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The independent student media site of West Linn High School

wlhsNOW

The independent student media site of West Linn High School

wlhsNOW

Keep pit up

Get to know the school’s pit orchestra
Hidden in the pit. In the school’s auditorium, hidden beneath the stage, is the pit for the pit orchestra. During the musical, this space is filled with instruments, and the black structure to the left is where Kevin Egan conducts from. “I sit on a tall podium so I can see down to the musicians but I can also see on the stage,” Egan said.
Clara Wood
Hidden in the pit. In the school’s auditorium, hidden beneath the stage, is the pit for the pit orchestra. During the musical, this space is filled with instruments, and the black structure to the left is where Kevin Egan conducts from. “I sit on a tall podium so I can see down to the musicians but I can also see on the stage,” Egan said.

Pit orchestras are a not-so-silent component of musicals, providing the soundtrack for the show. If the theater has a pit for them to be in, they can be found there during the show, hence the name pit orchestra, or “pit,” for short. West Linn High School has its own pit orchestra, which has just finished working with the rest of the drama department for this year’s first musical, “Pippin.”

Pit is conducted by Kevin Egan, who has been the band and symphony orchestra teacher for the school for 16 years. For each of those years, he’s been working with the pit orchestra on the musical.

“Every fall, we do a musical, the whole department does,” Egan said. “I work with the instrumentalists and conduct the show.”

Pit consists of band and orchestra students who spend time after school learning, rehearsing, and eventually playing their parts. During the Pippin production, pit would have between 14 and 19 musicians who weren’t there for the grade.

“Nobody gets a grade for it,” Egan said. “They get my appreciation and I think they get the fun of doing it and all that. It’s really just me asking and people wanting to do it because they saw, I hope, people having fun the year before.”

Pit exists purely for the musical. The orchestra comes together one time every year and disbands until it’s time to prepare for next year’s show. 

“It’s kind of like a pop-up store,” Egan said. “10 minutes after [the last] show, if you had gone down into the pit you wouldn’t have even known we were ever there.”

Pippin’s music and lyrics were written by Stephen Schwartz, an American composer and theater lyricist, who also wrote the music and lyrics for Wicked and many other plays. Pippin had over 250 pages of score for musicians to learn, and live performances added an extra layer of challenge.

“On any given night, you know, something might happen. Who knows what? A mic might go out or an actor might be late coming on stage,” Egan said. “We have to be super flexible and super ready to change up at any time.”

A lot of work goes into musical productions, and pit is just one more piece of the hard-working puzzle. 

“I think, man, they should all be here. Everyone should come and watch the high school musical. Because it’s the only thing the arts department does all together, and it’s really worth it. I think it’s a really great show,” Egan said.

At the moment, there are no plans for the art department’s next show, meaning the pit orchestra will not be appearing again until next year. Instead, Egan will be focusing on symphony orchestra, which is larger and just plays symphony music, and doesn’t work with other groups, unlike pit. Symphony Orchestra began on Dec. 1.

 

For more information about the pit orchestra, listen to this podcast episode.

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Clara Wood, Staff Reporter
A lover of writing, both fiction and journalistic, Clara Wood, sophomore, is currently participating in her first year on journalism staff. She can often be found with a book in her hand or a web browser open to the humane society website, due to her love of animals. Clara’s aim is to discover what profession she wants to pursue beyond high school and write a few things along the way.
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