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Posted by on Aug 29, 2013 in Articles, new articles | 2 comments

Just Don’t Call Me a Penis/Quiz: Are You an Accompanist Abuser?

Just Don’t Call Me a Penis/Quiz: Are You an Accompanist Abuser?

Today’s feature posts come from one of our new favorite blogs, Eileen Huang’s “100 Days as a Musician.” Be sure to peruse her site for more fun and informative thoughts on life as a working musician and collaborator.

by Eileen Huang (Posted on March 12, 2011)


In high school, a classmate who was introducing me on stage said, “Eileen Huang is a pianist,” pronouncing “pianist” with an accent on the first syllable: pee-a-nist. Unfortunately he didn’t enunciate the “t,” and everyone in the audience had a good laugh.

Let that be a lesson to everyone on the importance of diction, and a vote in favor of pee-an-ist. On to semantics…

Pianist vs. Collaborative Pianist

I consider “collaborative pianist” to be a more specific description of what I do. It’s like telling someone you’re a novelist or a journalist vs. telling them you’re a writer. Granted, not everyone knows what a collaborative pianist is. The Collaborative Piano Blog has a good straightforward definition:

Collaborative Piano is a term used to denote a field of the piano profession where a pianist works in collaboration with one or more instrumentalists, singers, dancers, or other artists.

The need for such specificity depends on the context and whom I’m talking to. When then dentist asks me what I do for a living, “pianist” (or “piahith”) is just fine.

Accompanist vs. Pianist

Some pianists are offended by the term “accompanist,” because it implies a secondary or subservient status. I personally care a lot more about how I’m treated than what you call me. I’m very fortunate to work with faculty who respect my skills and treat me as a colleague. Musicians often don’t realize the value of a competent accompanist until they’ve worked with a bad one.

In programs, I prefer to be listed as “Eileen Huang, pianist” or “Eileen Huang, piano.” Everyone else gets their instrument listed — why not me?

QUIZ: ARE YOU AN ACCOMPANIST ABUSER? (Posted on February 10, 2011)

I usually hand my pianist:
a) Double-sided copies, three-hole punched in a black binder.
b) Single-sided copies, maybe a little faded.
c) A copy in the wrong key. It’s not hard to transpose, right?

The last bass line on the page is:
a) Fully legible in all its harmonic glory.
b) Missing some low notes that got cut off.
c) My pianist should be able to improvise the bass line, dammit.

I give my pianist her part:
a) As soon as I start working on a piece.
b) Three to four weeks before the performance.
c) The day before, if she’s lucky. Don’t I pay her to sight read?

Last time I needed my pianist to sight read contemporary music, I:
a) Would never do such a thing!
b) Apologized profusely and thanked her for trying.
c) Asked what was with all the wrong notes.

I typically indicate my desired tempo by:
a) Singing/playing a few bars.
b) Humming somewhat halfheartedly.
c) Snapping my fingers with no resemblance to the actual tempo.

If I can’t make a rehearsal, I:
a) Email, call, text, and send smoke signals at least 24 hours in advance.
b) Send a last-minute email and pay the pianist’s fee.
c) Don’t show up and pretend it never happened.

And now for the results…

If your answers are mostly a’s:
You’re a saint. Your pianist thanks you for being a wonderful colleague and hopefully rewards your efforts with extra preparation, flexibility, and musicality.

If your answers are mostly b’s:
You’re a typical musician. You might be too busy to take the extra step or two, but you’re generally pleasant to work with.

If your answers are mostly c’s:
Leave your name and number. I’m calling the Accompanist Abuse Hotline.


Pianist and soprano Eileen Huang has performed at Alice Tully Hall, Boston Symphony Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Aspen Music Festival, and the Tanglewood Music Festival.

Eileen is a graduate of The Juilliard School and MIT. As a member of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, she performs regularly with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops.

Eileen currently resides in Somerville, MA with her husband.

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  1. Great quiz! I have one objection, though–as a pianist, I greatly prefer single-sided copies because they give me control over where my page turns happen. I can simply lay my pages flat, or I can bind them together in a folder with as many as 4 pages across in order to facilitate/minimize turns. I certainly appreciate people handing me double-sided pages, as it shows me that they’re being considerate, but that practice can cause more problems for me.

  2. Thanks, Evan! This is great insight.

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