Welcome! This is your first free article. Get more free articles when you sign up with your email.

Jordan Li-Smith: ‘I made long-standing contacts on my first job’

Jordan Li-Smith. Photo: Scott Rylander
Jordan Li-Smith. Photo: Scott Rylander

Musical director and composer Jordan Li-Smith tells john Byrne about working on a show he loved and with people he had long admired on his first professional job

FacebookTwitterLinkedIn

I was 20 when I graduated from the Royal Academy of Music. My first job was working as a music assistant for the 2015 Off-West End revival of Grand Hotel. I was playing for some auditions where musical supervisor Simon Lee was on the panel. He approached me to ask if I’d be interested in helping him out on this production. I was nervous, but incredibly excited.

It was a show I absolutely adored and a chance to work with people I’d long admired. One of them – producer Danielle Tarento – would later give me my big break as a musical director and become a long-standing collaborator and friend.

Joining rehearsals late in the process meant learning the show quickly. I learnt the most from observing the music department working with the company (including MD Michael Bradley and his assistant, Malcolm Forbes-Peckham). They helped knock out some of my bad habits and passed on fundamentals that set me on the right path. I wish I’d spent more time with the score prior to joining rehearsals.

Now, ample prep time and score analysis is something I absolutely live by and something I encourage all budding musical directors to do. Part of our job is to enable actors by helping them understand the DNA of a score. Analysis also helps us to understand a score’s dramaturgical structure and to know the purpose of each musical moment.

I consider my graduating show from RAM – Michel Legrand’s Amour – part of that ‘first job’ experience. It was a baptism of fire: my musical supervisor David White threw me in the deep end while carefully guiding me with great patience.

In both of these shows, I experienced ‘learning on the job’ in a very literal sense, and can safely say that the only true way to learn is just that – by doing it, jumping feet first in the deep end.


Jordan Li-Smith

Age: 25
Training: Royal Academy of Music (Elton John scholarship); National Youth Music Theatre; the Hammond School, Chester; London College of Music (associate diploma)
Theatre as musical director includes: City of Angels (assistant musical director, Garrick Theatre), Preludes (Southwark Playhouse), Queen of the Mist (Jack Studio/Charing Cross Theatre), Amour and Ragtime (Charing Cross Theatre), The Assassination of Katie Hopkins (Theatr Clwyd), The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin (Theatre Royal Stratford East)
Composer/playwright credits include: Left Behind: Women of the War, a song cycle


Jordan Li-Smith was talking to John Byrne


Read More

Actor Nadia Sohawon: ‘I wish I had asked more questions when I was starting out’Actor Nadia Sohawon: ‘I wish I had asked more questions when I was starting out’
Paula Brett: 'My first job taught me to respect less glamorous sides of acting'Paula Brett: 'My first job taught me to respect less glamorous sides of acting'

John Byrne

John Byrne

John Byrne

John Byrne

Most Commented
Mohamed Sarrar: 'My opportunity came when I was a refugee in the Calais Jungle'

Mohamed Sarrar: 'My opportunity came when I was a refugee in the Calais Jungle'

Most Shared
38 staff at Theatre by the Lake to be made redundant

38 staff at Theatre by the Lake to be made redundant

Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue

Invest in The Stage today with a subscription starting at just £3.98
The Stage
© Copyright The Stage Media Company Limited 2020
Facebook
Instagram
Twitter
Linked In
Pinterest
YouTube