Behind the music of the school’s musical, ‘Beauty and the Beast’

A look at all that goes into a pit orchestra

Orchestra Director Jay Gillespie leads students in final rehearsals for the spring musical, Beauty and the Beast.

Orchestra Director Jay Gillespie leads students in final rehearsals for the spring musical, “Beauty and the Beast.”

Mia Gesinger, staff reporter

On any given Wednesday for the past several months, the band room has been filled with a harmony of sounds as talented musicians from across all of the school’s bands and orchestras practice together. 

It is here, in NE 221 where the musical’s pit orchestra meets to practice. Through tough three hour rehearsals, some of our school’s very best performers work together to learn and reproduce a live soundtrack for the musical.

It is also here that friendships are formed as students spend their afternoons working on something they all love. 

Jay Gillespie, the director of the pit orchestra, describes the spirit of the rehearsals.

 “The camaraderie is palpable,” Gillespie said.

The school has always relied on a pit orchestra in some form, from a small group of players in old productions all the way to the huge ensemble supporting this year’s musical “Beauty and the Beast.” 

While a show performed with a recorded track can certainly produce a beautiful production, those involved in the pit orchestra all agree that the value of live music can’t be overstated.

“Live music is everything in a musical, I just don’t think there’s anything like it,” Shawn Riley, the musical’s director, said. 

The musicians in the pit orchestra all seem to share the same sentiments. One senior violinist, Harriet Cohen, claims that live music can provide a unique flexibility. 

“Live music is really important, we can adjust to what the singers are doing,” Cohen said. 

Even leads within the musical have nothing but appreciation for what a pit orchestra can bring to a show. 

“I love the pit orchestra,”  senior Lydia Van Kley, who will be playing Belle, said. “It’s not just beautiful singing and a nice story being told, it’s like a whole art piece coming together.”

According to another violinist, senior Amelia DeEulio, there’s a wonderfully unique feeling when everything comes together. 

“When the singers come in it’s super special, it just adds a whole new excitement,” DeEulio said.

Gillespie agrees.

“When we get it all together and we’re out there with the actors and actresses and we’re making this piece of music, it’s a lot of fun,” Gillespie said. 

One common thread between everyone interviewed was a general agreement that being in the pit orchestra is a blast.

“It’s so casual and fun, I’ve been in so many ensembles where it’s toxic and competitive, it’s nice that it’s not so formal,”  Cohen said. 

Despite the nonchalant atmosphere, both DeEulio and Cohen don’t downplay the amount of work, hours and practice that they have to put into the production. They also both agree they wouldn’t miss this chance for the world. 

“If you have this opportunity in high school and you’re really passionate about music, I would say go for it,” DeEulio said. 

Gillespie also makes sure to recommend the experience to anyone who’s interested. 

“Going outside of your comfort zone and doing things you don’t necessarily think you would like to do is really fun,” Gillespie said. 

Being able to perform in a pit orchestra is truly a unique experience, one that those interested in performing arts shouldn’t overlook.

“It gives an insight to what professionals do, and what goes on behind the scenes of a musical,” DeEulio said. 

Pit orchestras truly do provide such depth to each and everyone of the school musicals, and the hard work the talented musicians put into the show should be applauded.

As Riley said, “the pit orchestra really takes the show to another level.”