A musician in musical theatre

 10 February 2012

Live music is a key part of musical theatre. But tighter budgets can mean reduced band sizes, or even the automation of music altogether. 3 tips for breaking into musical theatre:

Live music is an essential element to musical theatre. Images: Britten Sinfonia
Live music is an essential element to musical theatre. Images: Britten Sinfonia

1. Training for musical theatre

There are currently no dedicated higher-education courses for musicians working in musical theatre.

Most musicians will come through from studying either classical or jazz music at college, or by working as a session musician.

2. Join online networks

Live music is an essential element to musical theatre.

Composers, musical directors, and producers creating showcases are always looking to work with musicians.

You will need to show passion about the world of musical theatre and be adept at working on new scores while the ink is still damp.

Mercury Musical Development provides a support network for composers and writers of musical theatre in the UK. This promotes the showcasing of new work and gets attention for new scores being written. 

3.Get on an orchestra fixer's list

An 'fixer' is a contracter who is responsible for assembling the orchestra on behalf of a musical production. They make sure that every postion on the orchestra is filled, and arrange for replacements if someone is sick, or unavailable. Being in a fixer's book of contacts is a good route into an orchestra.

A small body of orchestra fixers work across the UK to provide the bands for touring and west end musicals. You can find lists of these by registering for the Musicians' Union or joining a diary service.

Many musicians learn their craft through being a deputy ('dep') for an existing band member, filling in for them if they are unavailable. Being a dep is a way to build your reputation as an attentive, interested, and interesting band member.

On the flipside, if you in the orchastra of a long-running show, you may find yourself wanting to bring in a dep or two. This cover allows you to head off and work on other projects without having to leave the orchastra.

If you do find a dep, make sure they are at least as good as you are, maybe even better. You will be helping out a fellow musican, as well as making the life of the musical director and the whole company a whole lot more pleasant.

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