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Who does what?

So, what does everybody do? When you read a programme you can see all sorts of music related jobs, many of which sound like the same thing. I’ve provided a brief outline of the most common roles below. Of course, many of these will be done by the same person in a smaller production, and you can even find one person doing the whole lot (although they don’t usually put that in the programme as it would take up too much space)

Music Director

In a musical or music-heavy genre of theatre the music director is the person who makes artistic decision and controls the artistic side of the musical output. They will often conduct (or band-lead) and generally acts as the main point of contact for all musicians during the performance. This person shapes the overall contours of the music and is responsible both for achieving the desired sound and maintaining standards in performance.

Music Supervisor

This is similar to the music director, but has a slightly more administrative role. These are often used with compilation and pre-recorded scores, as their main job is to select appropriate music, suitable composers, and decide (often in collaboration) where cues should occur within the score. This is still a creative role within the music department, even if there is less of a focus on live musicians.

Music Manager

A mostly managerial and logistical role, the music manager performs the important function of coordinating all musicians, equipment, scores, rights and composers/songwriters. They can also be the fixer (the person who recruits and engages musicians) or the orchestra manager (the band equivalent of the stage manager who works with the orchestra during a run of performances).

Composer

Composing involves the planning and writing of the music for the performance, but does not include the performance or recording of the music. The composer will often be present at rehearsal or recording to ensure that the music works, but is not necessarily a performer.

Designer

Sound designers decide how sound will be used in the production, and the role can vary from the construction of soundscapes and effects to the planning of live sound rigs and acoustic design.

Répétiteur/Accompanist

Once the music is in rehearsals the performers (particularly on-stage actors and singers) are supported by a repetiteur, an accompanist, or other members of the music staff. Their main job is to familiarise and coach the performers with the music for the production, to ensure that they are prepared for the introduction of the band or orchestra.

Performer

These are the people who perform the music on the night. They may be instrumentalists or singers or electronic musicians, and may even be members of the above areas also. These are the people who interpret the planned musical input (the score, the sounds, the songs) and replicate and present it each performance for the audience. They may also perform in a recording session so that  the recording can be used for rehearsal or the performance itself (although this is frownedupon by musicians unions and performers).

Sound Design for Visual Media and Film Product...
A Sound Design Studio (Photo credit: vancouverfilmschool)

I hope this sheds some light on the various roles and positions within the music department for a production. If you have corrections or suggestions leave them in the comments.

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Around the Web

Theatre Music Directors

I am going to use today’s Around the Web to point out the new site aimed at theatre music directors, the aptly named theatremusicdirectors.org. It is the sister site of MusiciansWages and already contains many useful titbits of advice and information for people who work (or want to) in the creation of music for the theatre. It does have a slight focus on musical theatre, but contains some useful pointers nonetheless.

How much you can give your musicians isn’t just up to your own skills as a music director. It is also up to your musicians’ skills. When you conduct a slow 4/4 in 8, it might not be as clear for high school students as it might be for Broadway players. Or when you start to subdivide in the middle of a measure, it might not be as powerful for community theatre musicians as it might be for professionals.

from when-to-subdivide-as-a-conductor

As music directors, we do not need to tell our players the details of the show.
Why not?
-Because it takes time away from rehearsing: a good rule of thumb is to have the band play at least 80% of the time, and to speak no more than 20% of the time.
-Because it doesn’t make much of a difference to the musicians.

from do-music-directors-need-to-tell-the-story-of-the-show-at-band-rehearsal

(I actually disagree with this, having both MD’d and played in pit bands. Knowing the dramatic context of the music you are playing gives you a great deal of information about style, cues, timing, and helps you enjoy the performance a little more. I believe that an orchestra that knows roughly what is happening while they are playing will be more responsive and sensitive).

Instrumental partsthat need a cue: Cue a section when they first start playing, when they’ve had a long rest, and before an important solo.Not all cues are marked in the conductor’s score. Make sure to listen through the show, and compare each part with your own to add any important cues you’re missing in your score.

The more prepared you are, the easier the rehearsal will be.

(This last sentence is the most important piece of advice I can give to any Music Director, Composer, arranger or performer.)

from how-to-prepare-your-score-for-pit-rehearsal

It’s early days yet, and although there is a mixed bag of content at the moment, this could be a productive resource for this kind of thing.