Why Do We Collaborate?

I am a podcast listener. I admit that fact freely. The other day I was listening to a podcast by the TED Radio Hour. I recommend that podcast highly. The topic for this podcast was collaboration. They talked with people that have been influential with inspiring collaboration through technology. For example, they talked with one of the founders of Wikipedia and the guy that invented the Captcha.

As a musician, this idea of collaboration is not foreign. I have been involved in collaboration from the time I was in a children’s performing group at age 4 and more especially as a pianist. My involvement in bands and choirs scream collaboration. So, why do we collaborate? Why is collaboration not more consciously pushed with our music students? Do we view it as an inherent part of music study – something that students will just know how to do? I vote no. Collaboration needs to be actively taught to our students and we need to be active participants in collaborative activities.

I admit that some of my favorite collaborative activities include piano duos and quartets. It can be a lot of work at times to make sure that the timing and balance is just right. That is one of the points of collaboration though, right? I have also enjoyed my time working as a collaborative pianist with both instrumentalists and vocalists.

The collaborative arts and how to work with collaborative partners need to be taught to both the “accompanist” and the “soloist.” I am not a fan of those terms because each person brings a significant amount of musicianship and technique to the collaboration. It is not about solo and accompaniment but about the work as a whole.

What are the benefits of collaboration? Maybe a better question would be what is not a benefit of collaboration? Collaboration teaches teamwork, dedication, punctuality, responsibility. The list could go on indefinitely.

So, go find a collaborative partner and get practicing. I have a collaborative rehearsal tomorrow night and could not be more excited for this project. Fun is abundantly available, regardless of the level of technique and knowledge. An elementary student can have just as much of a good time in a collaborative setting as can a professional musician.

Go forth and make music!

Peace and Best Wishes,
The Mad Pianist

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