Orchestra Strives for Perfection

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Orchestra teacher and conductor, Sandra Shaw, rehearses music for the upcoming musical, "Young Frankenstein," with a small group of musicians. The orchestra is made up of Loy Norrix students who have put in many hours of rehearsal to make this performance perfect.
Orchestra teacher and conductor, Sandra Shaw, rehearses music for the upcoming musical, “Young Frankenstein,” with a small group of musicians. The orchestra is made up of Loy Norrix students who have put in many hours of rehearsal to make this performance perfect.

While many attendees of a musical at Loy Norrix High School may get to see into the lives of the characters the actors portray, no one is witness to the orchestra, which puts in long hours of both fun and strenuous rehearsal to prepare for shows like “Young Frankenstein,” which opens January 24th at Loy Norrix.
The orchestra at Loy Norrix is comprised of Loy Norrix students, and despite being commonly known as an orchestra pit, at Kasdorf Auditorium the orchestra is stationed in the loft above the stage hidden from view. This may seem daunting to some, but the most daunting part of it is climbing the ladder into the loft. A drawback of performing from the loft is that the orchestra is not able to watch the musical taking place on the stage.
“It’s scary climbing up the ladder. It’s at a very steep angle. We don’t get to see any of the action,” orchestra conductor Sandra Shaw said.
However, there are some benefits to performing from the loft.
“Not being seen is the best because you can wear whatever you want. You can eat food. Play on phones. Read magazines. Not bother anyone as long as we are ready for the down beat. The fun thing about it is it doesn’t stop until it’s over. It lasts three hours, but feels like an hour,” Shaw said jokingly.
Junior Syri Runyan-Abanilla agreed.  “It’s fun. Claustrophobic. It’s cool to be part of the show without being onstage,” she said.
Runyan-Abanilla plays the bass for the show, although her main instrument is the cello.
“There is a three hour rehearsal about once a week. No stress. It’s fun doing music outside of orchestra,” Runyan-Abanilla said.
Rehearsal for this musical has already begun. Many hours of practice are being put into this musical so that the music sounds just right and blends perfectly with the voices of the singers.
“This year I am trying to get 65-70 hours of practice including performances,” Shaw said. “It’s always precarious at the beginning. The key signatures are awkward. When playing for singers, the tempos (speed of the beat) are wicked fast. Like circus music.”
A lot of work on the part of the musicians is required for the show to be a success. However, there are some things the orchestra needs to work on.
“The musicians need to work on playing the notes. They need to work on the technique of getting through a quick passage of notes. There has not been good attendance when people are so busy. In January, they will be there,” Shaw said with a smile on her face.
The pit is made up of students of all ages, including freshman Lexi Terrian from LN, and LN alumni and Kalamazoo Valley Community College freshman, Alex Blondin. There are also some students from Kalamazoo Central. Shaw will also be a part of the orchestra when the time comes. She plans on playing the clarinet and soprano saxophone.
“Some people volunteered. Others I picked because no one came forward. Sometimes I had to do auditions. Students have to be self-motivated to learn the music on their own,” Shaw said.
“There are some great student musicians. Three of them are going to major in music in college. Two are from Kalamazoo Central (Tony Peña, who plays the trumpet, and Logan Hughey, who plays trombone), and one is from Loy Norrix (Michael Deaton, who plays lead trumpet),” Shaw said.
Students are intent on learning the pieces for the show. “Some are asking for time during orchestra to practice,” Shaw said.
Despite the fact that Shaw knows the orchestra rehearsals are just beginning, she has high hopes for the musicians.
“The pit is in the beginning stages. Once you are onstage and the show is going to happen, you are the music. The students will be beside themselves with elation,” Shaw said.