Sunday night finished a three-week theatre run with a very diverse group of people in the pit. The rhythm section was comprised of “veterans” in the area, all of whom I’ve played with for many years; three of us had also played the show before. The horn and reed parts were all comprised of students from the local University. Monday morning found an email from the Music Director to me, asking my opinion on the musicians in the pit. Also included on the email list was the pianist from the show.
It bears mentioning that, while this Music Director is a “new guy” in town, he has just taken a position in the Musical Theatre program at the same University the students attend, as well as the current Music Director of a very talented, energetic (and dare I say well-paying) Summerstock theatre. The pianist in question is also a Music Director in town that has been directing for over 10 years. While the guitarist was not on the email list, he is also the Musician Liason at another local Summerstock theatre, hiring all of the musicians for the visiting Music Director.
Myself? I’m just a guy that plays with almost every single Music Director in town, as well as an unofficial consultant to directors when they find themselves with a couple holes to fill in their pit lineup.
Very quickly the three of us agreed on who would get hired again (sadly, a small list), who might get hired if there was no other option (a smaller list) and who not to hire (the longest list of the three). What they did or didn’t do isn’t important at this point. The point is that these students just failed an audition that they’ll probably never find out.
Simply put, you are always auditioning. You will never – NEVER – know who is watching or listening to you play. Therefore, if you are not conducting yourself in a professional manner on and off the gig, you run the risk of losing possible future gigs from people you may have never given a second thought to. I’m amazed that I still get comments from people on Facebook talking about my gigs with a former band… that I left over seven years ago. You never know who in the audience or right next to you, will remember something and talk to someone else.
Especially in the area of musical theatre, word of mouth recommendations hold a lot of weight; there is no time to hold formal auditions for musicians. So, MDs rely on musicians they trust to recommend like-minded musicians to fill gaps and holes. As previously stated, MDs then talk with the same musicians after the show to go over who worked out and who didn’t. In the end, the ones that didn’t cut it don’t find out; they’re just at home on a Friday wondering why all of their friends got gigs.
So, while it calls for another article entirely, here’s my quick list of criteria that I look for in musicians. Yes, these should all be common sense, but sadly they bear repeating.
• Show up on time. That means if your rehearsal starts at 5pm, you are there and ready to play. If you have a lot of gear, show up early to load in and set up.
• Do your job. I realize that some parts may seem below you (and trust me, the 1-5 pattern in “Oklahoma!” gets old really quickly) and playing something else may be more exciting, but you accepted the gig as it was. Don’t screw around because you’re bored.
• Be prepared. Know what you’re supposed to be playing and be able to do it well. If there are challenging parts, work on them. One mistake is acceptable; the same repeated mistake is not.
• Have a good attitude. It really speaks for itself.
Especially in this day and age, the saying of “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” rings true. Showing up late, being unprepared and screwing around, having a poor attitude are all things that scream, “Don’t hire me again” when people mention your name. A little common sense can’t guarantee that you’ll land more gigs, but it will make sure that when people start talking about you, they’re doing it for the right reasons.