Profile: Karen Murphy
Collaborative pianists know quite a bit about listening, and Mississippi State's departmental accompanist Karen Murphy makes it a top priority whether she's working with vocalists or instrumentalists.
"There is a life lesson to be learned from listening, and I think the whole beauty of collaborative piano is in the opportunities it gives you in development and discipline," the collaborative piano instructor explained. "Awareness of your partner is the most important thing you can learn as a collaborative pianist: learning to give and take as you try to strike the right balance."
Real collaboration results when performers let go of themselves and become part of the music, she emphasized.
"You have to lose yourself in the music so that it's really not all about you," Murphy said. "It's not about the thrill of executing; it's the thrill of what the composer has written. I just think about the music and make it as beautiful as possible.
"When I'm totally relaxed and playing and everything is really quiet in the room, that's when it's all about the music."
Seven years ago, Murphy came to Mississippi State from the University of Minnesota and helped develop the first collaborative piano course on campus. When MSU piano students—whether they're music majors or not—learn how to accompany singers or instrumentalists, they're developing a marketable skill, she said.
"You get more opportunities to do accompanying work than solo piano," Murphy said. "All of my students are using it, and many continue to after they graduate."
When she saw campus for the first time, Murphy said she knew she'd found the place she wanted to be. The trees and other greenery, as well as the spacious nature of campus, are just a few features she especially appreciates.
"This is a nice place to work. I have a lot of freedom here to be creative, and as a musician, you can't ask for a better environment," Murphy said. "Here, students speak respectfully and have great attitudes. We have a lot of really good people—faculty, staff and students."
In describing her work, Murphy emphasized the thriving nature of Mississippi State's music and music education programs. She noted that the university currently is shifting to an All-Steinway School, the brand most musicians consider to be the world's best.
As choirmaster and music director at Starkville's Church of the Resurrection, Murphy is also an active member of the larger local community.
While some of her favorite composers include Schubert, Brahms, Schumann, Ravel and Beethoven, Murphy said appreciates the diverse and continually changing repertoire that collaborative piano offers.
"Collaborative pianists are skilled, and in this highly trained skill area, we are always pushing to ;take it to the next level,'" she said.Writer: Leah Barbour | Photo: Beth Wynn
Next week … Kris Robinson & Katie Corban !