Magazine article International Musician

The Local Connection ... Life in the Pit

Magazine article International Musician

The Local Connection ... Life in the Pit

Article excerpt

The full-time traveling musicians are not the only AFM members who enjoy playing touring theatre productions, as most shows hire many of the musicians they need locally.

While repetition means traveling players can practically play their parts from memory, locally-hired musicians experience an entirely different challenge: perfectly executing two to three hours of complex, stylistically diverse, and rhythmically tricky theatre scores with very limited rehearsal time. In a field where you really are only as good as your last performance, theatre musicians represent the cream of their local crop.

For the core traveling musicians, this means a different group of colleagues every booking-for some shows, this means a different ensemble every week. Local and traveling players by necessity have to be good colleagues, and learn to harmonize quickly, both musically and professionally.

Nancy Whelan (keyboard) of Local 500 (Raleigh, NC) joined the show during its stop in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Whelan says she caught the "theater bug" at Cary High School in 1978 as pianist for Fiddler on the Roof. Since then, she's been musical director/pianist/keyboardist for more than 85 productions. For the past 10 seasons, she's been the associate musical director and orchestra contractor at North Carolina Theatre in Raleigh.

Q. What attracts you to this work? It's great being able to live at home and be a full-time freelancer. I appreciate both the stability of living in one place, as well as the excitement of playing a variety of musical genres.

Q. How much time are you generally given to learn the book? When playing local keys for a touring show, we get the books anywhere from one to three weeks ahead. Generally, we only get one four-hour rehearsal with the touring musicians (the day of show), have an hour sound check, then we open that night. …

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