Summer in the Theatre

YMT03Continuing our ‘What I did over the summer vacation’ series, Catherine Underhill (year 3) tells us about her fantastic introduction to the music theatre business:  Back in May, I received an email from Youth Music Theatre (YMT) about a position of Assistant Music Director (AMD) for their shows over the summer. I knew a little bit about the company, so applied online and to my surprise I received an interview. I had never been this nervous for an interview, but it was because it was via skype and I had to play the piano, like an audition! To my surprise, I was shortly emailed telling me that I had been successful and would be working as AMD on a new piece of theatre called ‘Not The End of The World’.

I was a slightly apprehensive as to what the two weeks would entail. I got on a train very early one Sunday morning and travelled down to Plymouth to spend two weeks creating a show and teaching it to a group of talented young people.

YMT02I arrived at the boarding school we were rehearsing in and met my roommate, who was the designer on the show, Hannah. By that afternoon we had already started rehearsals and getting to know the cast. We played lots of fun icebreakers and I accompanied on the piano while the MD did vocal exercises with the cast.

YMT04From that moment onwards we did not stop! The following day was filled with informal auditions and composition. My tasks as an AMD were not what an AMD ‘usually’ does, as I spent a lot of my time recording, transcribing and creating sheet music for the compositions that were being created at all hours of the day. Rehearsals happened from 9am-9pm every day, but the music team, Sonum (Musical Director) and I, would work until ridiculous hours in the morning – but it was so worthwhile as we had the most laughs and achieved so much in a short space of time!

Towards the middle of the second week, I began to orchestrate the show for a small group of musicians. I myself played keys 2, oboe and tenor saxophone. I auditioned members of the cast to be actor-musicians. We were improvising and creating music spontaneously, which I then formed into sheet music. I orchestrated for a guitarist, flute, clarinet and recorder as well as my own instruments.

YMT01On the second Thursday, we visited the theatre for our performance; The Barbican, Plymouth. We spent the full day in a technical rehearsal, completing this on the Friday morning with a dress rehearsal in the afternoon. That evening, we opened the show at 7.30pm. Parents came to find me and the MD after the show to thank us for giving their children such a great experience – this was certainly a highlight of the two weeks for me.

Although I was apprehensive to begin with, I can honestly say it has been my best musical experience to date. I learnt more than I could imagine and was ‘thrown in at the deep end’ at some moments, but that is how you learn best! I have made contacts and brilliant friendships with many practitioners in the music industry too. A rewarding part of the experience was working alongside a lyricist who would sing a tune and his lyrics, for me then to instantly transcribe and teach.

If there is something you are even just slightly interested in, go for it, as you never know what you will happen!