Sunday, October 13, 2013

In Collaboration With...

As musicians we learn early on that music is a community activity - something one does with other people.

When we sing in church services or in a chorus we are participating with a community.

When we play an instrument in an ensemble we are participating with a community.

Both of these scenarios - singing and playing - involve not just community (because more than one person is involved), but also collaboration because those involved are working together.

Collaboration is a buzzword in education nowadays. In other words, it is encouraged. (Buzzwords tend to be trending ideas in education.)

Collaboration has no need to be a buzzword in the field of music because it is and has been a part of musical experiences for literally ages.

While performing in a large ensemble is collaborative in nature, I believe it is more community oriented.


Collaboration, to me, is highlighted in small group experiences.

The most common small group experience is that of the soloist (vocal or instrumental) and accompanist (usually piano).

[Historical note: Some early piano sonatas featured the piano as soloist accompanied by the violin or flute.]

When I was in grad school many years ago all the piano students had to take a course titled "Accompanying" where they accompanied for soloists in the department.

Now that course is often called "Collaborative Piano."

Because, really, the soloist and the pianist are collaborating equally.  Using the term "accompanying" relegates the pianist to a secondary role which is so not the case.


I have always enjoyed working in small ensembles.

The most lasting ensemble was a trombone duet I had for five years while in junior high and high school. My partner, G, and I worked so hard to perform well. We spent hours together practicing. Each year we took a duet to solo & ensemble contest. Each year we got a 1st place medal. We occasionally had performance opportunities for local civic organizations. Our collaboration was a success.

While we have both put our trombones in the case (as far as our duet playing is concerned) the partnership I had with G has resulted in a good friendship - and not only musically.

While in college I played in a brass quintet. I would repeat this experience when I returned to my alma mater 20 years later.

Now I play in an early music ensemble as well as sing in a chamber choir.

The collaboration experienced in the small ensemble is fulfilling.

It hones one's musical skills, focuses one's hearing, and develops one's independent musicianship.

Today I collaborated musically.

I look forward to tomorrow's musical collaboration - whatever it may be.


  1. I am going tonight to a rehearsal for a community choir I am part of. I enjoy the community and collaboration.

    1. Wonderful! That is a great example of collaboration.