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Collaborative Piano
Collaborative Pianists: Graduate student Anne Marie Padelford, Allison Gagnon, guest artist Frederica von Stade

Collaborative pianists apprentice with professionals, faculty

Comprehensive performance experience
Intensive personalized instruction - Preparation for career success

The collaborative piano program at UNCSA prepares students for the variety and intensity that a career in this discipline implies, and encompasses both vocal and instrumental spheres. The mentoring model characteristic of UNCSA curricula is particularly important in this field of specialization, guided by artist-faculty member Allison Gagnon. When students enter the program, they apprentice alongside professionals, and become part of a team of faculty, staff and student pianists providing piano support to the School of Music. At the graduate level, pianists who are collaboratively inclined may major in this area of specialization through the master’s degree program. Qualified candidates may elect to enroll in the Professional Artist Certificate, a one-year, post-master’s program. Piano students at all levels of instruction may enroll in collaborative piano courses to develop their skills in this area.

Since the program’s inception, guest artists who have coached students in the program have included Anne Epperson, Warren Jones and Andrew Campbell.

Graduate Programs in Collaborative Piano

This innovative program, launched in 2001, allows pianists to develop their collaborative skills and learn the repertoire of their chosen discipline. Enrollment in the program is limited to four students. Students in the collaborative piano program perform frequently with their vocal and instrumental partners in recital, jury and master class settings. Repertoire assignments for students in the program are chosen with students’ needs and interests in mind. An annual degree recital comprises highlights of each year’s work, and a quick study examination is the final test in the graduate program. In addition to projects undertaken as part of their major study, students participate in chamber music, opera workshop and production, and other large ensemble opportunities.

School of Music facilities foster excellence in performance training. Students in the program share two rehearsal studios allocated exclusively to the program and equipped with well-maintained grand pianos.  Weekly studio master classes take place in both Watson Hall and Crawford Hall, the school’s two recital halls, which feature the finest Steinway concert instruments.

Coursework in the graduate program includes two seminars specific to collaborative piano: the literature seminar, which, during two years, focuses on the principal instrumental and vocal literature for collaborative pianists, and the support skills seminar, which allows development of a myriad of professional skills for collaborative pianists. These seminars are also open to students majoring in piano and organ at the graduate level.

To enhance the vocal component of this program, students enroll in the diction classes for singers.  Students in the collaborative piano program are encouraged to include organ, harpsichord and/or conducting electives in their course of study.

Post-master's program

The Professional Artist Certificate is a post-master’s program designed to advance the career potential of exceptional young professionals who have completed graduate studies in their chosen field. Pianists who have chosen the collaborative specialization and who are interested in this opportunity for independent study are encouraged to propose a one-year course of study that is tailored to their interests and experience.
Students in the collaborative piano program at UNCSA develop their musical and pianistic skills together with their collaborative abilities. At the same time, they learn the components of professionalism that lead to excellence in their chosen discipline. The development of this varied skill set is the goal of this program. Despite its small size and short history, graduates from this program have gone on to successful careers based in several U.S. centers, as well as in Canada and South Korea. Among them:

left quotemarkIn 2001, when I decided to attend the School of the Arts to do my Master’s in Collaborative Piano, I didn't really know what I was getting into.  I was moving to a new country and couldn't speak English.  At the time, I was also the first student in the program.  As soon as I arrived, I felt like I was home.  I had a lot of individual attention from all the faculty members, which helped me tremendously to learn and grow quickly. … They all worked together to give each student opportunities to perform and gain confidence towards their art.  The training I've received at the school gave me the chance to develop the skills and the confidence needed to be in the competitive world of music… . During my time at UNCSA, I had the privilege to work very closely with Dr. Allison Gagnon, director of the collaborative Piano Program.  For me, she was a mentor in all areas of the collaborative world. She taught me so muchright quote mark that working with her made my passage at UNCSA a lifetime experience. 
-- Amelie Langlois, MMus 01 (Ottawa, Canada)


left quotemarkWhile at UNCSA, I learned more than I ever imagined was possible in a two-year program. … Allison Gagnon is one of the few people I had ever met who is as gifted as a performer as she is an educator, which I believe is a rarity. … I had the privilege of watching her and other fine faculty and outside musicians perform.  I “got my feet wet” in a vast variety of experiences, such as playing for opera scenes, working in various faculty studios, rehearsal accompanying for the opera, and playing in various ensembles and student recitals. Some of the experiences further explored what I had already been exposed to, and many of them opened my eyes to new possibilities for my future career.  All of the experiences combined make up the most challenging right quote markbut rewarding experience of my life.

-- Jaime Namminga, MMus 09 (Jamestown, N.D.)


Collaborative Piano Courses for Piano and Organ Majors

Collaborative Skills Courses for Piano Students in the Undergraduate and High School programs

These classes are designed for piano majors to learn the collaborative skills they will need to become fine performance partners. Student pianists learn through collaboration with their fellow students in the vocal and instrumental areas, in a class setting with individual coaching.  Topics include sound and ensemble issues, quick study, stylistic versatility, collaborative repertoire, and professional behavior.

A minimum of three terms’ participation in the collaborative piano class is part of a college freshman’s program. In addition, students in the high school program may be recommended by their teachers to take part in the class, and college students may enroll for a second year in the class.

Collaborative Piano for Keyboard Players in the Graduate Program

Piano students and organ students at the graduate level may enroll in the seminars in collaborative piano (literature, and support skills) with the permission of their major teacher and according to space available. They are welcome also to attend the studio master classes of the collaborative piano majors.


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