A few decades ago, a pianist that provided accompaniment for instumentalists and/or singers was called an "accompanist". These days, the term "collaborator" is sometimes used. So which term do I prefer? Sometimes it seems like such a loaded question but I wish it didn't have to be that way. In my mind, I don't think that there is anything wrong with being "just" an accompanist and for many of the jobs I do, I actually prefer to see myself in that way. I just looked up "to accompany" in good old Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary and in addition to the obvious definition, "to perform an accompaniment to or for," it also says, "to go with as an associate or companion." I especially like that second definition. When I accompany younger musicians or people just starting out on an instrument, I feel that it is just as important to serve as a musical companion to the student as it is to play the right notes. It is partly my job to help the student to get a sense of the thrill that performing and music-making can bring. So when I accompany them, even if the piece is the most simple Suzuki tune, my goal is to support them in every way that I can and to also serve as that companion, always on the path to a more musical experience. And the best thing about my job as an accompanist is that every so often, I get to experience a performance with a young musician where he or she reaches beyond the notes and journeys into the exciting world of music-making, full of heart-pumping excitement, passion-filled phrases, the give and take between instruments...When this happens, the experience always blows me away. It it just as thrilling to collaborate with a young musician at a time like that as it is to collaborate with a colleague.
So am I a collaborator or an accompanist? I am proud to say - both!