The 3 ways a music director matters

"People don't think about it but you're part of the show too!"

I'm sure many pianists and music directors have heard this "compliment" before.

A pianist or a music theater conductor is as much part of the show as the actors on stage because what he does or doesn't do impacts the experience of the audience and of the actors tremendously.
Let's look at three important examples of  how music directors matter for both the audience and the actors.  

  • For the audience: if the pianist is too loud, the audience can't hear the action; if the pianist is too soft they can't hear the music.
  • For the actors: if the orchestra is too loud actors will loose their voices trying to get heard; if the band is too soft the actors will lack the support they need to reach some higher notes or to make it through a phrase.
  • For the audience: If the tempo is faster than necessary they won't be able to understand the text, if the tempo is slower than necessary they will get bored.
  • For the actors: Choreography is made accordingly to a certain tempo, therefore playing the song consistently is crucial for safety reasons. A song played faster can lead the actors to injure themselves and getting out of breath, and playing it too slow can completely ruin the choreography.
  • For the audience: The way in which the music is played can either draw attention to itself like it is needed in a song, or help support the action as is needed for underscoring. Confusing those two can mislead the audience as to what to listen to and may cause them to miss some important information of the action.
  • For the actors: The style in which the songs are played directly influences the way a singer will approach the song. Giving cues such as playing louder to lead somebody into their entrance after underscoring, accentuating beats in a clear and consistent way throughout the song or starting a song with the correct style right way are all ways in which non-spoken communication occurs show after show. If the music director misses those, the actors will start wondering what went wrong and will start doubting their performance.

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