A Life of a Collaborative Pianist 5/25/10

May 26, 2010

I have been performing with so many different musicians since my performing arts high-school years in Tokyo. Pianists who play with other musicians used to be called “accompanists”, but in recent years, we are called “collaborative pianists”. It is an excellent renaming. We play music together. Many music schools and conservatories have a separate study for collaborative piano besides solo piano.

My life as a collaborative pianist started when I was studying at Tokyo Metropolitan High School for Performing and Visual Arts. This school was an excellent place for me. It had only 6 classes for grades 10-12, one music class and one visual arts class for each grade. My class mates were many pianists, some violinists, one french horn player, some singers, some composers, and future musicologists. So it was very natural to play with friends for fun. And I often had a moonlighting in the evening. I was asked to accompany with “poem reading”. I could play anything I liked to go along with the poems. I improvised.

I attended at Toho Conservatory as a piano performance major. This school was also excellent and gave me a lot of opportunity. My collaborative life was expanded during Toho years. I met so many wonderful friends at school with a diverse of instruments. It was so fun to discover a new repertoire with different instruments, especially violin, flute and brass area. My piano professor was not happy that I spent hours with non-piano solo pieces, but I had a great time. He did not know I am a quite good sight-reader! Besides performing with different instruments, I was a pianist in Seizi Ozawa’s conducting class. I learned to read symphony scores with other pianist. One pianist reads the string section, and other reads the rest. Together, we learned Brahms and Beethoven symphonies.

After I came to the US for further piano studies, I got a job at High School for Performing and Visual Arts in Houston as a collaborative pianist. This school is very close to Rice University where I was working toward D. M. A., and I went back and forth between 2 locations. High-school job as a collaborative pianist gave me H1 visa. I worked with basically everybody, choirs, instrumentalists and singers. At this performing arts school, I expanded my repertoire in vocal area, playing Broadway style to jazz pieces, German, Italian, American and French songs, and the choir music. Also, I started to collaborate with orchestra musicians and professional singers in Houston. In daily basis, I accompanied students for their competitions and concerts.

I moved to LA in 2000. I got an opportunity to play one excellent brass player and that led to play with so many brass players in following years. I have learned extensive brass repertoire since then. In this spring I have performed with 8 different brass players. Recently, I performed 2 flute recitals, and one recital included Dutilleux sonatine for flute and piano which I performed when I was in Toho Conservatory. Wonderful memory came back to me. When I learned it for the first time, I fell in love with this piece. Music I played in the past stays in me with unforgettable memory. My husband is a cellist so I am known to be a cello pianist. I know basically all of cello pieces. For chamber music, I have performed major piano trios and quartets, and other chamber music forms involves piano, Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Schumann, Mendelssohn. I love chamber music.

Of course, I should have listened to my piano professor at Toho Conservatory to focus on piano solo repertoire (I performed 3 solo recitals this spring!). But I have had a great pleasure to explore and to learn new chamber music repertoire, to meet new musicians, and to exchange jokes during the rehearsals. I have shared many performances with so many wonderful musicians. And most importantly, I have been making a living as a performer because of my collaborative work. I am looking forward to collaborating with many more musicians.

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