Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Wynton Marsalis. No, these stars have never played in a Broadway pit. But if you play on Broadway, chances are good that you or the person sitting next to you has played with them or even played with the New York Philharmonic, the Met Opera or the NYC Ballet. Broadway musicians are among the best in the world. Their individual credits are as impressive as can be. And yet, to Broadway audiences, we are just a name in small print in a Playbill.
This year the Broadway Theatre Committee plans to change that. We are introducing a web site – perfectly titled BroadwayMusicians.com – to bring Broadway musicians into the spotlight. We invite Broadway audiences as well as the general public to browse each show and learn more about the musicians who bring Broadway’s music to life.
“For years, the public has seen pictures and bios of actors when they visit a Broadway show,” said Local 802 member Patrick Milando. “Now the public gets to see the musicians and the rich palette of musical experience they bring to Broadway.” Milando plays French horn 1 in the “Lion King” orchestra
The web site is currently presenting musicians’ photos and bios for four shows: “Cinderella,” “Kinky Boots,” “Lion King” and “Wicked.” Start at BroadwayMusicians.com and just click on an individual show’s marquee image. This will take you to that individual show’s page, where you can see a list of musicians in the show, complete with bios, snapshots and hyperlinks, as well as candid photos from the pit.
“It’s always great when parents bring their kids down to the pit before or after the show, and during intermission,” said Local 802 member Greg Thymius. “It’s great to talk with them, but there’s never enough time to answer all their questions. Now, they can get to know us a bit better through this terrific new web site.” Thymius will be playing flute, alto and tenor in the upcoming show “Rocky.”
Musicians from each show will have input into how their show’s pages will look within the site. We are encouraging all shows to participate.
This project first began as a hard copy “MusicBill” for each show, similar to a Playbill, listing each musician with their biographies. We wanted to continue on the successful public relations campaign initiated during the 2003 Broadway strike, where MusicBills were handed out to acknowledge the talented pool of musicians employed in Broadway shows. By showing audiences that Broadway musicians also perform with top orchestras, ballet companies, as well as many top jazz, pop and recording artists, we managed to garner more respect for ourselves. It is a more peaceful time now, but we wish to recreate the positive image that we achieved back then.
However the projected cost for printing mass quantities of MusicBills for every show on a continuing basis proved to be very expensive. A web site was the logical answer.
Some may ask why we need this site in the first place. That is, why are the actors’ biographies listed in Playbill while the musicians’ bios are not? The answer is simple: Actors’ Equity has negotiated for this benefit and we have not. Should our union take this up with the League in the future depends upon whether or not Broadway musicians consider this to be an important negotiating item. In the meantime, we have BroadwayMusicians.com.
In planning for the web site, the Theatre Committee accepted designs from three talented designers, all current or former Local 802 members. We selected Janelle Reichman of Continuum Web Design, since we were impressed with the sites she designed for other musicians. Funding for the design was secured through the Live Broadway Orchestra Preservation Fund, a fund made up of voluntary contributions and administered jointly by the Theatre Committee and Local 802.
The web site is up and running but we need your help. As shows come and go the site will need regular updates and maintenance. We can only achieve this through contributions from you. Financial contributions can be made to LBOPF, c/o Comptroller’s Office, Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036.
We are excited with our new image and hope that you will have a look at BroadwayMusicians.com. If you are in a show, we invite you to send us your information so that we can continue to build the site! Contact TCnotice@iCloud.com for more details.
Hollywood’s Walk of Fame finally has some competition from her older sister in the East. Welcome to Spotlight on Broadway! Almost 20 years in the making by the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, the multi-media, virtual museum honoring the storied history of the Broadway theatre district finally launched this fall. The project’s purpose is to celebrate the unique, indelible legacy of Broadway and its 40 theatres.
The project consists of a web site (www.SpotlightOnBroadway.com), an app, a stylized theatre map installed in the sidewalk at Duffy Square, and online videos highlighting the theatres and the professions that make up the Broadway community.
The first thing you see when you visit www.SpotlightOnBroadway.com is an interactive map of the Broadway theatre district with colored, clickable “buildings” that represent each historical theatre. (See screen shot on this page.)
The top of the map starts with the Vivian Beaumont at Lincoln Center. The viritual street then winds its way through the dense history between 54th and 42nd Streets, and ends with the Nederlander on 41st street.
The site discusses the theatres both individually and collectively, with sections devoted to each theatre’s individual architecture, an overall history of the Broadway theatre district, and an impressive list of Broadway plays and musicals, with the earliest from 1905 and the most recent from 2013.
Each theatre has its own page with text, photographs and video interviews of performers, theatre owners and historians. While all of this visual and intellectual stimulation will excite any theatre aficionado, what makes the site most striking is the entire section devoted to the professions of the theatre.
And don’t assume that the professions are only ones that your average audience member might have heard of. Spotlight on Broadway’s list is incredibly comprehensive (if not quite complete, yet!), beginning alphabetically with “Actor” and ending with “Usher.” Each job is briefly defined, and there are many video interviews with actual theatre professionals.
For the music-related professions, the site currently profiles the jobs of Musical Director (featuring a video interview with Local 802 member Patrick Vaccariello), Musician (featuring Local 802 musician and Executive Board member Andrew Schwartz), Orchestrator, and Vocal Arranger. While the last two professions are not accompanied by a video interview yet, the beauty of the site as a virtual museum is that additions can continually occur.
The hard work and heart that the city, the theatrical unions and the Broadway League have put into SpotlightOnBroadway.com is impressive. The site itself is an important historical document that provides tourists and patrons an opportunity to learn about Broadway’s past and present, including the shows, the theatres and all of the hardworking union men and women. What all of this means is that SpotlightOnBroadway.com highlights one of the key industries that makes New York City our country’s cultural center. Don’t just take my word for it: go check out the site yourself!