New Position at Barter Theatre

More than two-and-a-half years ago (July, 2007), I found out that Barter Theatre in Abingdon, VA was looking for a new Resident Musical Director.  I had heard lots of wonderful things about Barter and was excited about applying for the position. I eagerly submitted my résumé and waited for an interview. The process seemed to drag on and on.  More than four months after expressing my interest in the position, I finally got an interview. I had to wait more than another month before getting an answer.  And the answer was not the one I wanted.

“We really like you, but we’ve decided to go with somebody else,” I heard on the other end of the phone line.  I was crushed. I thought my interview had gone so well. And they did seem to like me, but I felt like I was being fed a line.  Furthermore, they told me, “Please stay in touch. We’d love to work with you someday.”  That sounded like the biggest line of all. What could they possibly need from me now? They had hired somebody else for the only music director position they had available.

Fast-forward about six months to June, 2008…I was on vacation with my family in Pennsylvania when I got an email from the music director they had hired. They were preparing to stage a two-keyboard version of “Sweeney Todd” and he wanted to know if I’d be interested in playing second keys for it.

It didn’t take long for me to decide to do it. I figured it would be fun, and after six months the pain of not getting the job had finally subsided. I was to start in early August on a five-week contract. I would never play in the “Sweeney Todd” production, however. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Less than two weeks before I was to start, I got a phone call from Tim (the musical director) asking if I might be able to start a few days early and assist with some rehearsals on “Beauty and the Beast”. It turns out that he had an Assistant Musical Director, but they weren’t confident in his keyboard abilities to help out with the rehearsals. So they wanted me to help in addition to the “Sweeney Todd” gig. This was turning out even better for me!

A few days before I was to start, I got an urgent email from Tim. Apparently, the assistant had disappeared and nobody knew where he was! “Stay tuned,” said Tim. “We might have more work for you.”

They figured out that the assistant had walked off the job and was not coming back. Within 48 hours, my five-week contract had changed to a five month contract, and I was sitting in a rehearsal playing! I was now the Assistant Musical Director, given my own show to music direct (“Bat Boy”) which was already in rehearsals, and slated to also music direct one of the holiday shows later that year.  The schedule no longer permitted me to participate in the “Sweeney Todd” production (other than as assistant musical director accompanying rehearsals), so another pianist was hired to play that show.

Because of the length of the contract, and the fact that we were still living in Boone, NC, we decided to rent a furnished house in Abingdon so we could easily stay as a family in either town where we needed to be. And what followed was a hectic five months traveling back and forth several times each week. I was still working at Appalachian State University (even though I scaled back quite a bit because of my new work at Barter), and found myself driving that windy, mountainous route (about 90 minutes between our two homes) many, many times.

By the end of that five-month contract, Barter had already talked to me about some possible employment for the following year (2009), and so made the plunge to stop renting our home in Boone and officially move to Abingdon, where we found a wonderful home for us to rent (since we no longer needed a furnished rental) on a (currently unused) horse farm.  The 2009 season provided a fair amount of work for me at the theatre on a total of four different contracts. I was not contracted as an Assistant Musical Director anymore, but an independent contractor.  In “Joseph and the…Dreamcoat”, I played second keys in a two-keyboards and drums configuration (we had a BLAST!).  Then, I created the accompaniment tracks for their production of “Wizard of Oz”. Later on in the year, I music directed “Forever Plaid”, another show that I thoroughly enjoyed.  That production is scheduled for a five- or six-month national tour beginning in September (2010), but I will not be taking that tour.  Another pianist will be hired to play it.

Finishing out the 2009 season, I played piano for a sweet production of “Holiday Memories”, a tender story based on two Truman Capote short stories. It was a calm and refreshing end to the year.

At the end of 2009, I met with Richard Rose (the Producing Artistic Director of Barter) to discuss 2010’s season. It was decided that I would music direct three different shows during the season, providing work from mid-April through mid-November.  But all that was to change…

Less than a week ago, I received word that Tim, the Resident Musical Director, had tendered his resignation, with his final date of work being March 28. Two days later, the position was offered to me, and I have accepted it.

So, beginning March 29, I will finally step into the position I first applied for more than two-and-a-half years ago! I will become the Resident Musical Director at Barter Theatre. I’m very excited about this move in my career. And I look forward to being a more integral part of the production staff there.