Saturday, March 13, 2010

How NOT to treat your pianist!

Saturday musings...

Singers learn by example - and by doing. As teachers, we are being watched very carefully - consciously or unconsciously or subconsciously - and how we work with our pianists is passed on...

I have spoken to several colleagues about this over the last 20 years. I began supporting myself as a pianist - in studio, in performance, in dance classes and I know the amazing work pianists do and are just not acknowledged for.

This topic came up again from a colleague of mine, and I want to thank him for his candidness!!

Pianists can make or break you. They can save your ass or kick your ass. As singers, and as teachers of singing, we have to be so much more AWARE and PRESENT in how we treat our pianists.

Ultimately, we need to respect the pianist's TIME. I have said this over and over - I cannot put a monetary value on my expertise, but I can decide what my TIME is worth. So can a pianist.


If they are making TIME for your studio/your lesson/your coaching - take it SERIOUSLY!!! Do not assume that they will just be able to drop everything and make major shifts with no notice, no discussion. This is highly disrespectful, and it shows an ultimate disregard for the worth of your pianist's time and expertise. This says MUCH about the person behaving this way.

Your pianist's time is just as important and valued as yours. Do not devalue it. Your reputation will proceed you, and suddenly you may find yourself in a position of not being able to find a competent pianist who has time for you. Pianists talk to each other - and our world is small. Don't sabotage yourself, nor your studio, nor your reputation by not being aware of your behavior!!!

If a pianist is required to be anywhere - their time must be compensated. If the schedule changes and the pianist is there and not used - he/she is STILL PAID FOR HIS/HER TIME!!!!

I cannot stand teachers who are so self-involved they do not realize the pianist they have "hired" has other things to do and not just play for their studio!!! This is beyond excuses!! GROW UP! Singers, you too!!! Your pianist isn't just "yours"!!! You are paying for his/her time and that time is valuable - to alot of people not just you!!! You have no business making changes last minute and expecting your pianist to just come along for the ride.

Giving respect gets you respect. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Simple life skills that will get you far in MANY ways, not just with your pianist!

When you begin to to work with a pianist, your time isn't just yours. Your time is now collaborating with your pianist's. If your time is important to you, why wouldn't your pianist's time be important to him/her?

I would think this would be common sense, however, I am seeing more and more how uncommon just basic respect is. This is sad and disgusts me.

If singers are in a studio where the teacher disrespects the pianist and or treats the pianist's time with disregard, the singers learns to do this too. THIS IS WRONG!!!!

Learn to see outside yourself and how your "support team" matters in your world!! Treat them with respect. Treat them how they wish to be treated. They do not ask for the sun and the moon. They ask to be paid for their time, paid on time and given enough notice if changes occur.

Our world is fluid as singers - and pianists know that. However, their TIME must be respected as you are not the only thing in THEIR lives!! They know things can change, and are willing to work with you if they are given the respect first.

Just as a teacher as a cancellation/change policy to respect THEIR schedule, so teachers and singers must recognize their pianist needs that same respect. It's not as if they have nothing else to DO!

Know if you have to change something, they might not be available. Suck it up princess!!


You will find if you treat your pianist with respect, as he/she wishes to be treated, you will get the same respect back. Imagine it? A REAL working relationship!!!!

It doesn't take much - just some humanity, some presence, some thought, some recognition.

If your teacher doesn't do that - you don't have to follow a poor example. You can change teachers or simply learn to do the right thing. If your teacher DOES know how to treat your pianist, then you better learn too.

Relationships in our business are extremely important. They can make your development and journey so much more enjoyable, or if they are disrespected, the journey can be difficult and uphill in ways that are in your control to change!!!

This is YOUR decision. How you treat your pianist is YOUR decision. Your decisions will have the outcome that reflects your behavior. Either you create loyalty with your pianist or you don't. That's your choice and you must take responsibility for it.


  1. Oooooooooooooo, am I ever looking forward to reading this post when I get back from CT!

    Welcome back, Susan. Hope Thomas is doing well!

  2. Fabulous, Susan.

    Today in South Glastonbury, CT, the subject of disrespect for collaborating pianists came up. (I played a concert, and people had read my bio on the program.)

    Anyway... in that particular location, many people have taken lessons, play as adults, go to community sings and concert, and they "get it." Quite unusual, and also very gratifying.

    Thanks for bringing up this topic.

  3. Thank you, Susan. What a great post! We really do want the best for you singers but it can be so hard when we don't feel like it is a partnership. When a collaboration works, though, there's nothing like it - pure magic!