Sunday, March 28, 2010

Top 10 Lessons Learned from the PITS: Pit Orchestra That Is

By Mark T. Burke

I've posted before on my beliefs about music teachers and performing.  Here's the serious stuff:  Check out Teach, Practice, Perform.  Since I've spent the past week playing in the PIT with another 2 weeks coming up over the next month, this is the perfect day to reflect, share...and have some FUN!  Okay, okay, my duty is to deliver valuable content so intermingle are a few serious "lessons learned" as well. 

  1. Always have 2 pencils.  The first one will be for marking in every accidental since PIT music composers only seem to be able to write the key signature once per page.  The second pencil will be used to throw at fellow players when they are supposed to be playing but are too busy watching the on-stage action..WAKE UP!  
  2. Use reverse psychology to your advantage.  Rather than "thinking" about the 7 sharps and 2 double sharps you're supposed to be playing, think about the notes that are NOT sharp. Try circling all the "natural" notes rather than all the "sharped" notes. WARNING:  This hasn't worked for me yet...If it works for your, great!
  3. Carry 3 chair cushions and you are certain to make at least 1 new friend.  The other person you give one to will never like you, so just give them the cushion so they stop complaining about the hard chairs.
  4. If you think what's going on on stage is funny, LAUGH, sometimes the audience needs CUE cards.  <>
  5. Practice your part before the first rehearsal...please.  If you haven't, don't walk into the first rehearsal and make the announcement, "Wow, what a busy 3 months I've had, I haven't even had time to look at the book yet. Thank god for FIRST rehearsals."  Ahhhhh....what?
  6. Take a bowl of chocolate and pass it around at every rehearsal.  You want to be the HOLDER of Chocolate.  This title alone brings great power....take the responsibility seriously.
  7. Listen to the singers...oh sorry, I shouldn't have just blurted that out. Yes, there are actual singers in musicals who deliver the story of the show through song.  They accompany all pit music believe it or not.  Once in awhile, listen in to see what they are up to.  But whatever you do, never throw your spare pencil at them or pass them the bowl of chocolate.  Your perceived power as a pit member will quickly be eliminated.  I do not know why, but this is true.
  8. Find security from all of the power cords running throughout the pit which power the stand lights and various electronic instruments.  They actually create a powerful electromagnetic field around the pit that keeps flying objects from harming us.  To increase the power, wrap the cords around your chair legs, music stands and even your own legs if you really want the boost the field.  Just remember they are there when you need to escape the protective field at intermission.
  9. Before agreeing to play in the PIT, do these simple 2 pre-tests.  First, jump up onto a strong counter top.  That's right, just jump up there.  If you can do this, move on to test number 2.  Crawl under your dining room table, setup a music stand and start playing your instrument.  If you can do both of these, you have the physical flexibility to play in both types of PITS.  The first type is the "drop in" pit. To get out of the pit, you will most likely need the first skill of jumping up onto some other level to get out.  The second PIT type is the "underground" pit where you'll be warmly nestled under the stage thus requiring the second skill mentioned above.  
  10. And finally the biggest lesson learned, or to be learned by all.  The person with the conductor's baton is in charge.  I will say no more...
There you have them, my Top 10 Lessons Learned from the PITS.  How about you?  Can you add to this list?

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