The underappreciated art of accompanying
From recitals to juries to seminar performances to practice, Luther student accompanists are often taken for granted, but any soloist will tell you how important a good accompanist is to success as a musician at Luther.
“I think accompanying is a good way for students to make extra money and get extra practice,” singer Andrew Tjossem (‘13) said. “I certainly appreciate my accompanist.”
Student accompanist Evan Mitchell (‘14) started playing piano at age six. He began accompanying for his church in high school.
“My favorite part about accompanying is being able to help a musician by providing a musical context,” Mitchell said. “Most piano scores are orchestral reductions, and I love being able to be a background orchestra for a performer. In that same vein, that’s why I enjoy page-turning so much; seeing the music and how the music is interpreted by a musician is just really enjoyable for me.”
Sophia Huang (‘14) has been playing piano since the age of six. In fifth grade, when her twin sister began playing flute, she became an accompanist by default.
“My favorite part about accompanying is getting to know wonderful people and making great music with them,” Huang said.
Being a good accompanist is more than just playing piano well; it requires an extra skill set of sensitivity and the ability to collaborate with soloists.
“Accompanying soloists is different from playing solo piano because you must be aware of the soloist at all times and follow their lead,” Huang said. “In solo piano, you don’t have to worry about anyone but yourself.”
This time of the year can be especially stressful for accompanists since it is the time leading up to juries for music lessons and also one of the biggest junior and senior recital times of the year.
“I think one of the most stressful parts of an accompanists’ semester is his first two weeks and his last two,” Mitchell said. “When people are scrambling to find an accompanist and reserving a time for me to come in for their lessons always gets tight, and juries are just as hectic.”
Jordan Buchholtz (‘13) has been playing piano since the age of nine. She started accompanying soloists and playing for church services
“Playing for juries is the least stressful part, it’s leading up to them which is the busiest and most stressful,” Buchholtz said. “I would say the same thing about recitals. Yet all the stress is worth the outcome of playing for juries and recitals.”
An essential part of being an accompanist is being organized and working around schedules trying to find practice, lesson and jury times.
“Juries are an adrenaline-filled week, but controlling the traffic of when your musician performs is what accompanists do,” Mitchell said. “I’m all right with that.”
Though managing time can be a stressful part of accompanying, Mitchell, Huang and Buchholtz express joy at being able to collaborate with other musicians.
“I would have to say the best part is the feeling you get while performing and the special moments when the music and performers come together perfectly and we find ourselves portraying and interpreting the composer’s music to the audience the best way we can,” Buchholtz said.