A Day in the Life of a Piano Accompanying & Chamber Music Student

October 21, 2015

Today’s “Day in the Life” post comes from graduate student Zachary Peterson MM ’16.  Thanks Zachary!


zacA little over a year ago, I moved from Omaha, Nebraska to Rochester, NY to embark on my graduate studies in Piano Accompanying and Chamber Music. In the last year, I’ve learned many things about myself, been exposed to great music, worked with phenomenal teachers, and cultivated friendships that I hope will last for many years to come.

As an Accompanying major and Graduate Assistant, I am assigned a certain number of musical collaborative partners (instrumentalists and vocalists) with whom I work each week. I attend their lessons and studio classes as needed and rehearse with them. This year, I am assigned three singers (in different studios), a violinist, a cellist, and a trumpeter. My schedule changes every week depending on their needs.

Here’s how a typical day looks:


8:30-10:00am Eastman Registrar’s Office

I am one of three student workers who work part-time in the Registrar’s Office. I spend time answering phones, entering data, and making classroom reservations upon request for students and faculty.

10:35-11:25am Intermediate Keyboard Skills

This class covers the topics of harmonization, hymn playing, score reading, transposition, and figured bass. All of these skills are necessary as an accompanying major. Dr. Bruce Frank teaches this course with great enthusiasm to accompanying, theory, organ, and conducting majors.

11:30am-12:30pm Lunch

As a busy collaborative pianist, this hour of “me time” is important. I have a puppy, so I end up going home to let him out and have lunch.

12:30-3:00pm Practice

This afternoon, I am working on a new commission for my vocal degree recital by composer Patrick Dunnevant. My collaborative partner bass vocalist Cody Müller and I commissioned him to set the Passion of Jesus Christ according to John in French.

3:30pm Private Accompanying Lesson with Dr. Jean Barr

As I mentioned, I have six collaborative partners this year. Accompanying majors have different lesson times each week due to having to coordinate many different schedules. Today, I brought in Cody Müller to my lesson. Cody and I are sharing a degree recital in the spring and today we brought three of Brahms’ Vier Ernste Gesänge to Dr. Barr. Dr. Barr talked to me about pedaling, voicing, listening to the German consonants, and trying to relax and just play.

4:30-5:30pm Correspondence Hour

I find setting aside time to answer e-mails is important. I not only have personal emails to respond to, but emails relating to my leadership role with the Eastman Graduate Student Association (EGSA). Today I am responding to e-mails from my collaborative partners, correspondence from Dr. Barr, and e-mails regarding the upcoming Spooktacular, which the Eastman Graduate Students Association puts on.

5:30pm Voice Studio Class of Prof. Jan Opalach

As Cody came to my lesson at 3:30pm, now I go to his studio class and play the first of the Brahms Vier Ernste Gesänge. We perform and receive comments from Cody’s studio colleagues and from Prof. Opalach.

6:00pm Dinner

Cody remains in class and I return to my apartment to let the dog out, feed him and grab a quick bite to eat.

7:30-9:30pm Practice

Tonight, I’m working on the first movement of the Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1 and the fourth movement of the Elgar Cello Concerto.


As busy as my days are, I am grateful to have the opportunity to work with such inspiring students and faculty. Eastman is such a wonderful school with a great sense of community, in addition to the high caliber of musical excellence.

Comments are closed.