OSF Builds Professional & Pre-Professional Orchestra for INTO THE WOODS, Running June-Oct 2014
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Amanda Dehnert, director and musical director of this season's Into the Woods, have assembled not only the largest orchestra to play on the Allen Elizabethan Theatre stage, but also the first to gather both professional and emerging pre-professional artists for a true master-apprentice experience.
When Dehnert was offered the opportunity to direct Into the Woods by OSF Artistic Director Bill Rauch, she wanted to embrace the orchestral nature of the score. "Sondheim has melded the music and lyrics in this work. It is rooted in the lyrics, but the music creates the world," Dehnert said. "The story is told in song. There's lots of music-great music-and I wanted to celebrate the score in this production."
After auditioning nearly 60 musicians over a period of three months, Dehnert and Associate Music Director Matt Goodrich selected a 25-member ensemble. Altogether there are 33 musicians working for the orchestra, made up of 14 masters and 19 apprentices. The apprentices are paired with a coach/mentor who assists them in score preparation before rehearsals.
The orchestra is comprised of nine strings, seven woodwinds, four brass, two percussion, two pianists and a conductor. All of the apprentice musicians are from the Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon; the youngest musician will graduate from eighth grade this June and the oldest is pursuing a Master's degree in instrumental performance. Breakdown by school group is: one in middle school, 10 in high school and eight in college. Most have never played for theatre before. All performers are compensated.
The idea of creating a professional and pre-professional orchestra is no experiment for Dehnert. She had the opportunity as a young performer to work with master musicians, and later, as a theatre professional, she wanted to offer the same opportunities to other young performers. This is the third orchestra that Dehnert has put together for professional theatre productions with masters and apprentices.
"I was profoundly influenced by the opportunities I was given as a high-school musician to play alongside professionals," Dehnert explained. "To be paid for my work, be in a professional setting, but still have a safety net of people around me who were interested in teaching me what they knew after 10, 20 or 30 years in the field-this was life-changing. I would not have become a professional artist had I not started to spread my wings just that little bit in such a challenging yet supportive environment. And this is a major theme of Into the Woods-how we support the generations below us. It's the right score and the right project."
The program is designed not to conflict with other music ensembles. "It is important to me that this be an additional opportunity, not a replacement for or in competition with any of their current training or ensemble work," Dehnert said. "The musical life of the Rogue Valley is astonishing, and I love having the chance to celebrate the resident youth and adult ensembles, as well as the extremely dedicated and vital school programs. Hopefully, this venture will inspire more interest in music and the arts in general."
The Production Sponsors for Into the Woods are Mort and Amy Friedkin and Jed and Celia Meese. Production Partners are Thomas Castle and Pamela Howard, Sid and Karen DeBoer, Jerry and Jeanne Taylor Family Foundation and Betty and Jack Schafer.
Into the Woods will run from June 4 through October 11 in the Allen Elizabethan Theatre. For more information or tickets visit www.osfashland.org.