Last year, I wrote an in-depth account of my relationship with musical theater and reflected on my first experience directing the pit orchestra at Brewster High School. This year felt so different! I knew the musical, I had ideas to streamline the audition and rehearsal process, and the director was on board with my plan to make the calendar more reasonable for the instrumental musicians. Maybe it was because I finally had some experience on the pit podium or maybe it was because the legalities of flying children through the air on wires were pushing our administration to their wits’ end, but I felt like I had some control over my own realm (and it felt good!).
When the parts arrived, I went to work. First, I identified challenging excerpts for each instrument and made a small practice packet for anyone interested in auditioning. Then, I put bowings and fingerings into the string parts and checked every part against the score to make sure that the rehearsal letters were aligned. I contacted the choreographer and the director to get ahead of any cuts and additions, and I used the [legible] score to compare motifs and other similarities that might save time during rehearsal if we looked at them side-by-side. Finally, I double checked the rehearsal schedule I had drafted to make sure that rehearsals were reasonable and condensed.
With all that complete, auditions were easy and painless. I had a lot of student interest, but I was pleased to be able to accept students of all grade levels and from a few different school ensembles. Unlike How to Succeed, this music was actually challenging to play, not just to read. For the trumpet players who weren’t used to starting their day with long tones or playing more than sporadically during a 40-minute class period, this process was rough. I realized early on that my sanity could be saved by either starting or ending with string sectionals or staggering the break time so that different sections return at different times. And it all came together! I’ll be sad when it sets in that this show is over and packed up.