improv accompanist

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improv accompanist

Postby kliphtin » November 16th, 2013, 5:18 am

Something that surprises me about Austin, is the lack of musical accompaniment for improv shows here. Back a million years ago at iO, every harold performed downstairs had a piano player to enhance the scenework, which is something I think they still do. Here it seems that only improvised musicals get musical accompaniment, which seems weird to me since it's such a music town...anybody have thoughts about this?
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Re: improv accompanist

Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » November 16th, 2013, 9:46 am

hmm...i'd never really noticed that before. it seems like any show that wants musical accompaniment can find it pretty easily (even if it's recruiting the same elite stalwarts like Ammon and Brockman).
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Re: improv accompanist

Postby valetoile » November 16th, 2013, 12:12 pm

I think it's a matter of payment. Accompanists should be payed, most troupes or theatres don't have the resources to pay them. But I think as some troupes or shows are getting more established, stable, or professional, accompanists are more common. I think Maestro has an accompanist pretty regularly now, yes?
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Re: improv accompanist

Postby Spots » November 16th, 2013, 2:50 pm

Does the logic follow that if you receive a service for free once or twice that you should always receive that service for free?


Val-- I totally get that "musicians should be paid" as a logical reason for an existing trend.

Why don't we see that logic present with any other artists or trade WITHIN theater? videographers, photographers, graphic designers, set decorators, tech, etc. Who is paying for any of these currently?

Why is one seen as a trade and the other seen as a hobby? What's the difference?

I see it as the prisoner's dilemma. Photographers have lost the game already. Pandora's Box has been opened and someone's willing to do it for free.

But perhaps theaters have more competition when it comes to retaining musicians. Any musicians care to chime in? You have the edge over the theater or troupe?

Because the only real explanation I see is that musicians are in such short supply that they are holding their ground when it comes to finding paid gigs exclusively.

I'd have serious respect for that.
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Re: improv accompanist

Postby happywaffle » November 18th, 2013, 10:54 am

I don't think it's that complicated. Techs and ticket-takers are plentiful. So are photographers—the AIC has a dozen talented photogs who are more than happy to photograph shows just for the joy of it. (Some might be paid as well, I don't know.)

Talented accompanists, though? Those are hard to come by. It's not just being able to play piano, it's having the quick wit and comedic timing of an improviser as well. So it's just a supply and demand thing.

For the record, Merlin Works Second Sundays has Ammon accompanying the show. It is indeed a fantastic asset to the quality of the show.
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Re: improv accompanist

Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » November 19th, 2013, 1:05 am

I see Jesse's point though. all things being equal, why should musicians be paid but the other performers onstage not? or the technical improvisors in the booth? I don't have a SOLUTION, mind you, because the business models can't work that way currently...and as you say, accompanist is a much hotter commodity in town than someone who's willing to get up on the stage or in the booth (if I say no, someone else will say yes!). but I definitely understand and agree with the principle.

(on the flip side, we don't pay our guest musicians in Indigo Shift...but we don't get paid ourselves, so it all washes out in the end. ;) )
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Re: improv accompanist

Postby Spots » November 19th, 2013, 6:38 pm

I think the solution is to try.

And try doesn't necessarily mean setting a goal to be able to pay your tradesmen within a year or even 10 years.

For starters transition your thinking so that they are"tradesmen" to you. This will automatically make you seek quality craftsmanship.

NEXT my solution is to keep it in the back of your head that for now you are bartering services or giving them exposure or some other rationalized half-truth, BUT ONE DAY ... SOMETHING SOMETHING. And really mean it. That's what trying should look like. You'll try to help make that service they provided you with-- worth something. Or at least worth more than free. Because otherwise we all lose. Because otherwise we are just accumulating resources shamelessly.

If you accumulate shamelessly, you can only expect the same behavior from the humans around you. Theater patrons for instance. Why would you expect anything different? To "try" means recognizing that shamelessly accumulating resources is a natural animal tendency and humans have the ability to go above it.


In most cases "try" means raising the value of what you provide. A comedy show or student film or whatever. Raise the value of that now. And share the wealth later. That's the dream.
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Re: improv accompanist

Postby Spots » November 19th, 2013, 7:24 pm

Back to the subject -- I'm deciding to agree with Val. Maybe in the "live music capital of the world" musicians have more options. Or maybe they aren't being asked in the first place? Musicians chime in!
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