Advice Auditions Blog Coffee With... Kellie Dickerson Music Theatre Professional Music Theatre

Kellie Dickerson on the expectations of a Musical Director

So many performers have the probability to work with choreographers in a dance class, learning their expectations in a group setting just like that of a rehearsal. In an audition room, directors are often given possibilities to workshop their actors to communicate exactly what their vision is. But what of a musical director?

There seem to be much less avenues obtainable for us to work with these artistic varieties outdoors of a work setting, learning learn how to get the most out of them and the way they will get the most out of you. While there are so many technical appearing and dancing courses out there, I’m unsure the similar may be stated for music expertise. (Should you’re one of these those that has the self-motivation to take a seat down with an AMEB syllabus and brush up on your observe groupings, hats off to you. Me, and most of the individuals I know, are usually not.)

For this reason I needed my subsequent column to explore the position of the musical director and their expectations of performers in an audition, in the rehearsal room, and what qualities those performers have which might be most fascinating. Who better then to share my espresso with than maestro extraordinaire, Kellie Dickerson.

After learning a Bachelor of Music with Honours at Sydney College, Kellie has gone on to conduct music theatre and opera throughout the world. She is actually one of the most prolific musical administrators on this country. That isn’t even biased hyperbole to make this column seem more credible if MD credits resembling Depraved, Legally Blonde, Fiddler on the Roof and The Ebook of Mormon are anything to go by. Kellie is a three-time Inexperienced Room Award winner (Depraved, Once, Metropolis of Angels), recipient of the Churchill Fellowship for musical path of unique works, the Donald Peart Memorial Award for Music, and the Brian Stacey Memorial Award for Music. Not only does this lady juggle an awesome number of work tasks, she is paramount in the operating of the Rob Guest Endowment, sits on business panels for the Helpmann Awards, the Australia Council, New Musicals Australia, and consults for the AMEB musical theatre syllabus. Meanwhile, I think about it a productive day if I get out of my pyjamas before midday.

I have been lucky sufficient to see this lady at work and she or he always handles herself with grace and calm, a private high quality that seems to be constant throughout successful musical directors. Whereas the whole lot might flip to madness round them (and it definitely will at factors), they have the capacity to stay productive and proactive.

Musicianship in Auditions
In contrast to choreography pick-up or taking scene path, showcasing one’s music expertise appear to be less simple in an audition setting. Kellie describes that a performer’s own track is where she will reply most of her technical questions. Ideally, “by singing your own song, you present something that you know really well so that the stress is taken off you. So I should be able to hear how your voice is used, what kind of voice type it is, and what timbre it has. What is really indicative of technique is how they use the voice through their range and whether it is even. Whether there’s a register they flip out of, whether there is a register that is difficult to negotiate, dynamic range, tuning, and ring to the sound that makes the voice carry. If they’ve got good tuning in the very stressful situation of an audition, that’s a great thing, because Opening Night is also going to be very stressful.” Kellie does clarify that the track doesn’t want to point out the extremes of your range, as a result of no track goes to have the ability to do this, but “when you need a note for a test point, (the musical director) can either give a scale or a phrase, or get them to sing material from the show, which you usually do after that first stage.”

“So I’m listening to technique in your own choice, the director is watching your interpretation, and the choreographer is watching whether your body is connected. That’s why we keep telling people to sing something you know really well. There’s a lot you can tell by someone’s own song.”

‘Witches’ with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra

‘The Perfect Song’
It also appears that many performers spend power on finding that good music that’s so suitable it sounds like it was reduce from the show in previews. As an alternative, the priority ought to be displaying who you’re.

“It’s much more important that you make a choice that shows (your sound), rather than finding the perfect song. If you do find that perfect song, great! They’ll be very happy to hear it, but it won’t be the thing that gets you the job, unless it also shows who you are. The role of the first audition is just to get a second audition, not to get the show.”

One other facet that is typically sidelined is to simply put your greatest foot forward. A standard mistake is “to try and sing a Top C if its risky. If you can wake up in the morning and sing a Top C, bless you! Sing it out! There’s no point in being a soprano and only singing up to an F, because your competitive edge is being able to sing those notes. But if its ‘only on a good day’, don’t do it. Sing what makes you sound great.” In your audition folder, Kellie recommends five songs that cover a selection of types and that would match most issues. And a selection of songs that you simply “know really well and could get up in the morning and sing whether you’re sick, well, tired or happy.”

Shelton Muller Images

Displaying your Individuality
While discovering a track that’s stylistically appropriate and understanding the world of the present is essential, balancing that with displaying who you’re and what makes you unique is essential. Performers aren’t going to be right for the whole lot, and Kellie places the precedence on what you’re, moderately than what you assume they need.

“You’re either going to be right for the job or not. Pick what you can be in control of, and you can’t be in control of casting a show. Your job is to present yourself as well as you can, and it will result in something.”

“If you’re a Soprano with a great mix, wouldn’t it be terrible if you only ever go into auditions and belt because you think that’s what they want, and you never get to show who you really are.”

Whereas there are such a restricted number of opportunities on this country, and there may be so much strain on reserving this present job, each opportunity to audition or carry out can all the time benefit you down the monitor.

“I’ve consistently recommended someone who has done a great audition to another music director or another director for a show that’s coming up. When you’re auditioning for the show, you’re also auditioning for the industry. So if you do a good audition, people will notice and keep a record. I’ve got records from the last ten years of show auditions and I’ll go through the notes and look for people and see how they’re going and developing and recommend them to other people. And everyone does this.”

So once you’ve received the job because you’re a musical extraordinaire who picked the good audition music while staying true to your self, how do you stay useful to your musical director, and thus hold stated job?

Music Preparation
Personally, I typically feel unclear about the musical expectations of me earlier than Day 1 of rehearsals, and find yourself overcompensating and studying sufficient to vocal swing the show earlier than we’ve even began. Or typically I’m not given the rating prematurely, and have sleepless nights that I’ll relive the Aural check I failed once I guessed that the interval was a Major 2nd. It was a Minor 7th. And how do these expectations change between a business, established show, and a new Australian staging of a present? Kellie describes that it truly varies principally between ensemble and principals. Until you can start hearing what the ensemble blend is like, what the backstage tracking is, and what character decisions are made, the elements need to stay flexible. Subsequently, she doesn’t anticipate the ensemble to know anything before they open the score and begin together. This does mean that “music skills for the ensemble are very useful. You rarely cast on music skills, but it is helpful because it takes the stress off when you’re learning. The more you can read the music in front of you, the less you feel at sea with all the information being thrown at you.”

In rehearsal at ‘Dr Zhivago’

Nevertheless, Kellie warns that it may well typically be detrimental. “Sometimes a very clever musician can get very internal because they’re visualising the music and they’re thinking about musical details before the external acting and performance details.”

“If you can read music and follow along the page, and understand what the music director is saying in terms of what line you are on and what note you are singing in the chord, that’s really helpful for your own learning process. I see it as a wish list – its something I’d really love people to have so that we can get onto the details more quickly, such as the interpretation and phrasing.”

“With the principals, it’s a little different because they have solo numbers and have often spent time, I would assume, with their technical singing teacher to help them plot some basic ways through the song for their voice. They would get the score before the rehearsals and I wouldn’t assume they know it by memory, although some would, but I would expect some familiarity so that they’ve already thought about how to approach certain notes or phrases and how to place them in their voice. In a short rehearsal period, this means they can take on what the director is telling them, which is essentially the main factor in a rehearsal process. You need to get through the music to get to the character, but at the end of the day, character is the most important thing. Music is the vehicle in which we tell the story.”

New vs. Established Works
In terms of the preparation between an established work as opposed to a new work, Kellie admits that a performer can typically “have a very detailed set of parameters. That’s happened more in recent history, because people are expecting a similar interpretation to what they saw on Broadway. To maintain that all around the world, they have to give people very clear parameters, otherwise the interpretation would be wildly different. Parameters can sometimes be very detailed and it feels like there’s no room to move, but there’s always room to move. The movements just become smaller. There may be ways that a composer wants to hear the phrase sung. And it’s not that they don’t want to hear it your way, they just want the intention to be the same. If they’ve cast it the right way and your skills match what they’ve written, you will belt those notes because you have the ability to do so. And they’ll want that excitement and the tension from the sound of a belt rather than a mix.”

Whereas many actors might lament the artistic restrictions of being in an already established Broadway manufacturing, Kelli’s pure optimism turns it into a studying experience.

“The way that I look at it, shows that are established have been really well crafted by experts – you can learn a lot about crafting a song, if you learn from their structure and the parameters they give you. You can learn from their tools about how to create a character so that when you go to a new piece, you have a wider knowledge in which to make informed musical choices. It’s a balance between learning craftsmanship from something where you’re given a lot of detail, and then using those details on something where you’re given no detail. And as long as you have the opportunity to go between both, I don’t find there’s a better or worse, you just have to be aware of the difference between the two. They’re both valid as long as you keep your eyes and ears open with the detail that’s around. Don’t view it as a restricting factor, which it can feel like, view it as a gift of craftsmanship. If you came to a new work without the experience of working on an established piece, you might not be aware of the choices available to you.”

Kellie leading the judges and finalists of the Rob Visitor Endowment 2018