An interview with pianist Colin Scott.
We interviewed pianist Colin Scott for our newsletter in summer 2012. With Jonathan Still he recorded the music for the new Advanced Foundation Male and Female, Advanced 1 and 2 Female, worked with Scottish Ballet, and has been awarded a place on the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme (JPYAP) from September 2014. Read more about Colin and the JPYAP on the Royal Opera House website.
How long have you been freelancing?
I’ve been a freelance pianist for just over three years. I worked for a year between my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Birmingham, and the last two years have been spent in London. I work mainly playing for ballet class, but I also perform classical music both as soloist and as part of a duo. I have worked a lot with singers and violinistsand have also been found playing the piano in restaurants and at parties. I also composein a variety of styles and continue to develop these interests in my spare time. However, playing for ballet is my main job.
Who do you work for?
I work for three institutions on a regular basis and take extra work if I can fit it into my schedule. These are: Urdang Academy, Arts Educational School in Chiswick and, of course, the Royal Academy of Dance. Occasionally I play at Pineapple Studios or Danceworks, and most recently I have started working freelance for English National Ballet company.
What does a usual day’s work look like (if there is such a thing!)?
My typical day involves getting up early and heading in to play class for a sometimes weary class of dancers. I play for approximately four classes a day. Sometimes some are at the start of the day, and some are at the end, so I can have a long day without actually playing much at all. This is certainly a downside but there aren’t that many. As you build up a relationship with the places you work at, you can begin to get work that fits into your week better. But this takes a bit of time and a bit of patience.
What do you enjoy about being a freelancer?
Playing for ballet gives me a great opportunity to work flexible hours and in an artistic environment. Although the classes retain a certain established formula, there are plenty of opportunities to be creative and break the mould. With experience, I have started to find my own unique voice in class. This is an important step towards becoming a better accompanist. Working in rehearsals is exciting too because each dancer is individual in their approach to the choreography and music.
Any tips for others hoping to be a full-time freelance dance accompanist?
My advice for someone starting out would be to get hold of the RAD accompanist’s guide [A Dance Class Anthology]. This really helped me to understand the format of a typical class and where to find additional music and styles with which to improvise. I think working on your sight-reading is of huge importance and I have gained a lot of work from that skill alone. Also, it is important to never turn down an opportunity when you are starting out. Contacts are very important to a freelance pianist or anyone who is self-employed. Remember to keep in touch with people and always be prepared to step in at the last minute. I am at the point of my career that I’m working on some new skills and improving existing skills. I think its very important to keep learning new things and to never feel you have arrived!
Note: ‘A Dance Class Anthology’ is currently out of print, but see resources for musicians for useful information about playing for class and finding repertoire.