There are many different types of accompanist jobs, some more demanding than others. Places of worship, visual and performing arts centers, schools, special auditions and other places and events often require an accompanist. The compensation for accompanying varies widely depending on your area and the venue, some offering pay on a per job basis and others offering a salary or hourly option.
Before you begin looking for an accompanist job, carefully assess your piano skills. As an accompanist, you must be a quick and accurate sight reader at all levels. You must also be able to follow a soloist or director for musical cues, understanding that the interpretation is up to the performers. That being the case, you must also be able to follow instructions quickly, as too much talking will slow down a rehearsal or audition process, often irritating performers and directors.
One of the most common places to find an accompanist job is in a place of worship. Many religious centers have music departments with vocal choirs, hand bell choirs, orchestras, or bands. Often, an accompanist is needed for both rehearsals and performances. In most cases, this is a salaried position with regular hours. Although the compensation is usually low to average, accompanists typically only work four to six hours a week, usually in the evenings or on the morning of the religious service.
Schools also employ accompanists. Large music programs typically have several accompanists on salary for accompanying classes, private lessons, and performances. Depending on the actual requirements, the accompanist job at a school may require up to 40 hours a week, including some nights and weekends for performances and rehearsals. Compensation is average.
Professional performing groups or performing arts centers may employ an accompanist on a full-time, part-time, or as-needed basis. During auditions, an accompanist may be hired for a day or weekend to play for singers and instrumentalists who are auditioning for parts in an upcoming performance. During the weeks of rehearsal prior to performance, performing arts groups may employ an accompanist for rehearsal and the performance. In some cases, the accompanist is only needed for rehearsal, as a full band or orchestra is used for the performance.
In some large cities, or areas with prestigious music programs, the compensation for accompanying may be considerably more than in other areas. Even so, accompanying is not considered a lucrative position by any means. Many arts centers and schools are run on a tight budget, primarily funded by donors and sponsors, so an accompanist job typically does not pay well.