Kellie Dickerson was awarded The Gilbert Spottiswood Churchill Fellowship to travel to the USA to study the role of Musical Director in the creation of original musical theatre works.
Kellie spent six weeks in Boston and New York interviewing and working with specialists from all areas of the musical theatre industry, attending performances, workshops, readings, rehearsals, and recordings to engage practically with the processes they were discussing in detail. She also spent some time with artists coaching material from a new work to discuss the process of interpreting and learning new compositions when there are no reference points from existing recordings.
• A week of sessions in Boston with Eric Stern analysing sections of a new work and receiving detailed insight on the role of a musical director
• Being an active part of a recording session for a new work with Lucy Simon
• Attending musical and stage rehearsals for the 2014 Tony Awards
• A week of sessions in New York with Stephen Oremus looking at the process of arranging a composer’s work, using his own arrangements as examples, then attending those works in Broadway theatres as finished productions both as audience and guest in the orchestral pit
• Attending rehearsals for new musicals in development.
Major lessons and conclusions:
• The role and responsibilities of the musical director changes with every new work, depending on the composer and creative team
• Even though the role changes, there are skills which will be used to a lesser or greater extent when creating new works. These include expert musicianship (probably as a pianist), vocal coaching, conducting, arranging, orchestration, structuring music, communication and management.
• Musical directors must engage with new works on all levels to become a master at this specialty – not just by working on them but listening to new works, attending workshops and readings, listening to as many composers as possible both classical and popular to develop an ear for structure and compositional styles
Kellie intends disseminating this knowledge through master-classes, and through the advisory panels for New Musicals Australia, and the Australia Council supporting new musical works. She will continue to implement these lessons by working on new productions in Australia and collaborating with directors, composers, orchestrators and artists.