Sonum Batra: 5 tips for theatre musicians working on new musicals
Sonum Batra has a degree in music from King's College London, after which she took private piano lessons because she couldn’t afford music college. Since then, she has worked extensively in fringe theatre as musical director, assistant musical director, arranger and composer. Her most recent shows are FatBusters: The Musical and Not the End of the World
1. Keep up to date with new shows
You need to know what’s on and where, who’s directing and who’s in charge of the music. See as much musical theatre as you can so that when you audition, or discuss potential work with a producer, you are well informed about the industry and what’s happening within it.
A good, employable musician needs to practise continually. If you don’t, your technical ability will slip. Work on all sorts of music, including classical. I still have a classical piano lesson – so good for technique – once a month, which keeps me on track.
3. Be open-minded
You have to be flexible. When you’re workshopping or rehearsing a piece, be prepared to chop and change things and edit as you go along. You may have to work with actors who’ve been cast for something other than singing. Stand by to change keys or adjust bits of melody. You can’t be precious about any of it.
4. Keep your notes up to date
Always keep your score well annotated rather than relying on instinct and memory. You never know when you might have to hand it on to someone else. It’s your job to keep it fully updated. Make notes after each rehearsal too. A few minutes spent then making sure everything is in order can save a lot of time later.
5. Be nice
This matters far more than anything else I’ve said so far. Keep level-headed, think hard about your choice of words and make sure you create a pleasant working atmosphere that helps you all to attain your shared goal. Respect others even if they seem 'difficult'. And if you need to point out a shortcoming to someone, find a way of doing it that doesn’t sour the working relationship between you both.