Theater pit orchestras are becoming an endangered species. Besides the cost to maintain it, could cutting out school music programs be blamed for it?
The humble theater pit orchestras enliven any performance. Some say operas would not be heart-rendering without them. Some say ballets, with their dazzling glory both on soft ballet slippers and pointe shoes, would not be magical without them. Some say general musical theater would not be very remarkable without them.
Many people – theater critics and general audiences alike – agree that live music in productions is a must. It enables performers to express themselves and communicate with musicians, either by song, movement, or both.
Well, let’s face it – the musicians that make any performance something to remember are shrinking rapidly.
Where have all the theater musicians gone? Orchestra Pit: Vienna State Opera Auditorium (Photo credit: Ethan Prater)
There are so many reasons why it’s so. Technology makes things simpler at a cost, even though theaters are looking for ways to cut costs. Machines equipped with MIDI (bashed by a few as Musical Instrument Diminishing Interface) supplant some or even replace those willing to sacrifice time to accompany performers. Sure, they free up space, but most people cringe at the cheesiness of the (digitalized) orchestration.
Well, if technology-embracing, cost cutting, and space-freeing are not enough, the decline of pit orchestras could be attributed to the decline of school music programs.
Like the theaters on and off-Broadway or West End and fringe, schools also have to deal with budget cuts. Music programs eat up their wallets, so they cut it to balance their expenses. Another reason why is because they have to thoroughly prepare students for standardized testing. So why are they cutting that out to improve students’ scores amid countless studies lauding the fact that music does it effectively?
Well, if students who play in bands or orchestras did bad on a section of a test, they’d likely take a remedial class on the said failed subject instead of band or orchestra.
The dots have been connected – cut music programs in our schools means less students being musicians, thus creating less pit orchestras.
Even Sondheim agrees that live music in performances are remarkable!
Well, although there are protests and petitions to keep live music in the theaters, there’s something people can do to help. Perhaps they should donate to music education charities or ask their lawmakers to reconsider their actions if they are about to cut funding for the arts. They should also host fundraisers to deter costs of operating music programs and giving students quality music education. They should do those things alongside telling the world that they are wistful for live music in performances.
If people everywhere can save music in our schools, they can save the musicians that make dance or theatrical spectacles real spectacles.
Sites Supporting Live Music in Performances
Save Live Music on Broadway