Bringing the show to life from the pit

by Shannon ’21

Shannon (far right) played in the Pit Orchestra for the first time in "Fiddler on the Roof."

Driving into the gates of Peddie on orientation weekend, my eyes were quickly drawn to the banners hanging off of the lamp posts by Geiger-Reeves Theater. These colorful banners, advertising this year’s fall, spring, and winter plays, were flowing in the wind as if they were calling my name. While performing on stage wasn’t my passion, I knew that I wanted to be a member of the vibrant Peddie theater community in some way.

At Peddie, the winter musical, unlike the fall and spring plays, features music performed live by our Pit Orchestra. This audition-based, student group, directed by our orchestra teacher and art department chair, Mr. Michaels, meets after school during the winter term.

With a few years of percussion experience under my belt, I quickly came to the realization that Pit Orchestra would allow me to combine my interest in theater and my love of music. During the fall term, after a few weeks of percussion ensemble rehearsals and practice outside of class, I auditioned for our winter musical, “Fiddler on the Roof.” I was thrilled to find out that I would be one of two percussionists in that year’s Pit Orchestra. 

Upon our return to campus after fall break, I was initially intimidated by the volume and complexity of the music, but I knew that over the term, with the help of our conductor and my fellow musicians, we would create music that would bring the show to life. Week by week, our small group of musicians grew closer. Coming into rehearsals, we would often talk about our days in class, decompress after difficult tests, or discuss upcoming school events. Mr. Michaels would usually jump into the conversation as well with encouragement in the form of cookie trays and chocolates (which was always appreciated!). One night, we met at Mr. Michaels’ house just across the street from campus for a pancake dinner, where we watched the film version of “Fiddler” and told stories of our favorite moments throughout the term.

In one term not only had we perfected music from a Broadway show, but we had bonded as a team, making friendships that would last long beyond our time together in the pit. Based on my positive experience during “Fiddler on the Roof,” I auditioned again the next year and was able to tackle the percussion section by myself as part of the Pit Orchestra for the musical “1776.” I played the drum set part, timpani and mallets, a combination of instruments I never thought I would play! I gained  confidence that translated into the rest of my school life: I found myself speaking up more in class and began taking on leadership roles on campus.

I could never have anticipated the amazing lessons I learned from my experience in Pit Orchestra. Seeing the dedication that my fellow Pit members have given to each show has inspired me to work harder both inside and outside of the rehearsal room. Being a member of this team has enabled me to embrace my true self and make memories that will last a lifetime.