Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Case for Live Accompaniment

I've been accompanying young musicians for some intermediate school competitions over the last few weeks, playing the same piano parts several times in a day. Some students choose to use a CD accompaniment, perhaps for a variety of reasons. The CD is predictable and consistent. They may have practiced many times over with the recording. The CD doesn't cost them anything additional to show up at the competition.

A live accompanist is an asset, though, as many teachers point out in their letters to parents. A live pianist can follow a student who rushes ahead or holds a note too long. A live accompanist can adjust the balance of the instruments more effectively. And a live accompanist can provide feedback in a rehearsal. But I've been thinking today about what I get out of it.

Sure, I get paid. It's not enough to call it a second job, but it is a little extra to help out with infestation recuperation. In truth, it's not enough money to be worth the effort by itself. What I have concluded is that it is a matter of connection.

Music was initially designed to communicate and to connect people. And we still use it for the same purposes. Alan Merriam's list aside, people value music because of its ability to connect us to one another, to our beliefs, to our history, to nature, even to God. Music connects us to distant times and cultures as well as to the world around us right this moment. And although we can get some of that impact from a recording, live music is exponentially more connecting.

I still believe that musicians should get paid, don't get me wrong. But the real payoff is in the opportunity to connect with one another and to communicate through the music. It's what makes the difference between an accurate performance and a truly beautiful one. It's the part of music that can't be as easily taught in a classroom. That what I get to be a part of. No wonder I get such a kick out of it.

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