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The Definitive Guide to Building and Maintaining a Repertoire List

One of the most important things about being a collaborative pianist is developing depth of repertoire, whether you choose to specialize in one area or play a wide variety of genres. When you're applying for graduate school, a young artist program, or your first staff accompanist position, it's important to be able to present a complete repertoire list so those who are interested in you can get a better sense of the works, styles and genres that you've played so far.

The problem is that very few of us actively maintain a rep list and are able to keep track of what we've played over time. It takes a lot of time and regular updating to be able to offer a complete rep list (especially one as jaw-droppingly awesome as Amanda Johnston's) and this post will tell you how you can start, update, and offer one that will impress at hiring time.

Getting Started

Back in the old days, those of us diligent enough to be updating our rep lists did so on a weekly or monthly basis, when we would frantically search our books and photocopies, find out what was new, and add it to our list, most often a word document that lived on our home computer.

Fortunately, things have changed and the process of rep list-building can benefit greatly from the advances made with cloud computing technology. I recommend using a Google Docs spreadsheet for keeping the data in your rep list, and have created a template that you can use for this purpose:

You'll need to create and be signed into a Google account to save the template and start adding your own rep to the spreadsheet. The advantage of a Google Docs spreadsheet is that since it's stored on Google's servers, you can update it from any internet-enabled computer or smartphone. This is much more efficient than the old practice of having a word document on your hard drive that you only added to once in a blue moon.

Updating Your Rep List

Once you've saved the template to your Google account, you can start putting your repertoire on it. I've listed columns for composer, title of work, title of larger work (if applicable), genre, and sub-genre and added a few commonly known works to give you an idea of how the setup works. Here are some things to keep in mind when adding data to the fields:

  • There is no need to insert rows. Simply add the latest data to the bottom of the spreadsheet, click on the arrows on the lettered columns, and choose "Sort Sheet A ---> Z" in order to alphabetize, ie. by composer. 
  • When listing composers, it's a good idea to put the last name first for the purpose of alphabetization.
  • I've used the genre field for dividing between Instrumental and Vocal repertoire. You can also add Solo to this field.
  • You can use the Sub-Genre field to even further segment your rep, ie. sonata vs. concerto, aria vs. art song. 

Presenting Your Rep List
The time will come when you need to present your list in various elegant guises. Here are some ways that you can segment your full repertoire list in order to present it when the time comes:
  • Select and copy any groups of fields and then paste and format them into a word document for official presentation. You can also paste them into WYSIWYG editors if you're building a website.
  • For a complete alphabetical listing, sort the entire list alphabetically by composer.
  • To divide into instrumental and vocal groups, sort the genre field, then the composer field, then copy and paste into a word document. 
  • To list a specialization such as violin concertos or lieder, sort the sub-genre field, then sort the composer field, then copy and paste the alphabetized contents of the chosen sub-genre field.
  • For even more input, sorting, and presentation options, you can download the spreadsheet and then import it into a database program such as Microsoft Access or Base. 

A couple of caveats
  1. Update your list regularly. Doing a mass update the night before you send out your DMA application is not a good idea. Setting up your list early as a Google spreadsheet and adding to it via smartphone or internet whenever you learn a work takes less time over the long term and results in a much better, flexible, and marketable product when you need it.
  2. Don't falsify the contents of your repertoire list. Only list the works that you actually can play. You're going to get burned if you pad your list. I recall a "cello specialist" I once worked with who only knew a few sonatas and no concertos. The best rep list in the world cannot mask a pianist with repertoire deficiencies. On the other hand, every single one of us has a slightly different specialization, the nuances of which can rise to the surface with a consistently revised list.
Although the template I created on Google Docs was intended for collaborative pianists, a few tweaks can make it work for any singer or instrumentalist. 
Do you have any useful repertoire list and/or spreadsheet tips? If so, tell us about them in the comments.

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