When You Are Not The Pit Director:

August 3, 2010


I vocal directed a few shows at a high school where the person conducting the pit knew nothing about the show or the tempos or the cuts. My repeated attempts to meet with him were unsuccessful, he was always ‘too busy’, ‘preparing for a festival’, ‘grading’, in short, he never made the time to actually do the job. He was a really nice guy, but just didn’t take the position seriously, even though he was happily taking the stipend. When the show came, he was waving his arms, but I was leading from the piano, and actually giving notes to the under-rehearsed student musicians he was supposed to have worked with.


I enjoy leading the music from the first rehearsal to the final performance. There is a continuity of personality and concept that carries through the whole process that way. There is also something to be said for getting a new set of eyes on the piece, so handing over the reins to a competent pit director can also be great, and can free you up to listen harder. But I’m sorry to say that sometimes the pit directing portion of the job goes to somebody who is collecting a fee as part of his position and doesn’t care at all about the job. This is unacceptable, of course. Ultimately the situation I was describing changed when we were able to convince the administration that I was doing the orchestra directors job and not being paid for it. We made it about the money they were wasting and the powers that be finally woke up.

Naturally, other pit directors are exemplary. (my friends Chris Horn and Nancy Voight really know their shows and are 100% invested and really know the material) But whatever kind of person is running the orchestra, the vocal director should give the pit director every chance at success, so that if he or she fails, it really is their fault and not just a lack of communication.

That means that as cuts arise, you must compile them in a detailed list. Important tempos should be marked with a metronome marking. And if the cues are not properly marked, you should either write them into the pit director’s score, or compile a list detailing them.

You should also make sure you schedule the pit director to be at the important rehearsals near the end of the rehearsal period. Sit down and work out that schedule for the sake of everyone involved, and make it your mission to deliver the goods so your pit director can do the job well.


One comment

  1. I enjoyed this article. Although I’m not experienced in this area, I certainly have been aware of “white space” when sitting in the audience when the show was missing something.

    I hope your message gets to the right people.

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