“Why we joined the union’

Volume 116, No. 11November, 2016

Van Hughes

van-hughesI joined Local 802 when I played on the Broadway revival of “Spring Awakening.” (I was the assistant music director as well as a musician/actor swing. I conducted and played bass, piano and guitar.) My position at “Spring Awakening” came to me because I’m known as a multi-instrumentalist who has also starred in Broadway musicals. My previous work as a composer and music producer helped me secure the assistant music director position. When I told my band Teen Commandments I would need to take a hiatus because of the hectic Broadway schedule, they said, “Well, you love a challenge.” My piano skills were honed specifically for “Spring Awakening.” Before this, I played piano like a guitar player would – “by ear” – because I understand shapes and inversions. However, this was a difficult piano book for me to master at first. I loved getting lost practicing the charts everyday for four weeks and memorizing them. To my surprise, I went on early for the pianist role during previews (due to a cast member’s injury) and performed 24 shows, including opening night. What a ride! My musical goal in NYC is to continue making a living solely from professional music gigs.