I’ve been a working musician for close to forty years, and most of my work over the past twenty years has been as a musical theatre pit musician. This has given me the opportunity and privilege to travel extensively throughout the country and the world, an experience for which I’m eternally grateful. It’s been, and continues to be, quite a ride! At this point, I’ve worked in probably thousands of different cities and venues, and performed in front of hundreds of thousands – more like millions of people. So, let’s just say I’ve had the chance to meet and chat with more than just a few folks along the way.
And boy, do these folks like to ask questions! The type of question I get asked more than any other is something along the lines of, “So how did you start being a pit musician?”. Or, “Oh, I just LOOOVE musical theatre! How can I break into playing for shows?” More lately it’s been:
My kid’s high school band took a trip to New York and they saw seven Broadway shows in five days, and their Spring musical this year was Wicked, and last year they did Guys and Dolls, and now Skippy wants to play drums on the Broadway, did I mention Skippy’s really good, he’s first chair, and he’s on the lacrosse team, and he just loves GLEE – is there a name and number you can give me that I can call to get him an internship?”
All in one breath! 🙂
For many years I’d just answer the question off the cuff, but I was never really satisfied with the answer I gave them. I recently sat down and attempted to distill my answer into a concise chunk of information that I could pass on to others. I surprised myself with what I came up with, but after a lot of serious consideration, I think I’ve got a handle on it.
With the benefit of experience and hindsight, it’s much more more simple than I first thought. Here goes:
First off, understand that there isn’t a single, prescribed path to take to break into the world of the musical theatre pit musician. If anyone tries to tell you otherwise – don’t believe them. The people who are currently active on the scene come from a wide range of backgrounds. They each took a unique, often indirect, path to get there. And no, there is no magical phone number you can call to get Skippy an internship.
Now having said that, there are some things you (or your child/student/whatever) can do in order to give yourself (or themselves) the best chance for success.
Here’s where I let you in on a deep, dark secret. Ready? When you get right down to it, there are only three things you need to do in order to successfully work as a musical theatre pit musician. THREE.
But, I’m not going to tell you what they are.
But, I am going to tell you that once you’ve done all three of these things, you’ll have the absolute, best chance of successfully finding your way into pit work.
Oh, and without them, you don’t stand a chance.
First, I want you to ask yourself this simple question: “why?”
Why do you want to get into theatre work anyway?”
Leave me your answer in the comments so I’ll know where you’re coming from.
In the next article, I’ll reveal the “deep, dark secret” – the three things.
(This is the first in a series of articles discussing how to get started as a pit musician – check back soon for the next installment.)