How to provide awesome photocopies for your accompanist (Part 1)

I can usually play an entire day of vocal auditions and encounter only one or two singers who don’t provide music in a binder. Loose pages can fall off the piano, and books rarely lie flat, so binders are ideal.

Pro tip: If you frequently use an anthology book, I highly recommend taking it to a copy shop and having them replace the glue binding with a spiral binding. My shop does it for under $3.

Laying out pages to minimize page turns is by no means necessary, but if you’re striving for a perfect audition, it’s one detail you can take care of with minimal effort. You know what they say: “Happy accompanist, happy life!” (OK, I made that up.)

Two pages

Lay out pages side-by-side, not back-to-back. You laugh, but it’s

Three pages

Tape pages 2 and 3 together with scotch

Four pages

There are two possibilities for four-page pieces. The first option eliminates page turns entirely, but occasionally this layout doesn’t work if: a) the music stand isn’t wide enough, typically on an upright piano, or b) the piece requires playing at the extreme ends of the

The second option is acceptable as well. Pages 2 and 3 should be double-sided or taped together. how-to-copy4

Five+ pages

Anything more than four pages should be

Stay tuned for Part 2: The best way to mark cuts!

Giving vocal advice as an accompanist or coach

A colleague of mine asked me recently if I ever give vocal advice to singers during rehearsals, since I’m also a singer.

Generally speaking, I do not. Vocal technique is the realm of the voice teacher, who has more training, experience, and a greater understanding of each student’s vocal progress than I. I will occasionally comment on basic principles, for example, “You’re slouching,” or “Your shoulders are rising when you take a breath.” Beyond that, although I definitely have ideas and opinions, I run a risk of saying something contrary to what the student has learned or introducing a concept that the student isn’t vocally ready to approach.

I do accompany students of two voice teachers whom I’ve personally studied with, and whose lesson I attend weekly. When I’m rehearsing with these students, I’m more comfortable speaking up if the student reaches a technical impasse. Instead of tackling how to fix something, I remind them of what they already worked on at their lesson. “Remember you worked on that vowel last week?” “What are you supposed to do when you sing that interval?” “No sausages!” Consider me a glorified Post-it note.

Thus far I haven’t had any conflicts with students or their teachers, so I think I’m adequately treading the line between pianist/coach and teacher. Although I need to be wary of when to bite my tongue, being a singer helps me truly enjoy collaborating with singers.

Good times with Opera on Tap

Last Saturday was my first gig as pianist for Opera on Tap, a national non-profit organization that brings opera to a bar near you. I wasn’t sure what to expect: Would the restaurant be too noisy? Would anyone listen? Could we compete with the Olympics?

Naturally, food, drinks, and music make a winning combination. For me, the evening was a fun way to learn a wide range of vocal repertoire, particularly musical theater, which I don’t often play. For singers, Opera on Tap is a great way to:

  • Practice audition pieces in a no-pressure environment
  • Sing music outside of one’s usual repertoire or Fach
  • Try new pieces with a pianist for free
  • Perform, have fun, and interact with the audience!

The restaurant patrons seemed pleasantly surprised and genuinely entertained. I particularly enjoyed witnessing several powerhouse soprano moments that turned heads as much as the nail-biting gymnastics routines being projected on the big screen.

Here’s our set list from July 28:

Je veux vivre from Roméo et Juliette (Gounod)
What a movie! from Trouble in Tahiti (Bernstein)
In quelle trine morbide from Manon Lescaut (Puccini)
Poor wand’ring one from The Pirates of Penzance (Sullivan)
Vodka (Gershwin)
Dich, teure Halle from Tannhauser (Wagner)
I could have danced all night from My Fair Lady (Loewe)
Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiss from Giuditta (Lehár)
Quando men vo from La Bohème (Puccini)
Sull’aria from Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart)
Unusual Way from Nine (Yeston)
Du bist der Lenz from Die Walküre (Wagner)
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love from Paris (Porter)
Il est doux, il est bon from Hérodiade (Massenet)
Girls of Summer from Marry Me a Little (Sondheim)
Too Darn Hot from Kiss Me, Kate (Porter)
Summertime from Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
O mio babbino caro from Gianni Schicchi (Puccini)
La vie en rose (Louiguy)
Dream with me from Peter Pan (Bernstein)
Can’t help lovin’ dat man from Show Boat (Kern)
Ain’t it a pretty night from Susannah (Floyd)

Featured singers: Katrina Holden, Heather Krane, Kathryn McKellar, Rachele Schmiege, Jenny Searles, Kristina Riegle, and Amanda Villegas.

Opera on Tap Boston’s next performance is Saturday, August 11 from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. at Jacob Wirth’s.