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200 Days in the Life of the College

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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Accompanists don’t just play second fiddle

By Michael Harwick ’11

In the stairwell outside the audition room, Andrea Frederick ’11 glances over the sheet music in her hand one last time, brushing her hair out of her face with the other. Tall and slender, she holds herself with apparent calm. As a seasoned pianist auditioning a fourth time for the Music Department’s staff pianist program, Frederick’s outlook reflects a similar serenity. “I’m nervous,” she admits, “but in a good way, a way that makes you perceptive.”

The staff pianist program, coordinated by Sar-Shalom Strong and coach Colleen Roberts-Pellman, auditions prospective student accompanists each year for six paid positions to work one-on-one with vocalists or instrumentalists enrolled in the music lesson program. Frederick is accustomed to the demands of accompanying by now, having held the job since her arrival at Hamilton three years ago.

The audition itself tests more than performance talent. Candidates must prove their ability to play with another performer and cover mistakes. New this year, they must perform not only with a vocalist but also with a cellist. “That second piece is pretty hard,” Frederick says. “We got the music for the two pieces a week ago, and I don’t expect it will be flawless. I’m more interested in keeping up.”

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Frederick developed her musical talents at home in Morristown, N.J., and has continued to make music a part of her life as a math and music double major. She also participates in the Choir and Jazz Band and is readying for a solo piano recital. Asked about her future, Frederick pauses and tilts her head: “I don’t know what I’m going to do when I graduate, but this is a lifelong hobby. People will always need an accompanist.”

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