Pit orchestra gears up for Jesus Christ Superstar: The Musical

Pit orchestra meets up for an after school session in order to practice as a whole group. The pit only gets a handful of rehearsals before combining with the cast, so they are working hard to make immense progress compared to previous years.

Last year, the musical, Guys and Dolls, was cancelled on opening night. This year, the student body prepares to run the new musical in hopes of a different fate. Cast lists and pit orchestra results have been released, so students are working hard for their show. 

Due to the ever persistent presence of Covid-19, auditions this year were not held in person but rather submitted online and reviewed by the director, Mr. Garren Cuthrell, at a later date.

 “It’s nice to be able to pick and choose the best recordings of myself to submit, but it’s just not the same as having an in person audition, which I’d love to soon get back to doing,” Aguilera admits. 

Computers are not the same as hearing a person play in person and anything online can come with technical difficulties.

“Recording equipment tends to compress sound waves and can make a perfectly good tone quality sound poor or lackluster,” Henckler-Davis describes. 

However, despite these setbacks with technology, many students prefer online over in person auditions. 

“I liked that I was able to record several times to be able to submit the best audition possible. I also liked that I could record my audition whenever I wanted to instead of having a set time after a hard day of school when I’m distracted,” Parker explains.

“Despite the downsides, I think I would like to do video auditions in the future because a lot of stress can have a much greater negative impact on my performance than the reduction in tone quality that comes with video auditions does,” Henckler-Davis clarifies.

The announcement of the musical choice, Jesus Christ Superstar, had students across the school doing a double take. 

“My initial thought of the musical choice was ‘excuse me?  Jesus Christ what?’” describes Aidan Wolinski ’22, a tenor saxophone player in the symphonic band.

David Pera ’23, a clarinet player, also inputs his reaction regarding the announcement.

“I was definitely confused by the clearly religious connotation. I’d never heard of it before but it does seem pretty cool as far as I know,” Pera explains. 

Despite the initial shock, students were able to look past the title and see the musical for what it holds.

“When I listened to some of the music before auditioning, I was excited because it sounded super cool and fun to play,” Joanna Parker ’21, lead flute player in the pit orchestra, clarified.

Davey Aguilera ’23, a trumpet player and keyboardist, had similar feelings when the announcement was released.

“I was a bit astounded just by the fact that a public school chose to do a religion related story. Although the more time I spent listening to the music, I really started to come around to the choice,” he reveals.

Others have fond memories of the musical and are already excited about the future of the show. 

“Jesus Christ Superstar is one of my all-time favorite musicals and has a large and diverse selection of music!” Samuel Engelbert ’23, who is playing the tuba in the ensemble this year, expresses.

Once the musical choice was secured, students were eager to join the pit orchestra and be a part of an ensemble once again. 

“I was really happy that Heritage was going to have a musical, since it was uncertain we would because of Covid,” Kenna Billings ’23, flute player, says.

“I’m really glad that the band program is getting rolling again, and pit orchestra was one of the first things to get started. I’ve missed being able to participate in band extracurriculars and I’m glad that they’re getting started again,” adds Clara Henckler-Davis ’22, an avid member of the band community throughout her high school years. 

Pit orchestra is not only a good outlet for students to participate in an activity with peers, but is also a way to improve their musicianship skills.

“Pit orchestra has more challenging literature then what we generally see in class, so it is also an opportunity to challenge myself musically and continue to grow and learn,” Henckler-Davis adds.

Jonas Shofler ’21, tenor saxophone section leader, comments on his reasons for auditioning for pit. 

“I wanted to do pit because I wanted a way to expand my musical horizons and to challenge myself,” says Shofler.

Other students feel the same regarding their abilities and the opportunity to improve provided by pit.

“I’m always looking to improve my musical abilities, and I heard pit is a challenge that strengthens one’s skills. Also I love the band program and am always happy to involve myself more with it,” Ian Schultz ’23, trumpet player, notes.

The pit orchestra this year will differ from last year due to the switch in instrumentation. The change from a typically symphonic sound to a much more rock-based show holds many new opportunities for players all across the band. 

“I’m excited to play with a rock band. I’ve never had the opportunity to play with one before, and even though the band is just supporting the main group, it still makes for a new interesting experience,” Schultz describes.

Billings elaborates regarding the new opportunities.

“Because we’re not performing in the actual pit, Mr. Cuthrell had a lot more flexibility for instrumentation and could include a lot more people than would normally fit in the pit, which is exciting because a lot of new people got the opportunity to do pit this year!” she expresses.

Those who have done pit orchestra in the pit only have fond memories at the experience and were eager to participate again this year. 

“I was fortunate enough to get into the Guys and Dolls pit orchestra last year which was overall a super fun experience. Naturally, I wouldn’t want to miss an experience like that. It’s really unlike most of the other ensembles I’m in,” Aguilera explains. 

“I still have so many good memories from pit last year and I can’t wait to make new ones this year!” Billings adds.

Compared to previous years, the pit has faced many struggles this year due to restrictions. They have not been able to meet as often as they have last year which has caused some tensions, however they are still confident in their abilities. 

“It feels a lot less like a tight group that meets constantly, but it still retains a lot of the arduous preparation of previous years,” Pera notes.

“It is going to feel more disconnected, but I know that we can make it work. We will definitely still have just as much fun,” Shofler expresses. 

The pit also faces technical challenges due to the musical being held outside, however measures are being taken to try and make the smoothest performance possible. 

“The performance will be quite complicated as playing outside in winter is somewhat impossible, and so coordinating between the show going on outside and a pit playing inside will be kinda schmancy, but you know what they say – the show must go on!” Parker ’23 describes.

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