Musicians make melodies down in the pit

Patrick Duggan, News Director

The musicians of the orchestra pit are every musical’s unsung heroes. Hidden away from the audience deep in the pit, woodwinds, strings and brass horns all work together to toot out the twist to which the stars on stage shout.
Senior Emma Nobile is directing the orchestra pit for the second year in a row. Nobile played her first note when she was three years old, and has been playing music ever since.
“I started seriously playing piano when I was seven; then I started playing trumpet when I was in fourth grade, and after that, that’s all I played,” Nobile said. “I played in the orchestra pit as a freshman and a sophomore, and then the vocal director, Meredith Schmall, asked me if I wanted to direct, so I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Nobile considers the musicians her peers, regardless of the authority she’s been granted. Senior William Stribling has been a close friend of Nobile’s since sixth grade, and plays trumpet for pit under her direction.
“Emma’s really, really great,” Stribling said. “She’s had a lot of practice throughout the years working on conducting, and because she got the practice last year, she’s even better this year. When Mr. [Andrew] Paul isn’t in band class, she usually conducts. The musicians know her as a friend, but they also recognize that she’s their leader, and without her they wouldn’t get anywhere.”
Stribling has been participating in school band since the sixth grade, and has been a part of the orchestra pit since he started high school.
“The pit is very different than band,” Stribling said. “First of all, the style of music is very, very different. In band, usually an instrument will have the melody, and in pit the actors have the melody while we act as underlying themes and rhythms. We also have to downplay ourselves and really work with the actors because we’re so much louder.”
The orchestra pit is a conglomerated effort between both band and orchestra students. Although they have conducted a few collaborations, the band and the orchestra rarely work together.
“Working with the orchestra students isn’t all that strange,” Stribling said. “I mean they play an instrument like any other. Maybe if there was some super technical string part, but for the most part we’re all playing the same music, so we just stick together.”
Junior Maya Payne plays piano with longstanding participant and seasoned pianist Laurie Bersack, who also plays for Taylor and Marshall middle school choral programs.
“Dolly’s music is a lot faster than what we normally play, and we don’t have as much rehearsal time,” Payne said. “It’s really helpful, especially since she has more experience than I have.”
Given Dolly’s challenging score and the limited rehearsal time the orchestra pit has to work with, Payne is unsure of the pit’s ability to master the music before opening night.
“I really can’t say now, because we just need to practice more with the actors,” Payne said. “It’s difficult getting the dance and the music together.”