Contracting Your Pit Orchestra – Music Directing the School Musical

From a blog devoted to planning, managing and music directing a school musical, author Peter Hilliard uses a tight format to guide any school music director through the whole process. Each post begins with "True Story" then offers well organized "Advice".

The blog is quite new, started in May. Well done Peter.

Contracting Your Pit Orchestra « Music Directing the School Musical.

Here is an excerpt, but the all the article are worth the time to read, especially for band directors and music educators who plan and direct their school musicals.

1) Don’t hire every a person for every book they send you. Here’s my method: When the box arrives, I take out the drums, bass, and piano books and put them aside. (and guitar for a rock show) I then stack the remaining books from fattest to thinnest. (no joke) The 3 or 4 fattest books and the drums, piano, and bass books get hired. The other books go back in the box. Why not hire the whole box? Well, even if you have the money to do that, the more people you have in your pit, the greater your balance problems, and the more fights you’ll have with the sound crew. Plus, unless you happen to have a bunch of guys who are awesome at your disposal, more people is harder to keep together and there is a higher chance you’ll hire a dud.

2) You’ll have to decide what your goals are for the pit experience. If you really want to use it as an educational experience for the instrumental students, you owe it to them, and to everyone else working on the show to have a bunch of rehearsals; enough rehearsals that they really know the book. Putting under-rehearsed kids in a pit under a well rehearsed show is just a crying shame, and it demoralizes the kids who are playing the music they don’t know. If you don’t have time to really work it, please hire professionals.

3) My criterion for pit players is simple, but I learned the hard way.

a) The player basically needs to be good enough to read the book at sight. Things are going to go wrong in the pit, and if your players are worrying about reading the book, they’ll never catch up when the thing goes off the rails.

b) They have to have a good sense of humor. You’re going to be at some crappy and long rehearsals, and having a sour face in there with you stinks. I don’t care how good you are, if you can’t crack a smile, I don’t want you in my pit.

c) They have to get back on the train. If you get lost, find your way again, or at least try. When I have a player get that look of confusion, then give up and look up at the stage with a shrug, I know it’s not going to work out. A good pit player will be listening and try and find a landmark to get back on track again.

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