It all begins in December, right after fall break. There were no tryouts, no auditions. I, along with other musicians, walk into the music room, with some tuning their instruments, others preparing anything else they need. The conductor follows in, carrying a pile of scorebooks, and each of us would get a book of our own part.
This would be the book we would flip over and over again for the next 3 months.
And I didn't only get one book...
Last year, I was in charge of 16 percussion instruments. This year, I got 2 books: for 2 different parts. Since we do not have anyone playing the guitar this year, I was instructed to take over the guitar part, on the vibraphone, upon any occasion that I do not have any auxiliary percussion in that piece. At any part of the show, it's going to be double trouble as I try to keep track of which bar I'm at, and what I'm playing during each section. On top of the patch of instruments on my list, the different rhythms of each song are equally hard to catch on to. Every once in awhile a bar of a weird time signature (5/4, 7/8, etc.. if you know music) would step in and throw off what would supposedly be a good first run. We would scribble and annotate all over the book, as I try to record all the sound cues that had to be timed perfectly. This team is truly not for any newcomer, nor for anyone that can't embrace last-minute changes.
In the beginning, everyone takes it slow, just to make sure everything goes well and at least get a glimpse of what's actually going on in this piece, both in the music and onstage. The book flips soon get faster and faster as we start to sink in our instincts and the songs get smoother and smoother. We get through more and more songs day by day, and eventually, after all the hard work, we land at an important milestone: Sitzprobe.
For the first time, singers on stage would hear our music, and for the first time, we get to hear the actors sing to our music. This was where the anticipation builds, with all of us knowing that this production is just about ready to present. We load in Keck Auditorium, run a few extra rehearsals, and before we know it, we get to opening night.
This is how close I get to the actors!
Opening night was when all the effort starts to pay off. We would get a first-row view of all the action on-stage, and we would be so close to them that we would actually hear their actual voices. As the adrenaline keeps pumping, I couldn't help but jam to the rhythm while letting my hands take control of what I play. As the beat continues, my body almost seemed like it was on autopilot mode, as I switch instruments within the fraction of a bar and stepping on two different pedals, all while holding a shaker on one hand and controlling the chimes on another. On the outside, one might think it's a tough job to handle; but like math, it's really fun once I get the hang of it. It's almost like I'm doing my own little dance routine!
After 2 consecutive hours of playing, we would finally reach exit music. From the last page, we flip the book back to page 1, in preparation for the next performance. Under cheers and applause, we would celebrate with maybe a fist bump or two, and gradually leave the auditorium, unknown to the parents and friends who were here for the actors. We may go without as much appreciation, but that's not what the pit cares about the most. Show's good, all's good. That is what truly matters.
Percussion Cube 2020 :))