Being a Musical Director of a production is so much more than having the chops to play the score and pound out notes for the cast. My approach is fully collaborative, working with the rest of the artistic team to understand the vision for the show. Will it be a traditional interpretation? Where might the production push the boundaries, in terms of casting and performance goals? What type of talent are we looking for? How will we work together as a team throughout the rehearsal process?
These are just a few questions that inform my approach. From the very beginning of the process – What are audition requirements? Who else will be on the panel? etc. – all the way through rehearsals and performances, I take a holistic approach to each project. Here are some highlights of my approach and style:
I prefer to be part of the panel with the director, producer and any others charged with making casting decisions. I strongly recommend hiring an audition accompanist, so I can focus my full attention on the performance given at the audition. I typically play my own callbacks, but occasionally request an accompanist, depending on the show and what the director and I are looking for.
There are many ways to structure the rehearsal period, and I collaborate with the director to work through the schedule that best meets his/her needs. In some cases, this might mean teaching all of the music up front. In other cases, it may require a staggered approach, with music and staging occurring interchangeably. Either way, my hallmark is complete preparation. I will come into each rehearsal knowing exactly what I want to accomplish and communicating that at the outset. Casts respond extremely well to this approach, especially if they also know ahead of time what will be covered. I also emphasize personal responsibility, once the music has been taught. I have had great response to my mantra: I can teach it to you, but I can’t learn it for you.
I also am secure enough in my abilities to not claim to know every answer and to take thoughtful suggestions from the cast. I love questions that cause us all to look at the material more critically and make solid decisions when there is uncertainty. I will always thank the cast member for the question, reiterate the question so everyone hears it, provide my point of view and make sure the answer or decision is clear to everyone.
Performance and the pit
I will work with whatever budget is available in determining and hiring a pit that will support the material successfully. I do not advocate hiring “volunteer” musicians for two important reasons:
- Unless they are students needing to play gigs for credit, musicians are professionals and deserve to be compensated for their work. Hiring volunteers perpetuates the devaluing of musicians as professionals.
- Volunteers are often available for a reason: They simply may not be very good players. If you want your show to sound professional, we need to hire professionals.
When I work with pit musicians, I provide as many notations and cuts ahead of time in an organized document via email. That way, with limited rehearsal time for musicians, they can come in as prepared as possible.
I will typically play and conduct, unless the pit has enough players to not require me on piano. I also have experience programming Mainstage, which I may be able to provide for your show, for an additional fee.