Two Essential Elements for West End Theatre Musicians
Where do you begin if you are a young musician looking to get into the West End theatre orchestras?
Without any experience, it is difficult to get a job in the West End pit (or “hold on to a chair”) without having had some prior experience. Your first job is to substitute for existing performers in a show.
You might be surprised to learn that players holding a chair need a deputy. Although you might expect a chair-holder to be present at all performances, there is an unwritten rule that allows players to take part in some performances. They might have other commitments that they had to before being offered the show. Because the musical director for Me and My Girl, Me and My Girl’s keyboard player, was also my assistant musical director and required me to conduct at most one show per week, I began my career in the West End.
You can deputise for a musical theater pit musician by thinking like the orchestral player you wish to work for. A dep is a person who assists a musical theatre orchestral player. They look for at least seven qualities in a musician.
1. Are you able to do the job? The West End is where orchestral pits are most prominent in musical theatre. They are all exceptional at what they do. Do you think your abilities are up to par with the best? Everyone expects that you can play the notes in the West End in time, tune, and style. It is important to show that you are able to play the instruments and the music, and can fit in with the existing ensemble without too much fuss.
2. How will you get along with the other musicians? Keep in mind that the musician for whom you are depping will not be present when you work in the pit. You won’t get asked back if you cause annoyance to others during your first performance as dep. It is just as important to get along with your fellow colleagues as it is with your sponsoring musician. How will you fit in to the social system? It is just as important to do the job in off-duty hours as it is during the playing times. You’re halfway there if you can demonstrate that to the musician for whom you are depping.