A great improv accompanist must have a high level of talent, knowledge, and ability— be able to back improvising performers, playing any number of styles and genres. The goal is to make the impossible seem effortless. In addition to improvising , an improv accompanist will sometimes provide underscoring for scenes, evoking a mood or reinforcing a moment.
We’ve heard a number of accomplished jazz musicians who think that they’ve got the necessary skill; however our experience is that lots of jazz experience can actually limit the accompanist. Knowing a lot of genres, while making it up, is much more important than knowing how to put a jazz spin on an existing song. We get audience suggestions calling for rock, hip-hop, show tunes, old-school lounge standards, folk tunes, etc…
Even more important than a handling a wide range of genres is the ability to make the improviser/singer look and sound good. It’s challenging, because the improv accompanist needs to be a masterful performer who doesn’t call attention to their own skill. It helps if the musician has some experience as an acting improviser, though that isn’t mandatory.
The pay is low; varies based on the gig. This is work you do for the love of it. (We won’t say “for the exposure” because after all, people die of exposure.) In-house weekend shows currently pay a token $25, as we are still working on recovering from time closed and rebuilding audiences. Pay is better for external shows for paying clients, but we want to be transparent, we’re working on building those up again as well.
If interested, please email email@example.com; we’ll set up a time to meet at the theatre and do some improvising.