Dear Simon, I was wondering if you could provide some advice as to what I should focus on if I am aiming to be a professional accompanist and repetiteur in the future after my studies. I am currently studying piano at Monash University and I saw an opportunity for a repetiteur scholar with Melba Opera Trust, except that I am under the age limit specified so I could not audition for that. What other things can I do besides scholarship opportunities to increase my chances of success as an accompanist while being a student at the moment?
"The best thing you can do is accompany absolutely everything you can. There will be lots of opportunities within the university community you can take advantage of. Contact the voice teachers at university and ask them if you can accompany their students in their lessons. That’s a great way to learn repertoire and you’ll be helping them out too.
Similarly, offer to accompany fellow students in their exams. This is a good way to earn some money as well. You could also approach composition students and offer to perform their works. This kind of thing you do while at university is very important because it builds up a network of industry contacts for the future as well as developing your skills.
It can also be good to accompany things like amateur musicals, university theatre projects and cabaret shows. I did shows at the Butterfly Club pretty much every week while I was at uni, which just about paid my rent for the whole time I was there, and was also a lot of fun.
Don’t worry about studying vocal repertoire yourself right now – just accompany people all the time and you’ll slowly build it up. Scholarships can be great too, but they are very high pressure and can be terrifying to audition for. I probably wouldn’t worry about that kind of program until after you finish uni and have a few more years experience behind you already. Accompanying is a skill you cannot learn practicing by yourself at home. You just have to throw yourself in, be pro-active and find those opportunities."