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CSULB believes that all piano students should have high-quality training in the art of collaborative piano. As pianists move from the educational system into the musical work force, one thing is certain: pianists have fewer career opportunities than other instrumentalists. Therefore, to craft a career and make a living as a musician, regardless of how accomplished one may be as a soloist, it is essential for all pianists to be experienced accompanists and chamber musicians. CSULB feels a special responsibility to provide that training and experience. The other equally important reason to make collaborative arts an important part of a pianist's education is the enormous benefit to one's general musical growth. It is crucial that pianists learn about music making and artistry from the perspective of other instrumentalists and singers, bringing an enriched and much more imaginative understanding of music to the piano. This increases any pianist's abilities—at many different levels—and has a direct influence on the progress in the solo repertoire. Most great pianists are avid chamber musicians, and this is no surprise. The two go hand in hand. Far beyond the goal of just creating good pianists, CSULB is committed to the training and development of young artists! There are three avenues for CSULB piano students to receive this training:
All piano performance majors are required to take two semesters of the accompanying class (MUS 477 A-B). Each student in the class is required to collaborate with a vocalist, a wind instrumentalist, and a string instrumentalist, working on a variety of repertoire including lieder, arias, sonatas, concerti, and other works. The students present these works in class and receive detailed coachings. The semester culminates with a final recital presented by the class. Secondly, pianists are required as part of their individual lesson study, to have an ongoing accompanying assignment, independent of the accompanying classes. The students are to prepare this repertoire as carefully as their solo literature, and are to perform in other music faculty's lessons, classes, and their students' juries.
Piano majors are required to take four semesters of chamber music; either string chamber music, wind chamber music, or another small ensemble such as the New Music Ensemble. Students are organized into groups studying the chamber music literature with a focus on sonatas, piano trios, piano quartets, and piano quintets. Each group has a weekly one-hour rehearsal as well as a one-hour coaching with a member of the chamber music faculty. Students are expected to prepare their parts at the same level they prepare their solo repertoire. Instruction focuses on creating a collaborative performance in every sense of the term, both musically and technically, focusing on the art of listening, responding to the music making of others in the group, balance, phrasing, and dynamics. There is nothing like the demand of chamber music to consistently improve attention to detail and polish-- the group product depends on it from each member, all of whom are equally important and an integral part of the process.
At the end of each semester, those chamber groups who have demonstrated the most progress and have prepared the most carefully are showcased in a final recital.
Collaboration as an on-going part of the CSULB Piano Performance Degree
When not enrolled in the Accompanying Class or in Chamber Music, all performance majors are required to have at least one collaborative assignment at all times, in addition to the study of solo repertoire. The private studio instructor will oversee the preparation and progress of these works. In this way, students are assured that every step of the way, their musical growth and experience will be steadily enriched. These assignments are made based on the needs of vocalists and instrumentalists in the music department.