Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Piano Accompanying: Not Just Performance but Service

  Several weeks ago my student played a duet with me during a church service. She is a beginner musician but plays with feeling and thoughtfulness. She had the melody in both hands and I played a accompaniment. Her gift of service was well received and fortified her confidence in playing the piano. My daughter-in-law felt I had taken her advice to heart. "Children need to know why playing the piano is useful." Her words ring true and make it worth the effort to find opportunities to use my student's emerging skills.

  In my church this month the congregation is singing Christmas carols fifteen minutes prior to the service beginning. Two of my students, who attend the same church, are playing carols with me as accompanists. They are new to this skill and I have been singing with them to help them learn to follow another musician. Will they play perfectly? Probally not, but the leaders of this church understand the need to groom the next generation of church musicians. Abiding a few mistakes is a small price to pay for the huge reward of having volunteer, amateur pianists ready to assist a group and to provide music.
  You may have other musical venues to train your students, but I see the most consistent place, for those students who are in my church, is the prelude and postlude times in church meetings. They are not in the spotlight and I "break them in" as duet accompanists with me. Then later I can assign them a time to prepare music for the entire prelude or postlude period.
   I am a volunteer organist and am very vocal about music. Those leaders who organize music see the wisdom in my requests and I have support from them and from their parents.
   I can give credit to my responsibility as a church musician for my staying active in piano lessons for ten years. These opportunities to use my skill made me practice.


  1. This is where I learned the most, too. I started playing for the Sunday evening congregational singing at age 10 or so. My mom was a church pianist and my dad lead the singing - back in the days when the worship leader actually conducted the congregation - so they trained me to wait for the people to breathe, and how to follow a conductor. It has served me well.

    I wish more of my students attended a church that was open to passing this on to the next generation.

  2. What a great idea! I think I'm going to suggest this to my Primary pianist. One year I had one of my students play for the Primary program. I'd really like to instill in my students the skill of accompanying because it is a totally different ball of wax from playing a melodic composition but one that is absolutely necessary in our church.

  3. The Friend has a simplified arrangement of the new Primary song for this year in the January magazine. My 3 students are learning it.

  4. I simplified the original into a pre-reading melody played by both hands for my beginner students. They love being able to play a familiar Primary song. I've been thinking more about your idea to have them play simple duets. Today I played the accompanying left hand harmony in As a Child of God while my student played the melody. It worked really well! I was wondering what materials you were using to do your duets for the prelude/postlude.

  5. I am just improvising left hand arpeggios. I do an introduction and they come in on the first measure.