Orchestral Pianist

Added on by Greg Anderson.
Dear Greg,
First let me begin by saying that I discovered you and your musical brilliance via youtube and that extravagant video of you and your accompaniest's interpretaton of "The Blue Danube", an exceptionally well demonstrated piece of art I must say. Anyway in light of seeing your evidently incredibly skills I took some time to look at my own, and though I've only been playing piano for about three years (with rapid improvement due to my prior musical learning via the flute for about 6 years) I was interested in doing it as a career. I just want to know if I'm being realistic. I'm twenty years old now and working on building a repotoire to apply for an undergrad school (certainly nothing as prestigous as Juilliard, perhaps I could end up there for grad school). If my private teacher thinks I have the talent and technique to pursue it do you think it's unrealistic to fulfill my dreams of being a orchestral pianist? Am I just too old to start working towards a dream like that? I'm sure you get numerous variations of this question but any other answer than one specifically catered to my personal question just simply won't do. My sincerest thanks for your time in even bothering to answer. All the best in your own musical endeavours! Your are certainly a talented and devoted individual!
 - Lawrence Scanlan 

Dear Lawrence,

Wow. An orchestral pianist! That is a fantastic idea, but there are a few things you should know about the position:

  • Orchestral piano jobs are very hard to come by. There are few positions and the demand for them is high.
  • Orchestral piano jobs are usually part time. Most orchestral pianists I know have other jobs on the side.
  • Some orchestral pianists are also employed by the orchestra to play in chamber ensembles with other orchestral musicians -- they are expected to be multi-faceted musicians that can fit in whenever and wherever they are needed.
  • Orchestral piano jobs often come through "connections" -- in other words, current members of the orchestra often recommend pianists they like to fill this role.
  • Orchestral pianists MUST be able to count. The few orchestral piano playing jobs I've taken over the years have made significant demands on my ability to count empty bars (49 bars of rest +3 bars of 5/8 time +7.5 bars of prestissimo 3/4 time, then PLAY!)

Orchestral piano playing is a unique and fun universe! I wish you the best in your pursuits.

- Greg (Nov. 4, 2009)