Why Every Music Student Should Be In a Musical

Maranatha just finished it’s ninth and final performance of the musical, Anne of Green Gables under the direction of Carol Senn Ruffin. The orchestra was conducted by Dr. David Brown. The cast, crew, and musicians received outstanding reviews from the community, special guests, the student body, and faculty and staff. According to the orchestra members, Maranatha’s music students who were not able to participate really missed out on a valuable and FUN experience. Four orchestra members shared why every music student should participate as well as some of the orchestra members’ favorite lines.

How has playing in the musical improved your musicianship?

  • Megan: I am much better at carefully watching the director.
  • Danae: Participating in the musical has sharpened my ability of listening to what’s going on around me, and adjusting accordingly. Also, I am a horn player, so being in the musical has also strengthened my endurance quite a bit.
  • Tyler: Well, I learned a lot about the challenges of accompanists. For example, the orchestra had to constantly focus on not overshadowing the vocalists. Additionally, much of the music is simple and so “checking out” is easy to do. My ability to be engaged and play expressively, even when the music consists of whole and half notes, has really improved. My endurance overall has also improved. During performances we have very few times when we are not playing, and we played for five performances in three days.
  • Kara: I am better at being a flexible musician—playing in a musical requires so much flexibility. Because of the intricate interactions between the acting, singing, set changes, etc., no two performances are ever the same. We must know the music well enough have our focus entirely on the director rather than on the music. We may play half of a vamp today, and we might play it six times tomorrow – we learned we just need to know it and follow the director’s cues.

How is playing in a musical different from a regular orchestral rehearsal?

  • Megan: Most of the time, we are simply support for the singing, so we have to make sure we don’t overpower…ahem….brass!! ;-> (note: Megan’s cousin, Will Brown, plays in the brass section)
  • Danae: In playing regular orchestral pieces, the orchestra is usually the spotlight. Whereas in a musical, we are the usually the accompaniment with only occasional “spotlight numbers.”
  • Tyler: The musical styling is so incredibly different from what the orchestra typically performs. Many of the rhythms are difficult and require precise counting.
  • Kara: In typical college orchestra rehearsals, we are focusing on our ensemble and interpretation. Before the musical rehearsals started, we needed to have our ensemble and interpretation mastered so that we could focus on accompanying the singers. Also, in a musical rehearsal, we might end up vamping for five minutes if something goes wrong back stage, standing by while actors and actresses fix blocking problems, or repeating a section over and over until a singer is comfortable with it. Another difference is that the actors don’t stop because the wind section is flat or the strings are missing that F sharp – we just have to make mental notes of these issues, and try to fix it next time around. The musical performances are very different from an orchestra concert in that the audience reactions throughout the production play a major role.

Why would you recommend that music students participate in a musical at least once in their college career?

  • Megan: It’s A LOT of fun, and it’s different than just playing in a regular band or orchestra.
  • Danae: Playing in a musical helps one learn skills which cannot easily be learned through ordinary orchestral playing. Besides the many different skills to be learned, it is just a great deal of fun!
  • Tyler: First of all, it’s fun! The music and scenes are memorable and enjoyable. The amount of time we spend with our section and the orchestra brings us closer together. Secondly, playing in a musical is a unique experience. When or where else would I be able to play in the pit for a musical that is this well done? It’s worth it just for the memories and experience gained. As my dad said, you never know when you will have to lead a production for your church or school, and seeing how others solve problems can be beneficial in the future.
  • Kara: The hours spent in rehearsals for the musical produced a bond between orchestra members that wasn’t there before. We struggled through the same troubles, laughed at the same jokes, ate the same snacks, and traded seats to get a better view of the stage and to confuse Dr. Brown, the orchestra conductor. The musical pushed us to learn to play more softly, as well as to listen and watch more closely. The musical also broadened our experience, as we saw first-hand all that goes into the production of a musical.

What are some of the orchestra’s favorite lines from the musical?

  • Anne’s justification of her constant talking… “I know I chatter on far too much… but if you only knew how many things I want to say and don’t.”
  • Anne’s response to discovering Matthew and Marilla wanted a boy instead of a girl… “My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes. That’s a sentence I read once and I say it over to comfort myself in these times that try the soul.”
  • When Anne is asked about her name… “Would you please call me Cordelia?” and “Plain, old, unromantic Anne Shirley.”
  • Anne’s response to Marilla when she asks her to pray… “Mrs. Hammond told me that God made my hair red on purpose and I’ve never cared for Him since.”
  • Anne’s bedtime prayer the first night at Green Gables… Anne: “I’ll do my best. Dear Gracious, Heavenly Father, I thank you for everything. As for the things I especially want, they’re so numerous it would take a great deal of time to mention them all, so I’ll just mention the two most important. Please, let me stay at Green Gables. Please, make me beautiful when I grow up. I remain yours respectfully, Anne Shirley, with an E. Did I do alright?” Marilla: “Yes, if you were addressing a business letter to a catalog store.”
  • When Anne dyed her hair green: “I thought nothing could be as bad as red hair. Green is ten times worse.”
  • Anne’s response to Rachel Lynde’s criticism… “How would you like to have nasty things said about you? How would you like to hear that you’re FAT, UGLY, and a SOUR OLD GOSSIP!”
  • After Gilbert called Anne “Carrots”… “There’s a world of difference between being called crow-head and being called carrots. I shall never forgive Gilbert Blythe. The iron has entered my soul, Diana.”

Participate in Anne of Green Gables this summer at Music and Drama Camp.

See Pictures from the Musical