Tired or Wired?

August 24, 2007

I must be wired, because it’s four a.m. and I still can’t sleep. I just returned from my China trip a few hours ago, and thought I would share some of my experiences. Maybe share a couple of photos as well.

All in all, it was a very successful trip. I should have re-read my previous post, because one of the tenser moments was in the first rehearsal of the fiendishly difficult “Legende” of Schmitt, when the saxophone soloist wanted to go faster than I was ready to go at that first rehearsal. This is a crucial moment–the soloist is sizing me up and thinking, oh boy, he can’t play the piece, what do I do now? What I did was practice the devil out of the piece before our 2nd and final rehearsal. He seemed much happier, and the performance went reasonably well. I must point out at the moment he wanted to go faster, that while I am busy with 3 staves of music all over the place, the saxophone is sustaining quarter notes and whole notes, so for him the main issue is breathing. The faster it goes, the easier for him. That is so often the case in these works.

I should explain that I was there being a staff pianist for the 2007 China International Clarinet & Saxophone Symposium. My fee didn’t even cover the ticket to get there. So why would I do something that difficult and lose money at that same time? Well, if you haven’t been to China, you might not understand. Actually it was a lot of fun. In my warped value system, that is some of the most fun in my life, working with great musicians from literally all over the world.

I was astonished to see my accommodations for the week. The organizers gave me a deluxe room, actually a suite, with an upright piano. That was my practice/rehearsal room, and I stayed in there for 3 days, only coming out for performances and meals. (I missed a couple of the latter, but I still managed to put on a few pounds anyway–notice the food in the next photo!)


After the last concert, the 3 festival pianists went out for the customary Post-Festival Collaborative Pianists Gathering. This is when the pianists can breathe a sigh of relief, lick our wounds, and enjoy the kind of camaraderie that exists in our profession.That is Jackie (Jahyeong) Koo from Los Angeles, and Ha Eun Jeong from Seoul. I am behind the camera. We divided the workload pretty evenly.


Here I am with Mario Marzi, saxophone virtuoso from Italy.


Well, I am starting to fade, so I am stopping for now.


Tempo Tip (from Martin Katz)

August 4, 2007

This comes from Martin Katz, and I can testify that it has served me well over the years.  It might seem obvious, but when you are in a situation where you will be meeting your soloist shortly before you are to perform, you should prepare extreme tempos for each piece– not just to be able to play slower or faster than you think it ought to go, but to play these extreme tempi as though you really think they’re correct.  Thanks for that, Marty!

Getting it Together

August 3, 2007

I have been practicing a lot these days getting ready for China (see previous post) and now I am within the two-week window to get everything ready to go.  The Schmitt Legende turned a corner tonight, and finally I am beginning to be able to imagine playing it successfully in public.  That is still quite a ways from actually being able to play it, but it took me a long time just to get where I am.  Those of you who have played it understand what I mean.  Fortunately, it is a beautiful work and very gratifying to play.

Other pieces in preparation include a fair number of Piazzolla tangos (this seems to be his year), the ever-enchanting Tableaux de Provence, Hindemith Sonata in Eb for Althorn, which is more of a piano solo with sax accompaniment, and a very nice transcription of some pieces from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet.  Believe it or not, I still don’t have all the music I am supposed to play.  That, unfortunately, is to be expected.

Just wanted to check in periodically to give an update.  I will write again before I leave.  In the meantime, anybody out there who does alot of saxophone collaboration, stop practicing for a minute and drop a line or two.  I know you’re out there.

Thought for the Day

July 18, 2007

Collaboration means compromise.

David Hockney

The Luck of the Draw

July 16, 2007

It has been a few weeks since my last post, with a trip to Canada in between for the International ClarinetFest in Vancouver. I was not hired as a staff pianist for that festival, so I only had to prepare one concert, and a short one at that. Now I am getting ready for a staff pianist job at the Beijing International Clarinet/Saxophone Festival in mid-August. Packages of music have been arriving every few days from Italy, Greece, Poland and other places. Some of the repertoire is standard fare, such as Tableaux de Provence, Hindemith Eb sonata, Bernstein sonata for clarinet, etc. One piece has me sweating already: the Florent Schmitt Légende for Saxophone and Orch, transcribed by the composer. I happen to be a fan of Schmitt’s works, and recently performed the beautiful Sonata libre for violin and piano. That piece prepared me well for the complexities of this reduction.

One of the artists sent a stack of single-sided xerox pages. Whenever this happens, the first thing I do is head to Kinko’s and have them spiral bound back to back to make a book. It really helps to keep things in order and works better on stage. I understand their reluctance to send original music in the mail, so I tolerate playing copied music, although I still prefer original music whenever possible. Fortunately, I have many of the standard pieces in my own music library.

I will be busy for the next few weeks getting ready for Beijing. I know you’re busy too, so I will stop writing now and get back to work.

A Brighter Note

June 21, 2007


My last post was a bit on the negative side, and I wanted to counter that by saying that I truly love everything I do. The past week has been filled with many exciting and musically rewarding experiences, from another performance with the fabulous clarinetist Alcides Rodriguez from Atlanta, to being rehearsal pianist for two of my Dallas Symphony colleagues for their upcoming performance of the Brahms Double Concerto, to playing keyboard in the over-the-top Video Games Live with the DSO. I also should include the wonderful privilege of coaching two UNT students on the magnificent Brahms Sonata in G for violin and piano. The life of the collaborative pianist is never boring. I am gradually adding things to my site, stay tuned!

Time Management

June 18, 2007


This is one of my big issues, and I know there are others who face the same challenges. Most of the successful collaborative pianists I know are always busy. This may be the reason that there are not already hundreds of collaborative piano blogs out there. I have plans to add content to this site as time permits, which means that it won’t happen overnight.

Since I am on the topic, I must confess that I have had this problem ever since my college days. I take on too many commitments, then switch to survival mode. This year was unbelievably full, and I am still not through.

Before the Oklahoma Clarinet Symposium, I was asked rather late to accompany bassist Gottfried Engels, a guest artist at my school (University of North Texas). I ended up having to learn two programs (including the Hindemith Bass Sonata) in one week. He was very nice and was understanding of my dire situation, so he tried to help me along by not insisting that we rehearse up to tempo. I always try to be more prepared for these guest artists, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.

All I can say is that I got through Gottfried. As Stephen Covey puts it:

“Integrity in the Moment of Choice” (First Things First)

Hello world!

June 16, 2007

Hello, reader. My name is Steve Harlos, and I am a collaborative pianist. In case you are wondering what that is, it means that most of my work at the piano is with other people. I am starting a blogsite here devoted mainly to the art of piano collaboration, but I have other thoughts of a more general nature which I want to share as we get further into the discussions. This could become a network of collaborators which could be very informative and entertaining.


I have been thinking about doing a weblog for some time, but this week I am working as a collaborative pianist for the University of Oklahoma Clarinet Symposium, an annual affair which brings together some of the top clarinet artists in the world for an orgy of concerts, workshops, exhibitors, networking, etc. Yesterday I had a coffee break with an old friend from my college days at IU. His name is Gary Kosloski, and he’s a wonderful violinist.

He was commenting on the difficulty of finding pianists to work with his students on serious repertoire. I was thinking about that comment and it made me realize that things are different where I teach at the University of North Texas. There we have a hard working bunch of terrific pianists who enjoy collaborating and will play the most challenging repertoire (usually for a fee, but our time is valuable). I am the coordinator of collaborative piano at UNT, and right now we have a Masters degree and are working toward a DMA in Collaborative Piano.

The other collaborative pianist here doing the same thing as I am doing is Gail Novak, who I met at the International ClarinetFest in Ostende, Belgium. She is a wonderful collaborative pianist and knows the clarinet repertoire intimately.   We had a chance to catch up on things and that also got me thinking about this blogsite.


I would like for this to be a forum for collaborative pianists. I have ideas and experiences to share, and if you do as well, feel free to comment on this site and together we can develop a resource for like-minded musicians.