Newsletter April 2020

Please find our latest newsletter attached:-


April 2020


April 2020

Dear fellow accompanists and Accompanists’ Guild members. This is a rather different newsletter than usual, written at a time of great change and insecurity, in ‘Unprecedented and extraordinary times’, to quote our political leaders.

Income and employment for accompanists suddenly plummeted. We became financially vulnerable, with most accompaniment work across all genres either greatly reduced, limited, cancelled or postponed until further notice. The majority of us are sole traders, work freelance, on short term or part-time contracts, and classed as casuals. The future is uncertain; tough economic times are forecast.

We will survive this crisis and it’s important to have hope in such times. There are and will be work opportunities for accompanists and associate artists. Those of us with career mixes of teaching and accompaniment are likely to have online work opportunities. Our sympathies are with accompanists in precarious positions who rely totally on accompaniment for their income.

Some safety-conscious socially – distant one to one coaching and accompaniment may still be possible, as well as live-stream work and recording of accompaniments. ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’, so let’s be creative and proactive! We can dare to think outside the box, to brain-storm ideas to improve and create future work opportunities. We can firm up and enlarge data bases, improve our accompaniment skills and learn new repertoire, update our marketing skills, and even develop self-control and patience during Government form-filling and Centrelink queues ……….!

Some colleagues have been expressing doubts about their abilities to survive this current crisis, which prompted me to reflect upon the many qualities that we have assimilated during our accompaniment careers.

Accompanists are used to experiencing and surmounting many types of challenges & difficult, unpredictable situations. Individually & collectively, we all have inner strengths & qualities, with a wide range of communication skills, gifts, talents & experiences.

Guild accompanists have a lot of strengths. We are used to problem-solving [such as simplifying complicated orchestral reductions]; to quickly responding to emergencies [Help, I need an accompanist!]; to overcoming fears [unexpected recordings] and obstacles [‘difficult’ personalities]; to managing stress [juggling multiple engagements during examination & audition week]; to resourcing and pooling talents and materials to achieve results [the soloist needs an accompanist tonight, has forgotten to bring the music, where can I find a copy of the score? Who’s available for this gig?]; to receiving, accepting, following and fulfilling instructions [from conductors, music teachers, directors, educational establishments, co-artists and examination regulations]; to initiating, creating and exploring opportunities [at the start of our careers and when work is thin on the ground].

We are reliable, adaptable, resourceful, and creative. We are an integral part of so much music making at many stages of developing musicians. We enrich communities.

The saying, ‘Problems shared are problems solved’, tends to be true when we offer support and assistance to each other and are willing to both ask for and accept help. Ours is a profession of service to others. We’re all in it together. Can we therefore find ways to share and support our fellow Guild members through these challenging, social distancing times? Can we reach out to each other, share experiences & information about on-line modalities that may be helpful to you?

Katie Zukov, who has been the Guild’s President since 2016, is relocating to Sydney. Our committee thanked her for her significant service to the Guild, for very actively raising the status of accompanists at UQ and for creating and establishing AGQ accompaniment prizes there. As a gift of appreciation, Katie was presented with the book ‘Piano Lessons’ by Anna Goldsworthy, and we all wished her well in the next stages of her career. The committee unanimously elected Valerie Dickson to be her replacement, Acting President until the next AGM.

A very warm welcome is extended to our new members, Sophie Min and previous member, Jasmine Atkinson. We now have 71 members, who will be pleased to know that Guild membership fees remain at $60 for the 2019-2020 financial year. Student membership is still only $30 per year.

The Guild continues to support the Accompanists’ Guild of Queensland Piano Accompaniment Prizes at U.Q., the Con and in some eisteddfods during 2020. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, some upcoming Eisteddfods and competitions have had to be cancelled and Guild members are asked to regularly visit the AMEB website for examination updates.

Let’s encourage ourselves to maintain buoyancy, musical skills, cheerfulness and a sense of humour throughout these difficult times. Finally, as Acting President, I thank our committee members for their support and wish all Guild members well during this time, to have faith in your profession and maintain hope for the future of music making.

Valerie Dickson.

Acting President, Accompanists’ Guild of Queensland

Workshop with Chen Yang

Improve your string accompanying skills in a workshop with Chen Yang

When: Saturday 26 May, 2PM

Where: MTAQ, Suite 26, on level one of the Taringa Centre, 200 Moggill Road, Taringa.

Tickets available at the door. Cost $15 or pensioner or student concession $10

Participants, to secure your place for this very informative event

Please contact AGQ Secretary, Ms Barbara Clifford  on


A little about Chen…

Come along and enjoy this masterclass on working with string players –  Chen is one of Brisbane’s most dynamic and experienced performers, teacher and mentor, as well as an enigmatic conductor…….

Chen Yang has had a long association with Queensland Youth Orchestra, having first joined as a violinist in 1975 and was concertmaster of QYS from 1978 to 1980, touring with the orchestra in 1980 to Europe, including the International Festival of Youth Orchestras in Aberdeen, Scotland. Attributing these positive QYO musical experiences as a major influence in choosing music as a career, Chen studied at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and graduated with distinction in violin performance.

As his first professional musical undertaking, Chen was the Concertmaster of the Queensland Theatre Orchestra (later renamed the Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra), working under the distinguished Maestro, Georg Tintner. In 1981 Chen joined the Queensland Symphony Orchestra where he played in the first violin section until 1989.

Deciding on a change, Chen spent the next spent two years as musician-in-residence on Dunk Island Holiday Resort in North Queensland where he led a string quartet and performed as a cabaret violins. He continued as a freelance musician throughout the early 1990s, performing in show orchestras for many major musical productions at QPAC.

Chen is the leader and conductor of The Sinfonia of St Andrew’s orchestra and is the string teacher and conductor at St Hilda’s School, Southport. He adjudicates regularly for eisteddfods and competitions and is also a prolific arranger of string music for the Junior String Ensemble. Chen was the conductor of QYO3 from 1983 to 1988 and since 1991 has been the conductor of the Junior String Ensemble.


Master Class for Young Accompanists

Dear Guild members,

On behalf of the committee, I am pleased to announce the details of the Accompanists’ Guild of Queensland’s third Master Class for Young Accompanists, to be held on Saturday 8 August from 2.00-4.00pm.
It is open to school and tertiary students.

shellihThe Master Class teacher will be singer, Ms Shelli Hulcombe, who will assume the role of soloist with the participants.  There is a nominal fee of $10 for selected participants.

Some of the members have already expressed interest on behalf of their students, and you are encouraged to “spread the word” to promote this wonderful opportunity for the young pianists in our community.

The entry form is attached and entries close on Saturday 15th June.

AGQ 2015 Master Class Entry Form

Masterclass for Young Accompanists 2014

Master Class for Young Accompanists August 2014
Words by Juanita Simmonds

On a Saturday afternoon in Brisbane, seven school-aged musicians took a turn at the piano to perform and rehearse live with a professional flautist in a Masterclass organised by the Accompanists Guild of Queensland.

The participants, aged between 12 and 18, are currently studying solo piano but have an interest in making music with others as piano accompanists or associate artists.

The soloist and instructor in this Masterclass was Mrs Janine Grantham, known in Queensland as an orchestral flautist, teacher and AMEB Senior Examiner with many years experience.

The event was open to members of the public, accompanists, and parents of the participants.  The audience observed Janine encouraging and shaping the musical ensemble.  She provided tips on how to work with a flute soloist on issues such as intonation, timing and entries in repertoire as varied as Schumann, Faure and “Blues at Eleven”.

Accompaniment masterclasses and workshops often are run by pianists and can tend to focus ultimately on piano technique.  This Masterclass was innovative in being facilitated by a soloist who can advise the pianist on typical balance problems with their solo instrument while helping to bring the duo together in an artistic and musically satisfying way.

The session was organised by the Accompanists’ Guild of Queensland in response to interest from young pianists wanting to develop their skills of accompaniment.  President of the Guild, Mr Regis Danillon, said that the participants were keen and engaged with Mrs Grantham’s instruction and music making.

“The first accompaniment Masterclass was held in 2013 and was quite successful so we ran it again this year.  I think there is enough of a demand to continue this as a regular event in Brisbane’s musical calendar,” said Mr Danillon.

You can register your interest for the next Masterclass by emailing the Secretary of the Accompanists’ Guild of Qld,

Accompanists Guild of Queensland Inc.

Some Tips for Piano Accompanists

• Always attempt to get your music well ahead of time.  Reference to a recording can be most helpful.

• Development of good sight reading skills is extremely important yet fun!

• Do lots of “easy” pieces when starting out to boost your confidence.

• Check bars numbers, rehearsal figures and repeats – they can vary between editions

• Never be afraid to edit.  Accompaniments fit roughly into three categories – good, difficult and impossible.

• Try to devise musical cuts for long introductions or interludes. Be sure that the phrasing and harmony makes sense.

• Maintain good eye contact with your associate artist.

• If your associate artist gets lost, try to play their line with your bass line part until a recovery is made.

• If YOU get lost, try to maintain one hand – usually the bass line.

• Always follow the solo part and be as familiar with it as you can.

• Endeavour to match phrasing where possible.

• Be wary of fluctuating rhythms – easier sections for the solo part tend to rush and more difficult ones can slow down considerably.

• From time to time, it may be beneficial for you to help your associate artist pitch their notes.  This can take time but must not dominate the rehearsal.

• Practise faster pieces faster than the required tempo just in case your associate artist wishes to go at a brighter pace.
• Be prepared for bars, lines or even pages that are skipped.

• Read at least one bar ahead – the more the merrier!

• It is important to note that instrumentalists especially string players use a different tuning system to the piano’s equal temperament tuning.  The lowest string on an instrument will usually have to be sharpened a little.

• A D Minor chord is standard for an instrumentalist to tune to.  However, violins and basses may tune to a DEGA cluster, whilst cellists and violists may like a CDGA cluster.

• Dynamics must be carefully observed but be aware of tonal balance at all times.  For instance a piece may be marked forte in both parts but if you are accompanying an eighth size violin, adjustments obviously have to be made.

• Page turns need to be addressed – it is fine to make a copy of a page if the turn is difficult.  There are some electronic tablets that can display an image by tapping the foot on a pedal.

• Try to develop good transposition skills.  Often singers like to try pieces in different keys.  Baroque instrumentalists will usually play down a semitone.
• Beginnings and endings of pieces need to be thoroughly rehearsed.

• Regular practise with a metronome is essential.  The keyboard part is like the foundations of a building and needs to be solidly supportive.

• Familiarise yourself with a wide range of styles – e.g. Contrapuntal, Rock, Latin, Jazz, etc

• Observe proper etiquette – your associate artist should acknowledge you and the conclusion of a work.  If you are playing a sonata with musically equal parts, then you should take a bow together.