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BWW Blog: From The Eyes of the Pit Orchestra

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BWW Blog: From The Eyes of the Pit Orchestra

I may not have been a theatre kid, but I was a band kid. I have a feeling that once you are a band kid you will always be a band kid so I guess I am still a band kid. I grew up playing the trumpet and I spent most of my time in high school at band rehearsals. Looking back on it I do not understand how or why I devoted that much time to playing the trumpet, but I did make good friends and had fun playing. Specifically, some of my fondest memories come from the time I spent in the pit orchestra for two of my high school's musicals.

My junior year of high school was the first time my band director asked me to play in the pit. The spring musical was Beauty and the Beast and I was excited to share the first chair for the trumpet part with one of my best friends. I was well versed in the local high school and community theatre scene and I had several peers in the Drama Department, but I was not familiar with what goes into making a great show happen. This was all about to change with the start of rehearsals.

Our pit orchestra of around 30 musicians, half winds and half strings, rehearsed two to three times per week after school. It was hard work and I probably was not qualified for it, but I did not get fired so that's something. Not that I was getting paid anyway. As we plowed through the MTI books and mastered the songs, the actors would come into rehearsals and sing along with us. I gradually started realizing how magical it was to hear the same old notes that we had been practicing come to life with a live vocal track. We were brewing up something powerful that we could not wait to share with the public. As if I thought that was as cool as it would get, then I experienced my first sitzprobe where the orchestra and singers rehearsed together. Getting the two separately rehearsed groups to blend perfectly together as one was rocky at first, but with more practice, I saw a complete show coming to life.

Performances consisted of six total shows split up by over two weekends. I discovered that when I get nervous my mouth gets dry and that does not work well when you play the trumpet. I also discovered that if you drop a straight mute in the middle of a silent scene change then you will get death stares from the conductor. But what I really learned was how insanely talented and passionate a Drama Department is. Through the countless rehearsals and six performances, I got to see my peers shine and hear my fellow orchestra members jam like never before for "Be Our Guest."

The couple of weeks leading up to the shows were draining in every way. They consisted of a lot of ironing out of mistakes, reassigning parts, balancing volumes, and syncing up with the actors. On top of rehearsals and tech week, we all had actual school and homework to do. When we finally pulled it off for an audience it felt so extraordinary.

Throughout the shows, I reminded myself how this exact group of high schoolers would never be all together again in the same place playing these same parts. As an orchestra, cast, and crew, we made it through broken microphones, malfunctioning set pieces, and missed cues. More importantly, we told a story for the community to enjoy and provided them a place to forget about reality for a couple hours. This was especially true for my senior year production of Ragtime. The show was the talk of the town, literally, and our audiences were packed full for the iconic musical.

Now, whenever I see a musical, I cheer extra loudly for the pit orchestra. Whether they are on stage, running through the aisles, or surrounding the stage, I think of what they are going through and all of the work they put in to playing the best show they can play. Some of my greatest appreciation for live theatre comes from knowing and understanding what the pit orchestra goes through. I wish every audience member could know what being in the pit means. But I also like knowing that there is a community of musicians out there who have all experienced a show from this specific point of view. That is something truly special to be a part of that I will forever cherish.

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From This Author Student Blogger: Brooke Treiman