A couple weeks ago I was asked to play in the orchestra for a high school musical. The show is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat which I did years ago so was excited to do again.
I have done many, many, many high school shows over the last ten years and they nearly always end up being a fantastic experience. There are, of course, quite a few short tempers as the last of the dress rehearsals come to a close and things aren’t exactly right but the audience always enjoys it and appreciates the effort involved. Learning the music, sometimes with very little warning, and playing it while trying to follow a conductor who is generally used to leading high school students is often a challenge in and of itself but it’s enjoyable to me as a musician to get put to the test. Musicals are written with the singers in mind and the key signatures often aren’t easy for the musicians but I always feel like I’ve become more proficient at my instrument after making through the run of a show.
I haven’t played a spring show since my eldest was born, the amount of time needed to commit to rehearsals and shows is often extraordinary. This week, for example, I will be home with my boys tonight but that’s it for this week. I have had to arrange for them to be watched by my mom, my dad, my husband and possibly even my brother (although I haven’t asked him yet!) and that’s with me only playing 6 or 7 out of a possible 13 shows.
Most of the time there is a lovely little honorarium of some kind for the orchestra, I usually have to buy my own show shirt but over the years I’ve received a $5 coffee gift card, a framed copy of the program, and some small pieces of chocolate. Nearly every show has included a handwritten thank-you card (which is the best and, in my opinion, only truly necessary part) as well as one or two complimentary tickets for my chosen guests to see the show. These are appreciated but I really have no problem paying the $10 ticket price that most schools charge. (Honestly, I’ve done a few shows where I’ve had to pay my family to use my free tickets because the shows were so bad!)
This year the shirts had already been ordered by the time the orchestra was organized so we all missed out on that piece of memorabilia. No big deal really, it’s not too often that I wear the dozen shirts that I already have. Nothing was said about tickets at any of the rehearsals so I asked about it last night. Apparently that question was unexpected based on the reaction I got. Okay, so no comp tickets, no big deal. I still have five tickets that I need to get for various family members to see the show. My parents go happily, they love theatre and this particular school puts on tremendously high quality shows. My sister goes because I spent years watching her choir concerts so she goes to my stuff as payback (she has another sixty shows to put in before that debt is paid!) I was told to call the school office, the phone number is on all the posters, I figured that I could just call them and have the tickets set aside for me to pick up and pay for the next time I went into the school.
The lady who answered the phone was extremely apologetic but quite firm in her inability to do so. She had specific instructions regarding tickets and is not allowed to even set them aside without payment, she really felt quite bad after I explained that I was in the orchestra and was trying to avoid an unnecessary trip with two small children but was unable to help me. Now I get to pack up the kids, drive into town and try to find a parking space at a school built on one of the busiest streets in town. The school was built more than 100 years ago (before the age of internal combustion engines) and has been added to over the years so now it has 5 floors, however many wings, and about 7 parking lots. Trying to figure out a) which lot to park in and b) which door to enter that will get me closest to the main office (a place I have never been) will be a challenge in and of itself. All this on top of trying to stop the kids from darting into traffic and/or classes in progress is enough to make me want to forget about the tickets!
Really, is it too much to ask that someone hand me a piece of paper at one of the rehearsals for me to put my name and requested tickets on? I could have paper clipped my money to it, handed it to an assigned individual and had them give me my tickets at the next rehearsal.
I do understand the insane amount of work that goes into putting on one of these shows, I have many teacher friends and I am also well aware that there is no extra incentives for them to commit to this extra work other than their desire to give the students this kind of experience. I think what has bothered me the most about this experience is how haphazardly I feel like we (the orchestra) has been treated. All of the information that I’ve gotten has come to me almost by afterthought.
I received a list of performance dates and times (at the second last practice) and had organized the kids so that I could do 9 of the 13 shows. At the last practice they changed the start time on 3 of those shows and all of a sudden my careful plans would no longer work. I know that they made this change to accommodate the 300 students and don’t begrudge them that, I am only 1 person with 2 small children, of course the greater student body must be looked after but I made the commitment to do this show and really don’t like having to go back on my word even when it’s not really my fault.
The original title of this post was to be “Mini Momma Rant” but I had to change that as I realized by my word counter that I’ve ranted a whole lot more than I thought I would, apparently I’m really quite upset about this! I have no plans to cause a fuss (certainly not when I go to the office today with the kids, those ladies are just doing what they were told to do) but I do plan to have a quiet word with the director if I can manage it (this is the 5th show I’ve done with her as director, I don’t know her well but well enough that she will listen).
I wrote this partly because writing helps me to put my emotions into perspective and partly because I really want to know what others think. Am I being unreasonable? Have I blown this out of proportion? Should I think twice before agreeing to work with this school again?