Have you ever been to a live musical? Were you aware of the source of the music?
Many musicals have a live pit orchestra performing with them. The actors are never alone on stage -- they have at least a dozen people watching from below and ensuring the music plays only when it should. The work that goes into these live pit orchestras is immense.
Some local high schools feature pit orchestras for their school musicals, be it "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" or "Phantom of the Opera." Playing in the pit is a special opportunity that is given, generally by audition, to students in the school music department.
We asked some Top of Utah musicians, actors and conductors about being part of a pit orchestra.
SBlt Why organize a pit orchestra?
"It's as close to a real-world professional experience as we can get in a high school," said Randy Qualls, the band and orchestra teacher at Fremont High. "It gives (students) an idea of what it is like to be a professional. Second, I think it helps them realize that they can learn more and faster than they think they can."
There are other advantages as well to live music. Qualls said the pit orchestra can make up for it if the actors on stage miss a line or get off with the music.
"Live music has more energy," Qualls says. "It makes the show feel more spontaneous."
However, there are some disadvantages to having a live pit too.
"People miss notes, and the audience hears it," the orchestra teacher said. "Because people are playing it, the pit can make a mistake, so they must be extra attentive."
SBlt Why participate in pit?
"I like musicals, so I wanted to be part of it, but I'm not really an actress, and this was my way of being part of it," said Jessica Hodge, a violinist and senior at Davis High who is playing for "Fiddler on the Roof."
Cyle Hopkins, a viola player and Fremont junior, said he does pit because it is more challenging than orchestra.
"Participating in the pit orchestra provides a new experience and builds our skill level," added Supraj Prakash, a junior at Clearfield High who played violin in last year's production of "Cinderella." "Music for pit orchestra requires different techniques from solely orchestral pieces and we learn to adapt to the performer's needs."
SBlt What's the best thing about playing pit?
"I think my favorite thing about pit is that you really don't have much time to practice so it's challenging, and then you get to hang out with friends," said Brandee Buckley, a cello player and junior at Fremont High.
Miranda Jackson of Northridge High said that her favorite part was meeting new people, and making new friends. Jackson, a junior, plays keyboard and harp and is in the pit for her school's production of "Phantom of the Opera."
SBlt What about the performers on stage?
People who do the pit are not the only ones affected by it; the pit can make a big difference for the actors and other performers in the show.
"As long as the pit orchestra is able to perform the songs correctly and can adjust to the performers on stage, I prefer the orchestra to a soundtrack," said Ethan Swanson, an actor and a junior at Clearfield High. "The orchestra has more flexibility to change the song based on emotion."
Maddy Richards, a Davis High senior, agrees: "I would rather perform with pit orchestra, because it really sets the mood a lot more, and when you can feel the instruments under you, it gives you energy, and it pulls you back to the time period so much more than a soundtrack would."
SBlt What about the audience?
What do most students think of the live pits?
"I think it's cool that we are that good, or that advanced," said Jarom Bowen, a senior at Fremont High.
Rachel Barton, a sophomore at Clearfield High, said, "Pit orchestras are hard to perform with, but if you can coordinate everything together, it's fun. It's a really cool experience to perform with and for the audience to hear."
"I think it's pretty cool that they get to be a part of something big like that," said Kailee Atkinson, a senior at Fremont High.
TX. correspondents Sara Bowker, Northridge High; Kalli Damschen, Clearfield High, and Alyssa Roberts, Davis High, contributed to this story.
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Katey Campbell is a junior at Fremont High School. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.