As percussionists we are called on to play countless instruments and their appropriate styles. Here, from Grant Dalton, are six important tips to consider when called on to play a “Broadway” type show:
1. Find out everything that you can about the show that you are going to be playing. This includes things like set-up space and load-in restrictions.
2. Develop the most efficient instrument set-up possible. Start with some paper and a pencil with a good eraser, and begin making an instrument list and sketching out a basic set-up. Once you have a general idea of the instrument setup, begin experimenting with the actual instruments.
3. Be sure that you can play every note of the show perfectly before the first rehearsal. Often times, you will have only a few hours of rehearsal with the other pit musicians before the first show. If you are not prepared when you show up to that first rehearsal, your chances of ever being hired back are very slim. Be creative with your use of technology to prepare. There are lots of apps that can be used to slow down (or speed up) a recording of the show music. These can be very useful in your preparations.
4. Be as polite as possible, but be cautious about being so flexible that you put yourself in a difficult position to play your part perfectly. If you intend on being hired back for the next show, be well prepared to perform your part and be friendly and polite to the other performers.
5. Take good care of yourself. If you are working a day job and playing a show at night, it can be very easy to allow your body to run down to the point where you are forced to perform while you are sick. Get as much sleep as possible, eat well, take your vitamins, and wear appropriate clothes.
6. Keep your mental edge even as you become more familiar with the show. Often, if you are playing a show that includes several performances, the weakest performance will be the second one. Everyone gets keyed up for opening night, so that show typically goes pretty well; however, the nervous energy that made that show good is usually gone for that second show, and people tend to let their guard down.
Dr.Grant Dalton is the professor of percussion studies at Samford University where he directs the Samford Percussion Ensemble and Samford Steel, the university’s steel drum band. He is also the assistant athletic band director and teaches several academic courses. He is an extra percussionist with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra, and he is the percussionist for the Birmingham Broadway Series and Broadway Across America. Dr. Dalton also periodically performs with the Alabama Ballet, Opera Birmingham, and the Birmingham Art Music Alliance. Before moving to Alabama, he regularly performed with the Springfield (Ohio) Symphony, the Westerville (Ohio) Symphony and the Dayton Philharmonic. He is a graduate of Lipscomb University, where he earned a bachelor of science in instrumental music education and of the Ohio State University, where he earned the degrees master of music and doctor of musical arts. Both of these degrees are in the field of percussion performance. He is a member of the Percussive Arts Society, the College Music Society, MENC, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, and Pi Kappa Lambda. He is the president of the Alabama chapter of the Percussive Arts Society, and he regularly hosts the Alabama Day of Percussion. His wife, Jennifer, is an English teacher at Vestavia Hills High School, and they have three children, Beckett, Spencer, and Annika. In his free time, he enjoys traveling with his family and golfing.