The Staff Pianist program at Hamilton College supports the Solo Performance/Applied Music program for both students and instructors, while also educating the student pianist in the art of playing and performing with other musicians. The program, which also includes professional pianists, is administered by the Coordinator of Staff Pianists and the Student Staff Pianist Coach.
Student staff pianists (SSP's) play for private lessons and rehearse with their assigned student performers. Auditions for these positions are held at the beginning of fall semester, and by request at the beginning of spring semester. The normal assignment is two to four students.
SSP's meet with each student performer for one half-hour of lesson time and one half-hour of rehearsal weekly. They perform with singers and/or instrumentalists in Musicales, student recitals, and/ or master classes. They meet with the Student Staff Pianist Coach for a lesson on accompaniments at least once each semester.
SSP's earn an hourly wage commensurate with student teaching assistants. They are also paid for some practice time and are also eligible for departmental lesson stipends which help cover cost of private lessons. Payroll is handled by the SSP Coach.
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Certain situations require the services of a professional staff pianist. The Coordinator of Staff Pianists makes this determination and makes the staff pianist assigments. Professional accompanists are assigned only to Solo Performance students because of the greater performance expectations for Solo Performance.
Every effort will first be made to match student performers with appropriately competent student pianists, for which there is no time limit for hours used. Applied Music students may contract with the Coordinator of Staff Pianists to arrange for a professional accompanist at the rate of $35 per hour; student pianists are available for Applied Music students with no time limit.
The number of professional accompanist hours a Solo Performance student may use in a given semester are listed below. This time includes practice with the accompanist, the accompanist’s presence at lessons, and the use of the accompanist in preparation for any public performances, including musicales, concert auditions, repertoire classes, and actual performance time. Students who wish to work with a professional accompanist beyond these time allowances need to consult with the Coordinator of Staff Pianists and sign a contract with the College for the additional time at the rate of $35 per hour:
• Solo Performance half hour lessons: up to 3 hours
• Solo Performance one-hour lessons: up to 6 hours
• Advanced Solo Performance one-hour lessons: up to 7 hours
• Students preparing Half Recitals with departmental approval (who would necessarily be taking Advanced Solo Performance one-hour lessons): up to 8.5 hours for the semester in which the recital is scheduled.
• Students preparing Full Recitals with departmental approval (who would necessarily be taking Advanced Solo Performance one-hour lessons): up to 13 hours for the semester in which the recital is scheduled.
Students may petition the Department, with the consent of their studio instructor and the Coordinator of Staff Pianists, if additional hours of paid accompanying are necessary due to special circumstances (for example, a concerto performance).
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At the beginning of each semester the Coordinator will solicit from the studio instructors a list of students needing a staff pianist; these are to be submitted no later than the 3rd week of lessons. Priority will be given to one-hour Solo Performance students. All scores must be submitted to the assigned pianist by the 5th week of lessons.
Any subsequent requests for staff pianists must be made by contacting the Coordinator. Requests received after the 3rd week cannot be guaranteed coverage. For spring semester half and full recitals and musicales the student should submit piano scores to the Coordinator or the assigned staff pianist by the 10th lesson of the fall semester. The staff pianist will be prepared to begin rehearsals the second week of spring semester. For fall semester half and full recitals and musicales the student must contact the Coordinator by e-mail by April 15th of the previous spring semester to establish appropriate guidelines.
Assignment of professional pianists to student performers shall be made by the Coordinator; assignment of student pianists to student performers shall be made by the Coordinator in consultation with the Student Pianist Coach. Any student who does not contact his/her staff pianist within two weeks of notification will lose his/her paid hours for the assigned staff pianist.
Any singer or instrumentalist who fails to inform his/her pianists of a canceled lesson or rehearsal will be billed by the Music Department for each subsequent occurrence. For a student pianist the prevailing rate is currently $9.25; for a professional pianist the assessment is $35.
Frequent changes of lesson or rehearsal times can pose scheduling problems for pianists; therefore, such changes must be kept to a minimum. Should requests for changes be made too often, the pianists will have discretion whether or not to honor the request.
PLEASE NOTE: A Musicale performer must contact his/her accompanist no less than one week prior to the Musicale. The accompanist must have been present for at least one lesson so that the student/accompanist joint performance may be reviewed by the teacher. Any student who misses these deadlines will not be permitted to perform.
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1) Staff Pianists are not to teach notes to singers. Singers who do not read music well are encouraged to sign up for beginning piano lessons.
2) Legible music scores for staff pianists will be provided by the student. Student soloists must ensure that their pianists are playing from purchased copies. Any student who arrives at an audition with photoduplicated music, and who cannot demonstrate that a copy has already been placed on order, may not audition. Student performers and Staff Pianists should read the guidelines on photocopying music and copyright issues.
3) Neither a teacher nor a student shall ask a pianist to locate and withdraw music from the College Library.
4) No pianist will be expected to read in a lesson music that was not supplied by the student at least one week in advance of the lesson.
5) No pianist will be expected by the teacher to sight-read for a lesson; while a teacher can ask a staff pianist to sight-read at the lesson, the pianist may honor or refuse the request.
6) Student pianists will arrive at lessons promptly and with the music prepared. If the student staff pianist is experiencing difficulty in learning the music, the teacher is expected to advise the student staff pianist to seek coachings with the Student Pianist Coach.
7) When working in lessons on matters concerned with technique, pianists will perform at the pleasure of the teacher, starting and stopping as required.
8) When preparing for performance, the teacher will give attention during the lesson to the pianist as well. There is to be a give-and-take on matters of interpretation between student, pianist, and teacher, with the teacher serving as authority.
9) The Coordinator has the authority to withdraw a staff pianist from any situation in which the student soloist is not fulfilling his or her obligations.
10) Any problem that may arise concerning professional staff pianists should be addressed to the Coordinator. Any problem that may arise concerning student staff pianists should be addressed to the Student Staff Pianist Coach.
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