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Accompanists: Why should my school hire an Accompanist?



Listers,

Thank you to all who shared ideas and information. I know that these ideas
will all prove helpful to my presentation to the schoolboard. Hopefully,
many of you who emailed me with similar interests will find them helpful to
your program. If anyone else would like to add to this compilation, email
me and I will post those as well.

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A colleague of mine just had a similar situation and his argument was that
expecting a choral music teacher to play, or not have a piano all the time
is kind of like asking an English teacher to type the books they are
teaching while they're teaching them or to have to recite them from memory.

Here is a suggestion in case the school board won't pay. At my
schools, middle and high school, the site councils pay for the
accompanist. You might consider putting a proposal in to them.

Do they have assistant football coaches? Paid? Same deal.

The main reason why you need an accompanist is the fact it is educationally
superior for a chorus to learn to follow direction from the director. This
cannot be done in 1 or 2 rehearsals but needs daily development. Choral
conducting at its best is free and open to nuance, imagination, etc.
Excellent choruses train to follow and musically collaborate with the
conductor.
Musical excellence is at stake.

List the position as a "Technical Assistant" , not a para-professional. No
one else in the building has the technical expertise needed to do this job.
If your enrollment is high enough they should see that this is much less
expensive than another "teacher" would be. Perhaps tie the position to some
clerical, bookkeeping, library duties.

I have been wishing for this for the last sixteen years but we keep
losing teachers and aids in the various cutbacks. Fortunately, I have
been blessed by friends who love to do the major comps on which my choirs
thrive so they come to work with us and I give them what amounts to travel
money for the concert. This is not the answer to you problem, I know but
my players come for Carmina Burana, King David, The Blessed Damoiselle. My
previous gigs in Indianapolis and in various colleges had full time
accompanists or I had students who did necessarily want to sing willing to
play; but the repetoire brings my players in.
As ammunition, I liken conducting a choir from behind a piano as being
like teaching a gym class from the locker room.
You are lucky to have your principal behind you. Mine is certainly
sympathetic but in the face of years of staff cuts, this is just not going
to happen. Would this accompanist be a full time/part time certified
teacher or a classroom aid? If certified, could this accompanist/teacher
teach Music Theory, provide music therapy for special ed (ie a dually
certified teacher/music therapist with piano chops, music appreciation,
etc? Do you actually have a player available to play full time? My players
all have day jobs (Church Musicians) or their own after school studios.
This is not the info you wanted, perhaps, but this is how I have solved
my accompanist problems and i am still campaigning for the teacher/music
therapist which, through government/special education funds, could help
pay the bill and, perhaps sweeten the deal for the school board.

In our district we have accompanists at both middle schools and the high
school. They are paid as classroom aides (which may be a description your
board understands). In this area that is about $13 a period. No benefits. We
are negotiating to have them come on board as fully recompensed staff,
similar to the tutors we employ.

Hi, I've taught for years and finally with a mixed high school chorus of 120
students I suggested to my superintendent that if he really wanted this
program to continue growing that I needed an accompanist full time. I
suggested that the basketball and football couches were not required to hold
a ball during games or practices, therefore why would I be expected to be
"trapped" behind the piano given the number of students I was dealing with
at one time. Anyway, it worked but I now have new administrators and must
start the process all over again.

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Chris Clift
cliftmaestro(a)chartertn.net