A pianist at a school with twelve billion singers can reasonably expect to accompany a fair amount. A pianist at a school with twelve billion singers and approximately two other pianists can reasonably expect to vomit forth accompaniment like a geyser full of ipecac.
Accompanists are the prostitutes of the music department. We ply our trade in dark, private rooms. We sell our skills for money or favors. Our trade has multiple dimensions: some accompanists, with advanced degrees or experience and technical command, are the high-class call girls of the musical world, working for a selective clientele and advertised almost exclusively by word of mouth (me). Others are common, desperate streetwalkers, playing anything thrown in front of them for any money they can get (…also me, actually). We charge in different ways: sometimes, clients pay by the hour; sometimes, by the act. We work very hard to stay with the client; we must always start and finish together. Sometimes those exhausting, late-night private rehearsals are the most productive. And anything that involves an audience will cost you a lot more.
One of my favorite times of year is jury time (sort of a “final exam” performance for those taking private lessons). Every singer in the music building – roughly thirty-five scrillion, by my last estimate – needs an accompanist, every semester, music major or not. I can make a killing. My personal best is thirty juries in a span of three days. I was saving up for spring break in Hawaii – and I succeeded, with money to spare – but UFF DA that was rough. Even with the promise of sandy beaches, peacocks and kayaking among sea turtles (I’m not even shitting you, the turtles almost toppled my kayak), that was still a metric ass-ton of music and I almost choked on it.
Getting paid is, of course, the most comforting part of juries. And even that is entertaining. The little freshmen will inevitably walk up and hand me a white envelope full of cash. Apparently I’m not only a hooker, but also a dealer. GOD I LOVE MY JOB.
Anyway, please remember to respect, love, and affectionately hug your accompanist on a regular basis. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. After all, it is the world’s oldest profession.