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Passion for collaboration.

Anne Epperson is passionate about collaborative piano, both as a performer and pedagogue. Starting with her position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as the instrumental colleague in the program created there by John Wustman, she has built a reputation as one of the top-tier professors in the world. She has developed degree programs at the Cleveland Institute of Music, the University of California-Santa Barbara and the University of Colorado-Boulder. In addition to her affiliation with many summer music festivals, she created and developed the collaborative piano program at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara and was on that artist faculty from 1992 until 2006. Recently, Professor Epperson accepted a faculty position at the University of Texas-Austin to begin in fall 2008. B. Glenn Chandler, director of the School of Music, said "After we decided to take the path to create a new degree program in collaborative piano at UT, we wanted to establish instant credibility by hiring the best person in the country to lead that program. Anne Epperson's name came forward quickly, based on her work at other prestigious institutions. She was the unanimous choice of the search committee. Anne Epperson has impeccable musicianship, which is key to the success of the position. She has the ability to transfer information and skills to students and has a proven track record of developing quality programs."

Her soon-to-be colleague, internationally renowned pianist Anton Nel, said it best, "In addition to her extraordinary artistic and organizational skills, Anne is also a warm and collegial person: exactly what the School of Music needs as it is introducing these brand new programs. I have enjoyed working together with her on the many facets of her new position and keenly look forward to having her in our midst."

In a recent conversation, she elaborated on her training and her thoughts on collaborative pedagogy with Janice Wenger.

JW: What was your early training in music?

AE: I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and grew up in Baton Rouge. I began piano studies before my fourth birthday and was fortunate to have a good solid formative experience with a local private teacher Naomi Kennard Singleton, who, incidentally, incorporated sight reading as part of my lessons from the very beginning. As a high school student, I studied through the extension division at Louisiana State University with Earl Stout, a student of Leschetizky. I graduated from the National Cathedral School in Washington, D.C., and during my senior year there I had the opportunity to travel to New York and have coachings with Leonard Shure. As part of my undergraduate study, I spent two years at the Juilliard School in the studio of Sascha Gorodnitzki. As a reward for practicing my solo repertoire a lot, I accompanied my friends in recital. I realize now what amazing experiences I had at that time, including lessons on French art song in the studio of Jennie Tourel!

Few pianists ever mentioned accompanying at that time at Juilliard; it was not what pianists did. The distinguished collaborative program now fully developed at Juilliard under the leadership of Jonathan Feldman, Margo Garrett and Brian Zeger stands as a prime example of how far the awareness has come since I was a student there. I think of it as a papal blessing on the profession.

After a series of liberal arts explorations at various schools, I completed a bachelor of arts degree in music at the College of Notre Dame in Belmont, California. There I studied with Thomas LaRatta, a student of Rudolph Ganz and artist-in-residence at the College. LaRatta is one of the best teachers I ever worked with, and he is still teaching privately in California.

Following the B.A., I worked for a year as a staff pianist with the Western Opera Theater, the training and touring company for young singers affiliated with the San Francisco Opera. The company brought major opera productions to smaller communities throughout the western United States with two grand pianos as the orchestra. (And the occasional upright with special preparation for Mozart recitatives!) I helped create arrangements from the full score along with Monroe Kanouse, an inspiring coach, conductor and pianist still working in the Bay Area. Even though further graduate study was delayed, I appreciated all the opportunities at the time. In a more global sense, I didn't really understand the importance of all the things I was doing. It's as though I was being drawn to a career in collaboration by some grand design rather than any conscious intent on my part.

JW: Was this followed by graduate school?

AE: I started a master of music degree in solo piano at the University of Southern California with Daniel Pollack. I was fortunate to also work with Gwendolyn Koldofsky, a great collaborative pedagogue, while at USC in an accompanying course. The summer preceding this, I had been chosen by Pollack to be one of eight pianists to participate in a six-week seminar conducted by Rosina Lhevinne. She was 93 years old at the time and sharp as a tack! This was a fabulous experience, and each week we discussed one topic. I remember a week on memorizing, a week on pedal technique and a week on concerto repertoire. When it came time to perform the concerti for Madame Lhevinne, no one else in the class was willing to play the orchestral reductions except me. I thought it was great fun and did them all. Another USC faculty member observing the seminar, Eudice Shapiro, heard my playing and knew that Jascha Heifetz was looking for an accompanist to work with his students. Heifetz called and his assistant arranged an audition, which involved working with one of his students and then sight reading the last movement of Beethoven's "Kreutzer" Sonata and the second movement of the Franck Sonata with HIM! I didn't know enough to be nervous, and he liked the audition--so I became the staff pianist for his master classes at USC for the following year. My own formal schooling soon took a backseat to the work with Heifetz, which was an incredible educational experience.

My master's degree was ultimately completed at Louisiana State University with Jack Guerry, also an important force in my pianistic development. Although it was a solo piano performance degree, by this time I had made the commitment to specialize in collaboration and moved to New York City right after finishing.

JW: Describe your experience at Juilliard when you were hired there.

AE: I had met Dorothy DeLay at the Aspen Festival, and she was looking for someone to take care of her studio accompanist needs in New York. Thus, I was hired as what I think was the first paid staff accompanist at Juilliard for the handsome sum of $3 per hour. I beat them at their own game, however, by working about 80 hours per week! In addition to playing for DeLay's students, I also worked with other faculty members, including Ivan Galamian, Leonard Rose, Oscar Shumsky and Julius Baker--all giants in their fields. This is where I got my real collaborative education--my own equivalent to a doctorate. I also learned a great deal about teaching. I find myself to this day quoting Miss DeLay on how to listen, and I learned how to structure a lesson and set priorities. This was more evidence that, without knowing it, I was becoming programmed all along to pursue this profession.

JW: Why the term Collaborative Piano?

AE: The term "collaborative" emphasizes the cooperative (rather than secondary) role of the pianist throughout the performance preparation process. The late renowned collaborative pianist Samuel Sanders, one of the most important influences in collaborative education, first used the term in an interview to describe this more equal partnership. A successful collaborative pianist must have a girl for working with colleagues; to achieve this, the pianist must be able to listen closely and be aware of all aspects of sonority, rhythm and musical shaping of the entire presentation.

I sometimes call my approach "accompanists' liberation." Traditionally the role of an accompanying pianist has been thought of as a secondary or as a default for those who couldn't "make it" as soloists. My approach is to elevate the relationship on both sides, but it's not enough to just stand up and say accompanists are not appreciated. We need to make the reasons for respect happen by developing a professional attitude and enthusiasm for our craft.

JW: What advice do you have for young musicians about preparing for a career in collaborative piano?

AE: First, this career is not for everybody; the individual must be gifted for it and want to do it. My advice to young pianists is to develop themselves as fully as possible technically and musically as their own artistic voice. This will support truly equal collaboration and create the most successful teamwork. Collaborative pianists are expected to have additional skills in sight reading, understanding of languages and diction and to be familiar with an enormous amount of repertoire in all style periods, including music not written for the piano. Understanding the role of the conductor and the subtleties of orchestral textures and rhythm are vital tools in the world of opera and in the vast repertoire of concerti for all instruments.

Perhaps most importantly, I emphasize in my teaching what I call the "L" word--that is LISTEN!

This opens up a whole world of sound and color exploration and allows the pianist to relate and react to their partners. The concept of awareness of all the voices in any musical experience makes better musicians of everyone involved.

With these skills and good training, the career options will be plentiful and rewarding!

JW: Do you recommend that a graduate student in collaborative piano focus exclusively on either vocal or instrumental repertoire and performances?

AE: I believe in a healthy balance of vocal and instrumental experiences. I counsel students entering my program to keep their options open for opportunities. I also want them to discover their own passions and where that might lead them. I allow and encourage students to lean in one direction, but not to the complete exclusion of the other repertoire. For example, I have a former student, Allison Gagnon, who has been creating new orchestral reductions for some of the more unplayable repertoire as a project. This will be a valuable contribution to the profession, whether it is instrumental or vocal. Incidentally, Allison has also created and developed a master of music degree in collaborative piano at the North Carolina School of the Arts, where she is on the faculty. Her training as both vocal and instrumental partner has served her well in this important work.

JW: What events or activities, other than your own teaching, have most influenced your current thoughts on the pedagogy of collaborative music?

AE: I have been thinking about the teaching of collaborative piano for some time, but the first exploration of the topic was led by Jean Barr through MTNA and other early pedagogy gatherings. Jean, along with Margaret Lorince as president of MTNA, created panels and presentations that reaffirmed what many of us were doing in isolation at the time. This was an early beginning and through Jean's good energies, continued into the '90s. With the creation of the MTNA Collaborative Performance Forum, as well as the upcoming Pedagogy Saturday focus devoted to Collaborative Pedagogy at the national conference, I am pleased that the topic has been supported and nurtured by MTNA.

Many of us have been teaching collaborative music making for a long time, and our graduates have been successful as performers, coaches and teachers themselves. Now, they are mentoring their own collaborative students, and we are seeing more new degree programs emerge around the country. Also, the demand for pedagogical resources in collaborative music is increasing. With the exception of Deon Nielsen Price's book Accompanying Skills for Pianists, I find that there are too few publications that are in print and available for the collaborative teacher. Certainly, I am hoping to see more resources in the future and to help create them. One of the most important publications along these lines is the now out-of-print Art of Accompanying: Master Lessons from the Repertoire by Robert Spillman, professor emeritus at the University of Colorado. While in Boulder I have had the special pleasure of spending time with Professor Spillman and arranging for my students to work with him ... a totally inspiring interaction!

JW: What is your vision for the new program at the University of Texas?

AE: My plans for creating the new program in Austin will follow the model now in place at the University of Colorado-Boulder, which has been very successful thanks to exceptional support from Dean Daniel Sher and all of my valued faculty colleagues. At the University of Texas, I will be a part of the new Division of Collaborative and Chamber Music and I will head the Collaborative Piano Department within that Division. This new department will not only instruct majors in graduate programs in collaborative piano and develop related programs for other students, but also will be implementing a service resource for the whole school. I will be working closely with the piano faculty as well, to further develop collaborative training for the undergraduates in their historically strong piano program. I learn a great deal each time I embark on a new collaborative adventure and hope to take all of that experience with me to Austin.

I am really looking forward to fulfilling the collegial exchange and working with Anton Nel and the whole piano faculty at UT. In my own teaching, past and present, I always coach and interact with the instrumental and vocal partners of the students, so I am excited about working in tandem with the instrumental and vocal faculty as well. Dr. Chandler, with admirable vision, has taken a chance on this new program, and we already have degree plans in place. I have created a collaborative literature course that will be part of the new graduate degree plan. Although most schools have good course offerings in song and opera literature as well as chamber repertoire, I have designed a two-semester course in which we introduce and evaluate the more practical instrumental literature encountered by most professional collaborators, such as standard orchestral reductions of concerti, pieces for winds and brass from the Paris Conservatoire and salon music for all instruments, as well as exploration of the important sonata repertoire. The graduate administration of the School of Music in Austin has been so very helpful in the process of official program approval and in implementing the preparations for application and auditions. We already have a strong pool of applicants who will audition in February for the inaugural class to begin next fall.


JW: What other activities interest you now?

AE: Invitations to adjudicate, especially chamber music competitions, have increased in recent years. I was on the judging panel for the Coleman Chamber Music competition in California last spring and will return as juror for the Fischoff Chamber Music competition in May 2008. It is important to be active in this arena and also is a mark of the progress of the profession in the direction of collaborative performance.


I also enjoy giving master classes and workshops. In the spring of 2005, I was invited for a week-long residency in Seoul, Korea. I did a series of master classes for pianists and their partners from many of the important universities there. It was so wonderful to witness the success of my former student, Bang-won Han, who is now the first tenured professor in collaborative performance in Korea. Recently, I had the pleasure of coaching some wonderful young performers at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City and also working with the outstanding class of collaborative majors at Juilliard. I look forward to a week's residency at the University of Southern California this spring, just prior to the MTNA conference. I have a new summer affiliation at the Colorado College Summer Music Festival in Colorado Springs, a great program for instrumentalists and pianists offering varied opportunities in solo, chamber music and orchestral keyboard.

Performance opportunities continue to spice up my plate of professional activities, and I especially enjoy working regularly with certain colleagues, notably clarinetist Hakan Rosengren and violinist Benny Kim. It's a good life.

JW: At the MTNA National Conference in Denver, you'll be performing on a program you have called "Two's Company!" What is the story behind that title?

AE: The concept came to my mind when I was teaching at UC-Santa Barbara about seven years ago, and I have continued a similar series at CU-Boulder. Basically, it's a series of faculty recitals that represent what I believe in. Each program features a broad variety of pairings, instruments, sounds and collaborative styles. I like to show the diversity of repertoire a collaborative pianist can experience. In addition to the sonata repertoire, for example, a program might include French conservatory pieces for woodwinds, orchestral reductions, art songs, opera arias, salon pieces, four-hand music and so forth. One year I amended the title to become "Two's Company, Three's a Crowd!" and included trios on the program. In addition to being fun for me and for my colleagues, the performances demonstrate to the students and audience members the need for collaborative pianists to have skills in many areas.

For the MTNA program, I'm pleased to continue this idea with four of my friends and professional colleagues. We're starting the program with some Schubert for piano, four-hands, with Robert Spillman, a uniquely versatile collaborative artist. The program continues with a song cycle by American composer Jake Heggie with Margaret Lattimore, a wonderful mezzo-soprano with an active operatic career who also teaches at CU-Boulder. Poulenc's Sonata for Flute and Piano, and Fantasie by Georges Hue will feature Marianne Gedigian, competition winner, regular performer with the Boston Symphony and now on faculty UT-Austin. The program will conclude with the Franck Violin Sonata with James Buswell, renowned concert and recording artist since his teens, who taught at Indiana University and now at the New England Conservatory in Boston. It will be an honor for me to be on stage with these four amazing colleagues, who are not only fabulous performing artists but are equally committed to teaching. I'm also pleased that MTNA is featuring a program of varied performers; it not only reflects my philosophy, but also shows the expanded interests of the MTNA membership

JW: Any final thoughts?

AE: This has been the most satisfying thing that I ever could have imagined doing with my life. From those early days with Heifetz, the challenge and reward of the work was so obvious that I had to pay attention to it. Continuing to grow with the other great teachers and now my own students, I feel that my most important mission at this point in my career is the teaching of the art. I am proud to be part of a very special group of colleagues who have chosen to commit to the highest standards of collaborative education. I do enjoy performing; it keeps me honest and helps maintain my credibility with my students! The ultimate goal of a collaborative musician is truly to explore the "life lessons" of respect and flexibility. All of the performers in a collaborative venture must learn to get the most out of their partnership with each other. It is about the process of finding how to do one's best, and how to set higher standards for all musicians. My thanks to you, Janice, and to MTNA for allowing me to share my philosophy, my experience, and my passion!


Two's Company! Saturday, March 29 Denver Hyatt Capitol Ballroom 8:00 P.M.


Anne Epperson, piano


Robert Spillman, piano


Margaret Lattimore, mezzo-soprano


Marianne Gedigian, flute


James Buswell, violin

Janice Wenger is vice president of MTNA. She is professor of music and coordinator of keyboard the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she teaches piano literature and applied collaborative and solo piano.
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Title Annotation:2008 CONFERENCE ARTIST
Author:Wenger, Janice
Publication:American Music Teacher
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1U3IL
Date:Feb 1, 2008
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Next Article:Directory of summer programs.

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