Just Don’t Call Me a Penis

In high school, a classmate who was introducing me on stage said, “Eileen Huang is a pianist,” pronouncing “pianist” with an accent on the first syllable: pee-a-nist. Unfortunately he didn’t enunciate the “t,” and everyone in the audience had a good laugh.

Let that be a lesson to everyone on the importance of diction, and a vote in favor of pee-an-ist. On to semantics…

Pianist vs. Collaborative Pianist

I consider “collaborative pianist” to be a more specific description of what I do. It’s like telling someone you’re a novelist or a journalist vs. telling them you’re a writer. Granted, not everyone knows what a collaborative pianist is. The Collaborative Piano Blog has a good straightforward definition:

Collaborative Piano is a term used to denote a field of the piano profession where a pianist works in collaboration with one or more instrumentalists, singers, dancers, or other artists.

The need for such specificity depends on the context and whom I’m talking to. When then dentist asks me what I do for a living, “pianist” (or “piahith”) is just fine.

Accompanist vs. Pianist

Some pianists are offended by the term “accompanist,” because it implies a secondary or subservient status. I personally care a lot more about how I’m treated than what you call me. I’m very fortunate to work with faculty who respect my skills and treat me as a colleague. Musicians often don’t realize the value of a competent accompanist until they’ve worked with a bad one.

In programs, I prefer to be listed as “Eileen Huang, pianist” or “Eileen Huang, piano.” Everyone else gets their instrument listed — why not me?

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