Musicians from the Symphonic Band and Orchestra recently participated in Maranatha Baptist University’s production of Meredith Willson’s classic musical The Music Man. Being a member of the pit orchestra was a valuable experience as the musicians worked through many challenges, culminating in stunning performances to a packed-out audience.
Playing in a musical is quite different from ensemble playing. Elise Harder, a junior music arranging minor and violinist, comments, “One of the most difficult things for me was having to pay attention to the director and not get distracted by the actors, particularly when something funny happened while we were playing.”
In a musical, the orchestra’s primary role is accompaniment. “We have to constantly be monitoring our dynamics to ensure we are not overpowering the vocalists,” says junior music education major and flutist Kate Toole. “Everything we play needs to be in support of what is happening onstage.”
Being in the orchestra proved to be a valuable learning experience and was enjoyable for its own sake. For Harder, one of the highlights was being able to see the entire play multiple times rather than just once. “It was fun to see it all come together and be in on all the inside jokes from rehearsals that audience members don’t see.”
As the musical’s pianist, junior music pedagogy and performance major Grace Betry offers a unique perspective. “Being at every single practice since the very first audition helped me see how everything slowly builds and comes together. Each part progressed steadily, but everything changed when we added the orchestra.” Often there would be abrupt stops or scene changes as the directors worked through various parts, making it difficult to keep the orchestra going.
“Being flexible was the key,” Betry reflects. “It was a great experience and a lot of fun too!”
Photos from Music Man
Written by Makayla Stevenson