CMU School of Drama

Friday, March 31, 2017

A Couple of Notes: Behind the Scenes with Samuel French's Music Supervisor

Breaking Character: You license a musical. You receive your casts scripts, your piano conductor score and your orchestrations. But before all of that, there is a months-long (or even years-long) process to creating the score for your show – and we’re not just talking about when the composer creates the music.

Lawrence Haynes, our Musicals Marketing Associate, sat down to chat with Zachary Orts, Samuel French’s Music Supervisor, to learn more about this process, from prepping materials to re-developing scores that were once handwritten (or never written down!). Read more below.


Marisa Rinchiuso said...

This read was incredibly eye-opening. I did not know there was such thing as a music supervisor; I think I just assumed that the composers or music directors submitted all of their work from the show and that was it. I never thought about the process of creating vocal sheets or adapting the band. One thing that they did not mention, but I am curious about is the process that the music has to go through (work wise and legally) to become a "junior" musical. I think it is more often associated with MTI's works, but I wonder what it is like to create those junior musicals. It is becoming more and more popular to have junior musicals for young audiences and theatres to produce. Also, I had no clue it takes four months to prepare the music for a show to go out. I loved learning the insight to a truly unique job that is vital to our work!

John Yoerger said...

It was interesting to read about this article because it offers an eye-opening perspective into an area of theatre I didn't previously consider as a potential career gateway. I also didn't know that so much work had to go into transforming scores for reproduction and distribution. I guess it was wrong of me to assume that people used computers to write the scores and that they were actually well documented. Composers obviously aren't stage managers. Another thing that I think is interesting is the Vocal Selections information here. I know that MTI, for example, usually (and pretty drastically) has made cuts and changes to vocal selections they distribute for auditions or other functions and I can certainly understand why it is frustrating. I think that if you are going to distribute a work that went somewhere like Broadway or if it has a soundtrack, you should work as best as you can to provide purchasers with a complete and total emulation. If they want to dumb it down, then let them. Or perhaps offer both versions if it is so overtly complicated that it might really fuck with a pianist at an audition who is trying to site read.

Rebecca Meckler said...

I love how this article highlights a completely different element of theater. I was surprised about the use of technology to make sure the scores were correct. I never would have thought that when working of the shows, the musicians would be given IPads so that the scores could be changed quicker. It's a brilliant idea which not only saves paper, but makes life easier for the people at Samuel French and the musicians. Another part of the article that I thought was interesting is how having the actors play the instruments changes the creation of the score, especially the conductors version. I never would have realized that this so greatly impacted the writing of the score and the creation of the conductors version. Overall, the article was pretty insertion of an article that was obviously there to promote Samuel French and talk about their products. Normally I don't enjoy articles that exist to self promote, but this article was interesting nonetheless.

William N. Lowe said...

I think there are some interesting points in this interview, but also some questionable ones. To start with the latter, I would wonder how much seeing the show actually influences those things that he specifically mentioned and how much it is actually some other elements. One can figure out how many instruments there are from the playbill — of which I am sure there is an archive — so I don’t see how that is impossible to tell if one does not attend. I think how a bunch of underscoring sounds could only come from seeing the show because that is usually not in a cast recording of any sort. I wonder if there is some archive of the shows similar to what school of drama does, or if a company could start that, to make the scoring process more efficient. I think I did not anticipate — though I am not that surprised — how much work goes into these scores.