As a multi-genre chamber musician, orchestral pianist and music director, Yshani Perinpanayagam has performed at venues from Wigmore Hall to the London Palladium, at events from Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival to the Barbican Mime Festival, and with artists from the Philharmonia to Nina Conti. She is pianist of the Del Mar Piano Trio and Carismático Tango Band, and a regular guest broadcaster on BBC Radio 3. Yshani’s commitment to contemporary music has seen her premiere works including by Charlotte Bray, Joe Cutler, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Gavin Higgins, Hannah Kendall and Benjamin Oliver. Her commissions for piano, Commodore 64 and bespoke 8-bit synthesisers have been performed at the National Theatre Riverstage, The Place Theatre and the All Your Bass National Videogames Arcade festival. As a composer herself, commissions include works for the London Sinfonietta, Onyx Brass, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Sound and Music, and music for a play about Fanny Mendelssohn.

💥Collaboration💥 continues to hold its position at the top of the Buzz Word Charts. But why? Surely it’s just for people who don’t have the uniqueness of artistic voice, the technical mastery, and fundamental steel required to make it as a soloist?

As someone who is lucky enough to still be doing solo recitals, be in a piano trio etc., while being invited into increasingly adventurous cross-arts collaborations, I can confidently tell you…no. There is so much richness of creation, expression and excellence to be found in working with others, whether that be in disciplines closely related to your own or seemingly miles apart. Further, collaboration broadens you as an artist, helping you hone your voice by placing it in different contexts, your personal musicianship being thrown into increasing focus by exploring it from different angles.

 So, give collaboration a try; jump in with both feet and see if you like it, safe in the knowledge that your artistic swimming skills are plenty strong enough to swim back to shore if it’s not for you. Or, perhaps like me, you will find things along the way that give you enjoyment and fulfilment in ways you could never have imagined.

I have phrased the below as if you are looking for one collaborator purely for linguistic ease but there is no reason why you shouldn’t approach multiple people or groups for the same project.

If you’re ready, here’s how to get your collaborator-pulling pheromones pumping.

  1. Browse potential collaborators

You are looking for someone whose work intrigues or excites you, someone who seems like they’d have something inspiring to bring to the table. Finding creatives whose work you actually connect to and respect is vital - you will be trusting them with your artistry, your energy and your time (and possibly your money).

Whether you already have ideas of who you’d like to collaborate with, a genre or discipline in mind, or not, the advice is essentially the same:

Go to events, watch online, read articles, visit websites…

The added bonus here is that your openness to exploring the work of others will often lead you to additional connections with people you hadn’t planned to encounter, as well as a host of new ideas. 

  1. Connect with potential collaborators

Contacting people out of the blue can sometimes feel icky to do. However, I find this feels far easier if you actually like the person’s work. View contacting them as the first act in the collaboration - if the partnership is going to work, they will most likely find your method of contacting them speaks to them. If they decline or even don’t reply, don’t worry - it merely means it isn’t a fit, at least for now.

  1. Actually be interested

Running parallel to point 2., people can generally detect if you are reaching out to them ultimately as a step-ladder to someone or somewhere else. They may well choose to partner with you if they think they can get something out of you too but these can be the driest collaborations at best, the most exhausting to even make function at worst, and will often lead on to similar collaborations purely for kudos’ sake. It’s probably not worth the effort.

  1. Do everything you do well

This is not to say NEVER MAKE MISTAKES OR YOU ARE DOOMED. Not at all. Just take every engagement seriously, whatever it is, giving it your full commitment, attention and integrity. The most conspicuous of my early ‘big breaks’ were from someone spotting me gladly busting a gut on an unassuming stage, and some of my early collaborations were borne from individuals seeing me perform and, while not always liking the content, somehow taking to the way I was delivering it.

  1. Be Yourself. Present Yourself.

This should be at the fore in all your work. The more I have focussed on playing/performing as honestly as possible, not filtering myself through a presumption of what I believed was wanted, the more that work that suits me has come my way. For a potential collaborator, if you are presenting yourself as honestly as you can, they will be able to feel any potential for connection from afar, and you could find yourself beginning a collaboration from a place where the full extent of your artistry is welcome.

  1. Keep an open mind

Avoid locking down what you have decided you like. Your tastes will be forever changing; continue to expose yourself to things you don’t know, and re-expose yourself to things you perhaps haven’t enjoyed in the past (within safe bounds). This way, you can continue to discover arts and artists that suit you as you are at that moment.

  1. Broaden your experience

Similarly, take on work that will exercise different bits of you. While trusting any real aversion, consider venturing into areas of the industry you had previously not considered, whether that be due to a perceived lack of skills in the area or a thus-far lack of interest. If you enter into these opportunities with commitment, you may be surprised with what you enjoy, of what you’re capable, and where it comes in handy down the line.

  1. The three-dimensional you

Maintaining a work-life balance as a musician is notoriously tricky. However, increasingly, my hobbies and life experiences have crept into my collaborations - for me so far, this has meant projects around dance, computer games, depression and activism. These collaborations have brought me immense fulfilment and, because of my passion-infused expertise, I’ve genuinely excelled in them.

  1. Turn it around…

 Imagine someone else is reading this list and decides they want to find out more about you. What would you like them to see? I personally enjoy engaging on social media, posting about performances, matters important to me, and general things of interest (i.e. silliness). Through this, I have had projects come my way that I could never have dreamt up but suit me perfectly. I keep my website updated for anyone wanting to find out about me in a more contained way; many people also have news letters and blogs. When using YouTube or SoundCloud, ensure your content represents you as you wish - this content will often be a crucial port-of-call when people are deciding whether to take the plunge into your inbox.

  1. Shuffle and repeat

As with any collaboration itself, keep your openness to connecting with potential collaborators and new disciplines alive. At the very least you will be feeding your artistry, at best, who knows…

Want to feel more fearless when reaching out to new collaborators? Book our networking with confidence event now!

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