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When you’re playing a show that runs many nights, how do you keep it fresh for you and entertaining for the listener?
Short answer: Be present for each moment.
I got to thinking about this question while working in the Pit Orchestra for Franklin High School’s production of The Addams Family Musical. True, it’s only 6 shows and a dress rehearsal. But some of the students in the orchestra have been rehearsing this music since September. It is now November.
How To Be Present
Open your senses to their fullest capabilities. Dive deep into each sense.
The Listening Sense
Listen with big ears. Listen for a new line of dialogue. Based on what you hear from the Pit, imagine what the actors on stage might be doing.
Try listening to one particular instrument. Maybe focus on the trombone line or the bass riff or a drum fill. Choose a different instrument to focus on for each song. Appreciate the way that instrument weaves its line of music together with your line of music.
The Visual Sense
When you’ve got a song that doesn’t require you to play much, watch one of the other players. The percussionist is like a dancer moving from bells to bongos to gong.
Have you ever noticed the expressions on the conductor’s face? You’re already watching the conductor for cues and tempos, but also check out the expression he makes when during that piece where the 2nd keyboard introduces the theme before the strings take over. By the conductor’s satisfied expression, I can see he really loves what the keyboardist is doing there.
The Tactile Sense
Arrive to the pit in time to set up your station so that everything you need during the show is within arm’s reach. Line up your mutes for the easiest access. Have extra reeds handy on your music stand. Adjust the level of your stand so you can easily see both the music and the conductor and your neighbors.
Swaying to the music while you’re playing or not playing brings you deeply into the moment. Bring your physical body fully into the space for each song.
All The Senses Are In The Present
All your senses are in the present moment. As you tune into each sense you get a full experience of that moment. Each moment is real and memorable.
While doing so can seem like it slows down time, paradoxically it also speeds up time. One moment you are playing the Overture and the next you’re playing Bows and Exit Music.