The Bobby G Awards celebrate outstanding achievement in Colorado high-school musical theatre. The seventh annual awards take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 23, at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. (Reserve your seat here.) Each year, we single out one category for further recognition on the NewsCenter. This year, we are spotlighting the five schools nominated for Outstanding Performance by an Orchestra.
Palmer Ridge High School
Catch Me if You Can
Raleigh “Butch” Eversole, Orchestra Director
- How does one become an Orchestra Director, anyway? It is an expectation at our school that the instrumental music teacher will also be the music and orchestra director in our school musicals, though the position can be subbed out if needed. As a musician, I’ve been a pit-orchestra musician for shows as a high-school and college student, and occasionally as a professional. This experience has done much to prepare me for the role of orchestra director for school musicals. Other important preparation is conducting and rehearsing musicians in typical band or instrumental class settings.
- How much are you in charge of at your school? At our school, we are fortunate to have separate Music and Vocal Directors. The Music Director serves as the vocal coach and makes major musical decisions regarding tempos, cuts, etc. The orchestra director (me!) prepares the pit musicians and conducts for all shows.
- Which musical players are hardest to find at your school? We don’t have a string program at our school, so we usually substitute instruments for those parts (flutes for violins, bassoon/trombone/bari sax for cello or keyboards as needed). Modern “pop” shows usually require guitarists, and most high-school musicians aren’t at the level needed. Shows with lots of keyboard or synth parts are also problematic.
- What is the value of a full, robust (and on-note!) orchestra to an overall production? There is no substitute for using a full orchestra with real instruments. The energy cannot be duplicated with recordings or piano reductions. There is also a difference in how cast and audience can literally feel the sound with a full orchestra over recordings and piano reductions. Obviously, any poor playing is noticed and is a big distraction from the performance. When the pit plays well, people forget they are there!
- Shout out one of your kids: Alayna Murphy is a freshman who played drum set in this year’s production. It is rare to use any freshmen student in the pit, let alone drums. There is no place for a drummer to hide; her energy is critical for the pit and for the dancers. Alayna had very little drumset experience. Her work, individual practice and progress were unbelievable. To receive a Bobby G nomination of “her” orchestra reinforces her incredible work.
- What does it mean to your students to be nominated for this Bobby G Award? Our students realize this is a huge honor. It is not as much a reflection of our orchestra as it is a reflection of our entire company and the collaboration of all staff and students of the Palmer Ridge Performing Arts Department. The students are so happy to be recognized for their hard work and performance. They often feel unnoticed or anonymous, as they are hidden under the stage. Some audience members don’t even realize we are there.
- What is the greatest orchestra performance you have ever personally witnessed? I’ve been fortunate to see several shows in the West End in London. All have been great, except maybe hearing British actors try to use a Texas accent in The Buddy Holly Story. I also heard a trumpet player miss a note in Wicked (gasp!) But it was good to know that pros are human, too). I think the best orchestra I’ve heard was the London production of The Lion King. That show surprised me by bringing me to tears.
- What is the value of music education at your school? There is no musical without music. There is no music without musicians. There are no musicians with music education. The value and experience of performing music is too rich and important to be put into words here. Music and other extracurricular activities keep all students human, engaged in school and motivated to do their best in all areas. Most people won’t remember a math test, but they will remember how music makes them feel.
- Last words? I am so fortunate to work with such a wonderful team in the Palmer Ridge Performing Arts Department, particularly our theatre teacher, Josh Belk. He is truly an artist who values teaching students about life through art, rather than simply producing shows. The inspiration he provides me is unparalleled.