GRAY MATTER #5 - Musical Theater???

Ok, I know the title is bizarre, but that truly is my life these days.  I get a kick out of trying new things and pushing my creative mojo as far as it can go.  Hence, the T Killa Collections, hence the NASCAR theme song, hence, well just about everything I do!  The “mainstream” music business would call me…. schizo.. But I just call it… Me:)

A new activity that I want to tell you about, has certainly stimulated a dormant part of my brain.  Through a series of events, I have gotten into the idea of writing a musical…. as in Broadway.  I know it sounds crazy, but if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see that I am lucky to see a ton of shows.  New York definitely has it’s advantages and that’s one of them, oh and a husband that works in that industry.  There is no lack of theater in my life!  In the process of seeing so many shows, I quickly learned which kind of shows I like.  Anyway, when we’re at these events, people who know I’m an artist, have approached me and said “You should write a musical!”  My first response is always, “I have no idea what goes into writing a musical and I don’t have 7-10 years to waste”.  But I eventually started to get curious.. What DOES go into the making of a musical.. I know I can write songs in any genre, but can I write musical theater songs?? Inquiring mind wants to know.  Mind, singular.. horrible joke I know..

BMI, the songwriter’s union that I am a member of, offers a musical theater workshop. (I believe ASCAP offers one as well) I was told about it by a theater producer friend of ours.  He said that it was a pretty reputable workshop.. Not to mention that the co-writers / husband and wife team behind the small unknown projects called Avenue Q and FROZEN actually MET in this workshop!! Not too shabby.. Well anyway, he told me that anyone who wanted to apply could.  You basically fill out an application, submit 3 songs (a ballad, a comedy song, and an uptempo song), then a board of industry people review the submissions and ask a select few to audition.  After the audition, they invite even fewer to be a part of the class.. that lasts all year!  If you’re lucky, for 3 years!!  A commitment no less, but I’ve been in the class for 5 months now and I am really enjoying it!

The class is comprised of 2 different types; composers and lyricists.  Most times in broadway these are 2 different people.. Where in my world, it is common to write both, It is rare for someone to write both in the theater.  In the audition, I obviously played my songs on the guitar and wrote the music and the lyrics.  They asked me which one I prefer and I said, well it’s hard for me to separate them.  I can’t think of lyrics without thinking of the melody.  I was officially the only person accepted into the class that was labeled both a composer AND lyricist.  Everyone else is one or the other and is partnered up for each assignment. The first assignment, I was the only one who wasn’t paired up and it looked like every assignment after that as well, so I asked the teacher if maybe every other class, I could be paired up with a composer.  They agreed.  I mean… what’s the point if I’m gonna write everything myself! No one to learn from!  No one to bounce ideas off of.. Half of my classmates have musical theater backgrounds and are way more familiar with what works and what doesn’t.. I, however, don’t play by the rules and would write what feels right, WHILE trying to stick close to the guidelines.. So long story short, I got the best of both worlds..

In the first year class, we are learning the basics of how to write songs for a musical.  The form, the perfect rhymes, the accents landing on the right beat, how to move the story… it’s a lot and has been super challenging, but very rewarding!  I have never had to think this way about crafting a song and am baffled half the time, but I think I’m starting to get the hang of it.. We are given assignments throughout the year and a date to perform them in front of the class.  Our peers then raise their hands to give feedback.. And if that wasn’t enough, then the 2 moderators chime in as well!!  One focusing on the music and one focusing on the lyrics.. It’s probably the most intimated I’ve been in a while!! And I’ve played for a shit ton of people!!

Just to give you a little insight, our first assignment was to write a broadway formatted song about a “sad hello, or a happy goodbye”.. I wrote a pretty little song about a girl who was spending her last night in her childhood bedroom before moving to the big city to follow her dreams.  Sound familiar? I needed to write a genuine feeling because I had to write in a very different form than I’m used to..  I mean someone wrote about a girl getting her braces off!! How clever! It was called “Unbraceable me” HA Another assignment we had was to pick a scene from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” and write what’s called a Charm song.  That’s a moment in a play where the story stops, all of the characters are already established and they just take a number to celebrate something or profess love for someone.  “To Life” from Fiddler is the perfect example.. Charm as in a charm on a necklace.. You don’t NEED it, but it’s nice to look at:)  The assignment I just finished was writing a comedy song for the play “Love Letters”.  I actually found writing a funny song… on purpose!! to be extremely challenging, but we got through it and I performed in front of the class like an 80 yr old grandma.  Who knew I could do that!! Or SHOULD do that for that matter!

My point in writing all of this in the blog is so I can keep you posted on these songs as they are written and to tell you to take chances.. Try new things.. I never thought that I would be in a class like this.. learning THIS! But I love it and I encourage all of you out there to challenge yourself!  If you ever wanted to learn an instrument, or take a voice lesson, or a dance class or whatever! It’s never too late!! DO IT!!  I didn’t grow up with musical theater and have very limited knowledge about it, but I wanted to learn and now I am.. even if I’m 70 by the time I finish writing my first musical:)