Saturday, December 8, 2012

Music Directors - Interview in Five Questions

This summer I began an interview process with three lovely Music Directors. All work in different areas of the country so I wondered if their answers would vary widely to the five – very long – questions I asked them about what their preferences are when in an audition situation.

Jeff Caldwell works on the east coast in the New York area, on Broadway and Off Broadway.

Kim Dare works in Seattle at various Equity and Non-Equity companies

Darcy Danielson is the resident Music Director at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

This is Question Number 1.

There is much debate about "the book" that is handed to an
accompanist. Sheet covers - no sheet covers. Taped together - Or in a
binder. Or taped together pulled out of a binder. The list goes on
and on. Many of you play your own auditions when you are Music
Directing. When you do so, what do you like to see placed before you?

Jeff Caldwell – East Coast – New York, Broadway, Off Broadway

Never put plastic sheet covers in front of me. I've never met one that didn't reflect light, even the excellent non-glare ones. I agree with not having a book crammed full of music - it even makes turning pages hard. One practical use of sheet covers is to protect your copy of music, which you transfer OUT of the cover and into the binder before the audition. I personally prefer and recommend you have separate music for each version of a song you do. Please don't tell me to ignore the markings of your 16 bar cut when you're doing the full song. Just have a clean version for each.
Double-sided absolutely, and with an intelligent thought about minimizing page turns. A 4 page song should only have one turn, between pages 2 and 3. A 16 bar cutting shouldn't have any page turns. Don't have the intro on one page and the song proper on the next. Better to turn later after the song is established than after only a few bars.
If you have a cut involving a key change or feel change, don't make it at a page turn.

And, just ask a coach or pianist about these things. It's worth the investment.

Kim Dare – Seattle Area – Arts West, Balagan and others

  • I like a book that is clean looking (not a bunch of paper that is falling out - it's scary when I see paper tucked all over the place).
  • I like a book where the size if managed. I played auditions for a casting director with Book of Mormon last week. One gentleman came in with a binder containing no less than 30 songs in it - when he walked out of the door the casting director and I were talking and he said that that book was a mess which usually indicated a messy actor (not prepared – a little scattered). He wasn't saying anything that I haven't said or thought. Actors should have 2 'books' – one containing ALL of their music and one that they bring to auditions with carefully selected songs (no more than 5–6) that are appropriate for the show that they're auditioning for and that they know that they can do well.
  • The only thing that I ABSOLUTELY care about is that it's 2 sided, preferably with as few page turns as possible. That being said, I don't mind if it's 'pull out' ready so that I have one long page. My concern there is that you never have a guarantee that the piano you're at will be able to support a string of pages pulled out.
  • I prefer no glare sheet covers if there are sheet covers. But, I don't need or prefer sheet covers. Just clear music. Printed cleanly and not really crazily marked up. If an actor is doing cuts, they should cut the music up and provide so that I don't have to jump my eyes from page to page.
  • I also prefer that if the actor is doing a selection from inside of a song that they write the name of the song on top of the page (if it's not available on that page) so that I know the name. And, if I'm only playing a selection, make sure that I can see the key signature and time signature. There have been times (it's rare in publisher printed music, but it's happened) where I'm given a piece of music and don't know the time signature – or the name of the song. I shouldn't have to hunt for that information – the vocalist wants me to be able to concentrate on making them sound good and playing the dots on the page – they should do everything that they can to make that possible.



Darcy Danielson

Sheet covers too often cause glare and can be hard to turn pages. My preference is back-to-back taped, three-hole punched in a black binder. Fold outs are great. Pet peeve: chord symbols, page nos., bass notes that are cut off due to poor photocopying.


I like cuts on a separate copy from the full-length tune, and I encourage younger auditioners to retain the whole song for their repertoire collection. You never know when that solo show or cabaret performance will present itself.


I love playing my own auditions, and it's such a joy to try accompaniment choices that check their musicality.


The sheet music apps for iPad are a swift way to bypass the photocopy model. They mail a PDF and I slide input into iBooks, or the sheet music viewers such as Stanza or Musicnotes. Again, there can be a glare factor.