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How I Accidentally Became a Musical Director

April 10, 2013

Someone’s always watching. In some cases, that can mean the difference between getting rehired and getting black listed. It is this fact that by happenstance, landed me a series of fortuitous jobs in a row…without any auditioning, networking, or even trying.

Some years ago I did my director friend a favor and joined a production last-minute when he needed actors. When I say last-minute, I mean we put the entire show together in a mere week or two. I’ve played the piano since I was four and though I usually refuse to even look at anything other than Chopin, occasionally I find myself picking out the notes of my audition/callback songs when I need a bit of help learning them. Luckily for this show, with no time to dedicate to breaking down harmonies and perfecting rhythms, if someone needed help with their song, I could easily pick out their music.

So where is this going? The director was thankful for my help and recast me in another show? The manager of the theatre saw I was a team player and asked me to come audition again? Slightly more unlikely. Someone is always watching, and fortunately for me, one of those unlikely spectators, though just another ensemble member in that production, happened to also direct shows all over town.

I wasn’t aware that this cast mate was A.) a director or B.) even watching what I was doing in rehearsal. However, some time later I received word from a mutual friend that this director remembered that I played the piano and was looking for a musical director for an upcoming paid show.

Let me take this time to say how it’s always been a dream of mine to use my piano skills professional in the theatre or to get any job as a musical director (paid or unpaid!!). But who would hire me at this point in my life? I have no real experience musical directing, I’m fresh out of college, and I’m only just beginning to even establish myself as a performer. Needless to say, I quickly put together a piano reel of everything I could do, and with the recommendation from the director to the company, I got the job.

The best part is that my work in this show landed me another paid position as a musical director immediately following the production’s closing. Additionally, several members of the cast liked working with me and asked about getting private voice lessons. With multiple credits now on my resume, and good recommendations from the students I taught, I was able to get a job teaching musical theatre voice (and a piano class) at a performing arts studio.

Not only did I get some great experience in musical directing and teaching, but I learned that it’s not necessarily how many credits you have that’s going to land you your next job. It might just be putting in the extra effort in your current show, or it might be chasing after something that seems unreachable at the time. Whatever it is, I’ll definitely make sure I’m always on my game because someone always seems to be watching in the unlikeliest of moments!

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