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Preparing for NHS Musical is a Huge Commitment for Orchestra

 (Photo courtesy of Trevor Greenlee)
The Noblesville High School pit orchestra rehearses for “Chicago,” The Musical,” on stage Thursday through Saturday at NHS.

Unless you’ve walked up to the stage and looked into the orchestra pit during a Noblesville High School musical, you probably haven’t even wondered about the talented orchestra that’s playing the music for the show.

As you watch and listen to the cast sing and dance on stage, you might have not even realized that the music is performed live.

So, today, I’m going to tell you how the NHS fall musical, “Chicago: Teen Edition,” comes together with the orchestra for the three performances this week, at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. (By the way, if you want tickets for the show, I suggest ordering online as soon as possible before tickets sell out.)

NHS orchestra teacher David Hartman is the pit orchestra director.

And this year, the pit orchestra won’t actually be performing in the pit in front of the stage. This year, the pit orchestra is part of the show on stage.

(Photo courtesy of Trevor Greenlee)
Noblesville High School orchestra teacher David Hartman (above right) is seen directing the pit orchestra in a tight location during rehearsals for “Chicago: Teen Edition,” which is on stage Thursday through Saturday at NHS.

“It’s really just a location but the pit on stage tries to set the scene for being in a jazz club,” Hartman said.

While the orchestra makes their job look easy, preparing for this musical is a lot of work. And a big commitment. Orchestra members don’t just show up and play.

“We get the materials eight weeks before the show dates,” Hartman said. “I assemble the needed musicians (voluntarily unless it is an orchestra pit which I have my advanced orchestra participate). The pit rehearses independently from the cast until about the sixth week, and then we combine for a sing-through (sitzprobe). We join them on stage (or in the pit) five days a week for the final two weeks.”

So, are there auditions?

Hartman said, “Honestly, I look for volunteers from my top orchestra and band classes. It’s a big time commitment so it is not everyone’s cup of tea. The students end up having a lot of fun, though, when it all comes together.”

The music?

There are 34 pieces of music in this musical, probably one hour and 15 minutes of music, Hartman said. “Musical players have to have strong reading skills.”

The orchestra’s favorite musical piece to play in the show, he believes, is “Chicago Overture/All That Jazz,” which, he said, has “a lot of features for the pit and is upbeat.”

Does the orchestra have a name?

(Photo courtesy of Trevor Greenlee)
The string section of the Noblesville High School pit orchestra, which is basically the NHS jazz band plus strings, rehearses for “Chicago,” The Musical,” on stage Thursday through Saturday at NHS.

“We are just known as the musical pit orchestra,” Hartman said. “Not all shows, like this one, actually feature an orchestra. Sometimes, it is a rock band, or like this year, a jazz band with a few strings added.”

So, who’s playing this year? “This year, we have myself conducting,” Hartman said, “and Mrs. (Carrie) Cain (NHS piano teacher) playing the piano 1 book. The pianist has to be a professional-level player because of the demands of the music. In the past few musicals, we have hired a former student to come in and play the drum set. We didn’t have a student volunteer with the skills needed at the time. We have a student drummer this year that is fantastic. All others in the pit are current students.”

Hartman, who is in his 31st year teaching at NHS and who is a guitarist, violinist (“all strings, really”) and who dabbles in the accordion, has been involved with more than 20 musical productions.

Hartman enjoys the collaboration with the school musical.

“This is actually the most demanding musical performance our school does all year,” he said. “It takes at least six to seven directors to make all the parts come together. (John Neubauer is musical director, Julianne Fowler is assistant music director, Shantel Morris is show director, Greg Richards is technical director and Susan Nieten is assistant tech director, and NHS senior Trevor Greenlee is student director, plus choreographers Morris and Fowler and three more assistant choreographers.) The cast members really enjoy this type of performing and are quite talented.”

Hartman said, “I enjoy being the one on stage making the show happen with the students.”

He said, “Please come see the show. We need the audience in order to make all this work meaningful.”

Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com. Read how the show and music directors bring the cast and crew together in the Betsy Reason column in the Wednesday edition of The Times.

Meet the PIT ORCHESTRA

Director: David Hartman

Banjo: Jaiden Casey

Drums/Percussion: Robbie Butler and Ella Feliciano

Piano: Carrie Cain, Tyler Cowan, Amy Schoonover

Reed 1: alto saxophone and clarinet, Jacob Hunt and Jacob Ropte; flute, Elysia Uggen

Reed 2: tenor sax and clarinet, Tessa Bragg; flute, Lia Benitez

Reed 3: bari saxophone and bass clarinet, Tyler Gauthier

Trombone: Keegan O’Conner and Jackson Durst

Trumpet: Daniel Carrington and Ben Whitacre

Tuba/Bass: Matthew Crosby, Clark Larson, Anthony Orta

Violin: Ashlyn Barber, Mason Cannady, Ethan Feliciano, Marielle Fitch, Peyton Kauzlick, Chloe Snyder

Want TO GO?

What: Noblesville High School’s fall musical, “Chicago,” the high school version.

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday (Nov. 17, 18 and 19).

Where: Noblesville High School Auditorium, 18111 Cumberland Road, Noblesville.

How much: $10-$15, reserved seating.

Tickets online: nhscpo.org