The Royal College’s Piano Accompaniment Programs Have Been Renamed as Collaborative Piano Programs

Starting this summer, the Royal College of Music’s Piano Accompaniment Programs will be renamed as collaborative piano, the first program in Britain to use this term for a graduate program. The change to the collaborative piano nomenclature is already up on the keyboard department website.

From a recent press release on the name change:

Students on the RCM’s robust Masters in Collaborative Piano course receive two years of training, developing a broad knowledge of the instrumental duo, chamber and song repertoire as well as being introduced to the skills needed to become a répetiteur, ballet pianist, continuo player, orchestral pianist or vocal coach.

Kudos go to Simon Lepper and the Royal College for making this name change. It will be interesting to see if other programs across Britain follow suit.  If you’re interested in more information about the Royal College’s collaborative piano programs, email Simon Lepper at simon dot lepper [at] rcm dot ac dot uk.

(Thanks Simon!)

Photo by Grace Kang on Unsplash

from The Collaborative Piano Blog


This week’s ear-catcher: “Stay Loose and Keep Moving!”

There were a pile-up of competing events to fill a blog feature, but only one stole the show:

Amidst a sweltering East Coast heat wave, harpsichordist friend, Elaine Comparone, messaged a BBC link to an astounding display of age-defying virtuosity.

At her piano in Paris, 103-year old, French pianist, “Colette,” played mellifluous Debussy, “moving” gracefully across the keyboard with supple wrists through the composer’s Reflets Dans L’eau. It was a bountiful sharing of immaculate artistry wedded to the pianist’s philosophy-framed musings about the piano, and its inalterable “faithfulness.” With her keen mind and whimsical personality, she juxtaposed men as unreliable while affirming a life of soaring soul and spirit emanating from the keyboard.

Recently Colette released her fourth album dedicated to Claude Debussy on the occasion of the centenary of his death, while also offering performances by Federico Mompou, Astor Piazzolla and Alberto Ginastera.

Biography (WIKI)
“Colette Maze was born June 16, 1914 in Paris, to a family of the upper middle class; she played piano from 5 years old. At the age of 15, she entered the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris, where she studied with Alfred Cortot and Nadia Boulanger.

“She became a piano teacher, a profession she practiced all her life.

“At 103, she still plays the piano, to maintain her memory she says.”

More astounding samples of Colette’s pianism.

There are no English subtitles for Maze’s narrative in the first video below, but her playing speaks for itself– characterized by an effusion of floating arms and relaxed “movement.” In Colette’s own words, “Stay loose and keep moving.”

A “dance-like” relationship to the piano with imbued tonal nuance draw out beautifully choreographed lines.

Flexibility is at the core of Colette’s technique with a natural unfolding of phrases. She lets the music and its direction guide the ears, hands, supple wrists, and arms in seamless unity.

Debussy Ondine

from Arioso7’s Blog (Shirley Kirsten)

Degree Programs: Anne Kissel on SUNY Fredonia’s new Master of Music in Collaborative Piano

Today’s submission from the ongoing series about degree programs in collaborative piano comes from Dr. Anne Kissel, who created the new Master of Music program in Collaborative Piano at SUNY Fredonia


If you are looking for a small, intensive, and supportive environment for your master’s level studies in collaborative piano, I invite you to take a look at the Fredonia School of Music. Nestled among the grape vineyards south of Buffalo, New York, Fredonia is a small, primarily undergraduate institution with a large and internationally recognized music program. Our collaborative piano students have the opportunity to build a diverse skill set, playing for singers, instrumentalists, large ensembles, and opera, while exploring coursework in chamber music and song literature, diction, and opera coaching. Our studio’s small size enables me as your instructor to mentor the many aspects of your development. That means sometimes sitting in on rehearsals, supporting you as you learn to build strong and respectful professional relationships, carefully monitoring your workload so that you have time to practice and grow, and extra coaching when you need it, as well as the possibility of tailoring your work to encompass your specific interests. 

Our performance faculty is exceptional, and are wonderfully supportive of our student pianists. But perhaps the greatest strength of the program is the quality of our student collaborators. Our collaborative pianists partner with our very top singers and instrumentalists, many of whom have gone on to highly successful careers as performers. Fredonia has many grads who are currently living and working in NYC, and there is an active alumni network there, which is an asset when looking for freelance employment post-graduation. 

We have a small number of assistantships and scholarships to offer, which combined with our relatively low tuition, makes for a very affordable masters degree. Our degree program is relatively new, and it boasts a small (but mighty!) group of alumni who have worked/are working as freelance accompanists in NYC, Buffalo, Fredonia, and for regional opera companies nationwide, and also one holding a teaching position at a college in China. 

I’m always happy to field your questions via email, or meet with you in person if you’d like to visit our campus. Or check out the following links:

I look forward to hearing from you!

from The Collaborative Piano Blog

Two Piano Teachers on common ground with a Bi-Coastal twist

A few years ago, I received an instant message from piano teacher, Gail Trattner Isenberg, a member of FACEBOOK’s Art of Piano Pedagogy group and an avowed blog follower. Though we’d been “distant” cyber contacts, linked by common URLs, Gail’s text, that bubbled with enthusiasm in its introduction, had rapidly erupted into a full blown Shrinking Degrees of Separation blast from the Past. As segue way to a kickstart set of texts that increased in volume and velocity, Gail unraveled a bi-Coastal emigration that had both of us relocating in opposite directions. While I’d landed in Berkeley, having spent 30 native years in New York City, Gail had been comfortably nestled in “hometown” Berkeley before she and her family relocated to White Plains, New York. If such a paradoxical criss-cross of the map was enough to compel a deeper “bond” between us, what gushed out over weeks and months, was both daunting and ironic–drawing two lives even closer.

Gail, having the keen eye of a private investigator, had spotted her White Plains pal, Eda Friendlander Klinger on my Facebook Friends list, fleshing out still another common tie. Eda, who had been my sixth grade chum at P.S. 122 in the Bronx, appeared in my Class picture that I’d posted on social media.

“Jody Wise,” an Oberlin Conservatory classmate during my years as a Performance Major, was Gail’s duo piano partner in New York.

Naturally through decades of private teaching, performing, and playing chamber music, Gail and I had shared a common journey with a steadfast devotion to mentoring. In her capacity as a piano teacher, Gail was a faculty member of UC Berkeley’s Music Department, and the Hoff-Barthelson Music School in Scarsdale, New York while I established teaching studios during my years in New York City, and Berkeley. (Add in a Central Valley stint.)

As a seasoned private teacher in White Plains, Gail’s sterling reputation had cloaked her for decades.

A biographical snatch:

Trattner Isenberg graduated U.C. Berkeley with two Bachelor’s Degrees: in English (Creative Writing) and Music. One of her teachers, Adolph Baller was Yehudi Menuhin’s accompanist, who often played without music. (Baller had fled the Nazi’s and eventually settled in Palo Alto.)

Here’s a 1947 performance clip of Menuhin and Baller.

Gail gave kudos as well to her teacher, Barbara Shearer, a Berkeley-based pianist who was married to composer and singer, Alan Shearer.

As an East Bay resident, Trattner Isenberg performed extensively as soloist, duo pianist, and chamber player, reinforcing her UC Berkeley bond through appearances at Hertz Hall.


Given Gail’s well-respected and enduring teaching career, I asked her to answer a few questions pertinent to the art of mentoring.

1) When did you start teaching piano? And can you describe your earliest students?

I began teaching at age 24 in Berkeley. My first students were very interesting, sophisticated children of university professors. I also had some graduate music students who needed secondary piano. I loved being part of a university community.

2) What is your all-embracing teaching philosophy? And what are your biggest challenges in the pedagogical cosmos?

I guess my all-embracing philosophy is that I do not use a cookie-cutter approach to students. I try to address their individual needs at all times.

My biggest challenges today are competing with the busy schedules of overbooked students almost across the board, as well as very little practice by many students. I want every student to feel she/he is progressing and I try to stay positive with each student. This is enormously challenging and can be frustrating.

3) What approach do you use for beginning students and what materials do you recommend?

For beginning students, I try to work on developing the ear and technique before plunging into reading. I like to begin with fingers 2, 3, and 4. This is something I have begun to do over the last few years and have been influenced by some fine teachers on the Facebook page “The Art of Piano Pedagogy.” It has helped me rethink the way I approach teaching beginning technique. I also teach rote pieces in the beginning, from Solo Flight by Elvina Pearce, and Little Gems for Piano by Paula Dreyer, plus other rote pieces I keep in a file. In the first few months I also do a lot of pre-reading from method books. I have the students improvise as well, although I do not feel this is one of my biggest strengths. I’m trying to improve in this area. I do not have a favorite method book series, but I tend to combine my favorite aspects of several methods and also teach landmark notes once the staff is introduced. I do emphasize reading in general, and try very hard to help each student become a good reader.


In conclusion, this posting must memorialize the two-way bi-coastal meet ups that eclipsed all social media interactions between Gail and me.

In June 2015, upon my landing in New York City for a family event, I had scheduled a side trip to Faust Harrison Pianos in New York to explore its rebuilding department. As follow-up to my Manhattan touchdown, co-owner, Sara Faust invited me to the factory and showroom in White Plains where I captured footage of the various stages of renovation.

Little did I know that the day I’d arrived by Metro in Westchester, I would bump into Gail with her brood of private students in recital at Faust Harrison. Naturally, a photo op was not squandered!

The opening header photo to this blog, captures our spontaneous get together here in Berkeley on Monday, June 25, 2018. (If home is where your heart is, then Gail might lay claim to an overlap of fondness for two “nesting” grounds)

It was uncanny that Gail had texted me, in a full circle impromptu recapitulation of our first meeting through Facebook. She had just made a stop-off at Hertz Hall, during her East Bay visit,

…before she’d wound her way to bordering Albany. In a matter of minutes Gail was in my neighborhood sipping tea with me at Cafe Roma. (short notice, but it worked!)

With boundaries of cyber fading right before our eyes, we savored a delicious face-to-face conversation in real time without a hitch! Gail later texted me that we should do this more often. I couldn’t agree more!


from Arioso7’s Blog (Shirley Kirsten)

Degree Programs: Rachel Fuller on the University of Auckland

A few days ago, I put out a call for students, grads, and faculty of collaborative piano programs to talk about their programs from their own perspective, and what it can offer the very large number of potential students who are interested in applying during the coming year. 

The first submission is from Rachel Fuller, who is on the faculty at the University of Auckland School of Music in New Zealand. Feel free to contact Rachel with any questions that you might have about the program. 
Here at the University of Auckland in New Zealand we are also training collaborative pianists to posess a broad range of skills and prepare them for careers in multiple areas of collaboration. 

I am very proud to head up a programme designed to progressively develop collaborative skills in our young pianists throughout their undergraduate study. At honours level (4th year) and at masters level they can specialise in collaborative piano alone or combine it with pedagogy and/or solo studies and/or chamber music.  I currently have a masters pianist focused on developing répétiteur skills as well as vocal coaching skills. I have an honours student developing the skills to become a Music Theatre M.D. and another specialises in string acoompanying. These young collaborative pianists are taking an instantly active role in the community as young professionals well before they have graduated and that to me is very exciting. Our community needs pianists who know how to collaborate with skill and knowledge.  

We welcome young pianists with a view to developing their collaborative skills.  And when you’ve finished rehearsals then the beach is just down the road! It’s a wonderful life here in Auckland. Come and see for yourself. Haere mai – Welcome.

from The Collaborative Piano Blog

Call for Faculty, Alumni, and Current Students of Collaborative Piano Programs: What Makes Your Program Worthwhile?

Over the last few months, I’ve been receiving a lot of input regarding the types of articles that readers would like on the Collaborative Piano Blog. By far, the biggest number of requests have been for recommendations for the most worthwhile collaborative piano programs in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

To put it bluntly, there are a lot of very fine young pianists who are interested in applying for collaborative piano programs in the coming year, but are having difficulty navigating the huge amount of information available on the internet. Finding the right school can be a career-defining choice, and if you’ve associated or have ever been associated with a collaborative piano program this is a great way for you get the word out, both from faculty, your current students, and alumni. I’ll figure out a publishing schedule once I start receiving submissions. 
Here are some things you can write about in your submissions – these can be tailored from the point of view of faculty, current students, or past students in a program:
  • What makes/made your collaborative piano program meaningful and worthwhile in terms of your artistic development?
  • How did the specialization/generalization of the program help to build your skill set?
  • How did the size of the school of music (large or small) help to create a worthwhile experience?
  • What was it like working with faculty in your program?
  • What was it like collaborating with singers and instrumentalists in the program?
  • What kind of work is available for graduate/teaching assistantships?
  • What are some of your most memorable experiences?
  • How did your program help with getting you work in the profession?

How to send your submissions

Please submit your submissions to collaborativepiano [at] gmail dot com in the body of an email, with all formatting (including hyperlinks) already done.  Please do not send PDF, Word, or Pages files, as these take forever to transfer the formatting to html. 
Please DO send the following:
  • hyperlinked text to relevant pages on your university website, YouTube videos about your program, or your own website
  • images
  • honest, first-person language about what the program means to you
  • multiple submissions if you’ve attended more than one program and would like to talk about all of them
  • links to your own current projects/employment if you’re a student or alumni
Please DO NOT:
  • put me on your university’s mailing list
  • get Marketing to do your submissions
  • send press releases
  • send submissions about non-collaborative piano programs
  • send negative information about programs you’ve attended
A huge thanks to the folks who suggested this idea and I look forward to posting lots of submissions over the coming weeks and months!
(Photo by Ryan Jacobson on Unsplash)

from The Collaborative Piano Blog

Type Out IPA Symbols with TypeIt

For those of us in the voice teaching and vocal coaching business, knowing the International Phonetic Alphabet is an essential part of understanding, talking about, and imparting the correct sounds of any language. But when we’re at the computer, we often need a much wider set of symbols beyond the standard Mac and Windows shortcuts. Enter TypeIt, a handy site that allows you to quickly type out phonetic symbols in IPA! This is a godsend for those of us who need to type out IPA for class work, research, vocal pedagogy, or examining. Just type out the correct sequence of symbols that you need, cut and paste, and you’re in business. On my voice exam routes last month in Alberta, PEI, and Nova Scotia, I always had a browser tab with TypeIt open, and this allowed me to quickly add the correct IPA symbols to my exam commentary for the benefit of students and teachers.

The default TypeIt page goes to the IPA English set. However, in the voice biz we’re going to need English, French, Italian, and German at the very least. Therefore, I recommend that you bookmark the full IPA symbol set, with symbols across every language and easily accessible keyboard shortcuts (hover over a symbol to see it).

So the next time you’re trying to win an online flame war about the correct German pronunciation of “nicht”, you can easily enter either [nɪçt] or [niʃt] and prove your case.*


* The former is correct, in spite of several famous singers utilizing the latter (probably regional) pronunciation, particularly Wunderlich. A more reasonable explanation lies in the fact that idiomatic speakers aren’t linguists, and that the pure vowels of the IPA don’t always correspond to the exact vowels spoken by people of a specific region. For example, three North American pronouncing “back” will insist that they’re saying the purest vowel, even though a Rochesterian will pronounce it [bek], a Hamiltonian the much darker [bɑk], and most other North Americans [bæk] (Southerners will even diphthongize or even triphthongize the vowel). Such are the vagaries of phonetic linguistics in the field of lyric diction.

from The Collaborative Piano Blog