Behind the scenes of Legally Blonde

Lillie Hoffart and Delaney Oliver

 

Behind the Scenes: Pit Orchestra

The lights dim and the crowd quiets. Suddenly, fast-paced music begins to sound from the pit orchestra under the stage and the musical begins.

This year, the pit orchestra is under the direction of Music Director Julie Danielson, who is in charge of both the vocal music and instrumental music. Danielson is a graduate from Blue Valley North and plays the base. She began conducting musicals her sophomore year when the director had to leave for meetings the week of the show and decided to leave Danielson in charge.

“[The experience] was like, ‘this was what you should do with your life,” I just loved it,” Danielson said. “From that point on, I did everything I could do to play in pits or conduct pits.”

The orchestra for the 2015 musical is also made up of a dozen students and four “ringers” (hired professional instrumentalists).

Trumpet player William Funk has played professionally in pit orchestras since he was in college. He often is hired for high school pit orchestras.

“The pit music is written for professionals on Broadway, and those guys and girls are amazing,” Funk said. “When a show leaves Broadway and goes out to high schools, the music stays the same… there aren’t really many high school trumpet players who are ready to play this type of music.”

The music contains keys hardly played in band or orchestra class, complicated runs (groupings of notes), tricky key signatures, and notes often out of the students range.

“In a musical, the pit music is horrible – tons of sharps, tons of flats,” Danielson said. “It is written to fit the voices, and then the orchestra just has to make it happen.”

The limited space in the pit also means a limited amount of musicians.

“You usually have a lot more people playing with you and you blend in with the rest of the sound, but in the pit you can hear your self individually, you can hear yourself mess up,” sophomore clarinet and alto saxophone player Meredith Casey said.

However, the students in the pit say they enjoy playing the music despite the challenge.

“It is kind of hard and crazy sometimes, but overall, it is really fun,” sophomore clarinet player Emily Magness said.