Pit band musicians improve through rigid and dedicated work

Erez Ben-Akiva, Website Manager

Pit band members perform behind stage at Wednesday's "Hairspray."
Pit band members perform behind stage at Wednesday’s “Hairspray.” The pit band practiced for 2 to 3 hours each day, and more during tech week. PHOTO BY GIOVANA CASTRO

Forty-five minutes after the end of the school day, members of the pit band for the musical “Hairspray” trickle into the band room and set up their instruments. Just minutes later, the band, led by music teacher Carolyn Castellano, begins their rehearsal by going over difficult sections in “Velma’s Revenge,” one of several numbers in the show.

For these musicians who accompany onstage performers for the musical and other shows, pit band provides a different experience than most other music ensembles.

Senior Gabriel Mininberg, who plays saxophone in the band, said it is good to get exposure to playing that style of music, especially for musicians who usually play improvised music.

“Pit band is the only group where it’s not improvised music, at least in the bands that I’m in,” Mininberg said.

According to bass player junior Jory Cherry, pit band is different from the experimental nature of other ensembles at the high school because each musician has a specific piece.

“In Jazz Band, it’s more arranging music and it’s more creative, whereas the pieces we play in “Hairspray” are written out for us,” Cherry said. “You have a part and you play that part. You read the music and you follow along.”

Sophomore Will Guzman said the music they play is challenging and requires a large amount of sight-reading, but that, in the end, it is worth getting to play.

“I haven’t read a lot of music honestly,” Guzman said. “It’s just a lot of key signature changes and a lot of weird chords that I wasn’t really expecting. But it’s interesting music.”

Members of the pit band have to be willing to put in time and effort due to the music’s level of difficulty, Guzman said.

“We definitely have to be willing to work at it, because you’re not going to be able to get the music immediately and it’s kind of challenging,” Guzman said.

Being in the band is a major time commitment. The pit band practices after school for about two to three hours, but during tech week the length of their rehearsals increases, Mininberg said.

For Guzman, the hours of practice required for pit band improved who he is as a musician.

“It’s definitely made me a much better musician in that it’s made my sight-reading a lot better,” Guzman said. “I’ve gotten a lot more fluent in playing certain chords that I just hadn’t really been familiar with in the past. During school, you have homework and stuff and you just don’t really have the time to play continuously for three hours, and [the pit band] is definitely made to have that opportunity.”

Cherry said that the pit band is working to sound more cohesive as a group.

“I think the goal is just to be fluid around the performers, the people in the musical, and the singers,” Cherry said.

Mininberg said that there isn’t a future for the band after the musical, but that it is still a good experience to have.

“It’s a fun group of people, people you might not necessarily talk to all the time,” Mininberg said. “But it’s good to spend a lot of time with them. You learn a lot and grow a lot.”

Erez Ben-Akiva can be contacted at [email protected]