20 an hour. When you play for soloists or ensembles or a wedding, you get paid one set fee and this is between you and the people you are playing for. If you are in high school or college, accompanying is a way to just get experience under your belt and sometimes you won’t charge. So, there is a wide range of pay, but if you are playing for multiple gigs and have a couple of consistent weekly jobs, you will make good money.
4. Do I have to read music well?
To be an accompanist who plays with other musicians, you have to be able to read music. If you’re playing with any musician who is reading their score, you will have the piano score in front of you and will need to follow along so you can stay together. A lot of times, they will ask to start at a certain measure number, so you have to be ale to know where that is. Make sure if you’re currently in lessons, you aren’t rushing past reading music and only focusing on playing by ear. I cannot tell you the amount of times I have heard other pianists tell me they wish they knew how to read music. There are so many other opportunities out there for musicians who play by ear, but to be a piano accompanist, yes you need to be able to read music.
5. How do I get the jobs?
To put yourself out there as an accompanist, you have to market yourself. Email the school choir and band directors and your local wedding venues. Look on the job sites for choirs and ensembles needing rehearsal accompanists. Ask your musician friends if they know of anyone looking to hire a piano accompanist. You will be surprised that after you play one or two gigs, word will get around that you are available and a lot of times the jobs just start coming to you.
Are you a piano accompanist or does this sound like something your child would be interested in pursuing one day?
If you are a parent, student, or teacher who wants to learn more about music, connect with other musicians, or wants to post their latest videos of what they’ve been working on, I would love for you to join my Facebook group Music Education Connection. Collaborate, learn from each other, and grow new friendships. This is a place to receive encouragement, positive feedback, and to ask questions.