Friday, August 17, 2012

The Day Before The Night

So, after 10 months of working on "Liberators" The Musical, after composing music for nearly 10 songs, and rehearsing with the cast for about 10 months, I am merely hours away from the premiere of my musical!

Am I nervous? Not as much as I feel like I should be, oddly enough. Shouldn't I be biting my nails in anticipation, worrying about what other people will say about our work? Not really. It helps that I'm confident in my cast, the script, and the music. After months of rehearsal, the cast has really connected with the script and music, taken a personal interest in perfecting their characters, and shown us a positive attitude even when things are tough. Even if the premiere doesn't match up to our expectations, or the high expectations of the cast members themselves, I will be pleased with what I've seen so far. From my experience rehearsing with these talented individuals, I know that this show has the potential to "wow" audiences and move their hearts.

Tonight we've got our last rehearsal where we will run through the show and get in Performance Mode, and we've got two performances tomorrow evening at 4pm and 8pm. The first is VIP only, where we invite particularly theater-savy individuals, and the second is open to the public, although both are held in UH's Moores School of Music in the Choral Recital Hall. I'm excited to see what people think, positive and negative alike; both kinds of comments will help us better craft our work.

If you're interested in attending the 8pm stage reading, the performance will be in room 160 of Moores School, which is located at: 120 School of Music Bldg Houston, Texas 77204-4017
We want as many people there as possible to reveal our work, so please attend if you're interested in seeing the product of 10 months of collaborative work.

I'm not too nervous, but that is not to say that I am not excited! The product of my and my playwright Eric Jones' imagination is about to come to fruition which is a fantastic experience. The last 10 months, I've had a strong purpose in my writing and creativity while composing the songs, revising the script, and making preparations for this stage reading. It is this strength of purpose that I feed off of, and I hope to never live a day of my life without striving for goals as ambitious as this one. If I can write a great musical before I'm 21, who knows where my career will take me in the future. But, the years of the distant future are not the ones that press on my mind, but rather the exciting future that lies ahead of me tomorrow.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hitting Curveballs

Click for audio version of blog post

So today was the first rehearsal of my musical "Liberators," which went very well although it definitely threw a few curveballs my way. I should probably learn to expect the unexpected from every rehearsal I run in my entire career...But, that's the way it is, I suppose, in my line of work. As a composer you're constantly forced to rely on other people to produce pretty much anything at all (at least anything worthwhile). And today was no different.

The rehearsal was scheduled to started at noon, and at 11:55am, my playwright Eric Jones and I both receive a text from one of our performers who wanted to notify us that they were unable to commit to being part of our cast (although they had been on the cast list for over a month at this point). So, we were left with a gaping hole to fill in our cast 5 minutes before the first rehearsal... However, something else you're forced to rely on as a composer is a bit of luck. It was just my luck that my friend Alyssa Weathersby, who had helped me workshop my songs for this musical for months now, was attending the rehearsal as our choreographer & musical director. As it turns out, she was more than willing and way more than qualified to handle reading through the script the rest of the cast, acting the roles of multiple characters she had never even read before. Her involvement in the whole thing really saved the day, and it got me thinking about what it takes to be a successful composer; it's not just about writing solid music, and maybe it's not exactly luck either. It's about knowing who to count on and surrounding yourself with good musicians, good people, and good friends. People like Alyssa are all 3 of those things, and no composer can do their job without them.

So, we managed to hit the curveball out of the park! We essentially performed a run-through of the entire 1st act with people "cold-reading" the script, songs included. Despite the fact that it was the first time most of the actors had looked at the script, it all went really well and I learned even more about the power of the script by seeing take shape in rehearsal. Certain scenes of the play, which I had read dozens of times before, I suddenly found the humor in, and the whole room of performers lol'd numerous times! And the other more dramatic scenes, once the skilled actors had injected their passion into them, suddenly became alive and real and heartbreaking. The whole experience was a taste of what I sense will be an addicting process: watching a musical drama come to fruition from the ground up, and watching the hearts and minds of all those involved be moved with it. The experience couldn't help but remind me of an acceptance speech that I heard at this year's Tony awards. I cannot recall the name of who spoke it, but it goes something like this:
        Theater begins with someone who has a world in their head and tries to put it on paper; 
        This is the Writer. 
        Then, someone takes the paper and tries to turn it back into a world; 
        This is the Director. 
        After there is a world, some people decide to fill this world with the human spirit;
        This is the Actor.
        Finally, a group a people decide that they would like to explore this world, 
        with all the danger and beauty it might hold; 
        This is the Audience. 
These words acknowledge that all persons involved in a theater production, the audience included, are vital to its purpose. With even one of these components missing, none of them can find fulfillment in the work at hand. I hope the message of that speech sticks with me throughout this process and that, when all is said and done, every person involved in the theater world that we create leaves it feeling that they are better for it. That's really all I can hope for.

It's curious that I'm drawn to this speech about the theater, considering it doesn't mention the composer at all. So, where do I fit in in all this, you ask? Well... I'm still trying to figure that out. The Writer, Director, Actor, and Audience all have their own job, and I guess it's my job to make them all sing.

If you care to listen to one of the songs I've recorded for the musical so far...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Being a composer is SO much more than being a composer

In the 8 months since I decided to collaborate with playwright Eric Jones and write the songs for "Liberators" the Musical, the most important thing I've learned is this: Being a composer is SO much more than being a composer. 

What I mean is that when I took the job of this musical's sole composer, the task of reading and internalizing the drama of a 150-page script, writing almost 30 songs, and managing my school work and other projects was daunting yet inspiring, overwhelming yet thrilling. Little did I know how much more to this task there really was. These past several months my job has grown from merely writing songs to finding performers, rehearsing the songs, revising the songs, rehearsing the songs again, revising the songs again, revising the script and lyrics, even singing some of the songs myself on song demos. Then once the songs were done, my job shifted to being the business man, auditioning actors and performers for the cast, making critical choices on which actors would fit which characters, and even cutting some characters from the script altogether in order to condense the material. 

Collaborating with my playwright has evolved the way I think as an artist, not just as a composer and songwriter, but as an artistic professional in general. I've started to gain a good set of editorial skills and I'm constantly analyzing the script to see how we can better deliver the message of the play, constantly revising songs to better shape my work. I think more like a movie director now, with the big picture in mind, not merely viewing my craft through a microscope's lens but trying to see it through the eyes of an audience member. After all, my goal as an artist is to enrich the lives of as many people as I can, and through this collaborative process, I've become more conscious of how to impact people emotionally, how to bring someone from a state of melancholy to a state of ecstasy, and how to convince someone for a few small hours that these imaginary characters on stage are the most important people in the world. The challenge of moving the human spirit through art is the journey that I want my life to center itself on, and I'm more excited than ever to see if I can make a difference in the hearts of a even just a few people.

So, yes, there is a LOT more to being a composer than just composing, which can be extremely difficult to handle, but I wouldn't have it any other way.