Music Teacher's Helper Blog

How to get (and keep) a collaborative pianist

My private vocal studio is comprised mostly of high school students.  I have regular studio classes, for which I hire various pianists.  The main goal of this is help students learn BEFORE college the fine art of working with a pianist.  This is vitally important, I think, when teaching music (especially voice, as the voice is rarely presented alone).

I also hire pianists to play for the two annual NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing) competitions that we have each year here in Arizona.  I try to contact pianists well in advance.  When I contact each pianist, I spell out projected dates, amount of pay, and what the projected repertoire is.  I keep in contact with the pianist, and ask if it’s okay whenever there is a schedule change, BEFORE I confirm it with the students.

Most importantly, I found over the years that I got incredibly nervous when it came to paying the pianist.  After enough times running after students to make sure they had paid, I decided to use MTH’s FABULOUS invoicing system.  When I schedule a studio class, I charge as if for a group lesson, then I write a check to the pianist on the day of.  When charging for a competition, I do the same thing – I put the competition onto the calendar and register students for it at the fee for the pianist.  I make sure that the students know these costs go directly to the pianist.  Students pay the fees, as it’s in their regular invoice, and pianists get a check written from my studio account.

I have, as a result, pianists who like to work with my students and know that they will always be paid in a timely manner, without work on their part.  I have yet to be unable find a pianist to play for the variety of events through the year, and I know that this is in large part due to the financial arrangements I have been able to do – thanks to MTH invoicing & scheduling.

About the Author

Rachel Velarde
I began my music career in Bloomington, Indiana. After receiving my B.A. in Music from Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, I earned two Master of Music degrees at Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona. Luminaries I have worked with include Vernon Hartman, James Caraher, Lorenzo Malfatti, Shirlee Emmons, Mary Sue Hyatt, John Sikora, David Jones, David Britton, and Carol Smith.

I offer ... [Read more]


  1. Craig Tompkins

    Great minds think alike Rachel! I contact my favourite pianist well in advance (several months if possible) to secure her services. She keeps track of rehearsal times and bills me directly, I then pay her on the day and invoice the students. I usually cover a portion of her costs (10 – 20%) myself and call that a studio expense. Everyone is happy with the arrangement and the students get to work with and learn from a fantastic pianist.

    Happy New Year!

  2. Gretchen Saathoff

    YES!!! Thinking ahead and taking pianists seriously. What a treat! Both should be the norm.

    Getting paid is the #1 issue most of the time. It takes so much time and causes so much anxiety to chase down a check! Calling the landlord about how one hasn’t been paid yet just doesn’t work very well. Health insurance providers aren’t too accommodating, either.

    As a pianist, both collaborative and solo, I make sure to arrange payment early on, providing clear guidelines. It still doesn’t always work out as planned. And paying bills without having a check on time? It’s important to plan that way, but it’s also difficult financially and emotionally.

    Thank you for your consideration! When does your book come out?


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