Starting 12/13/18, 7:30:00 pm: Elf the Musical

Benjamin Schmidt

About Me..

I have been working in music and theatre professionally since 2010. After seeing TCR’s production of RENT, I approached the music director Janelle Lauer about working with her on her next project. We had a few conversations, and she agreed to take me on as her assistant for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. From there, I assisted her and occasionally conducted for her until Leslie Charipar gave me a shot to music direct Shrek the Musical. For the last two years, I have music directed 10 mainstage musicals at TCR. All in all, I have worked on the directing team for over 30 musicals and conducted nearly 20 at Theatre Cedar Rapids, so you can say that I care a great deal about not only the work TCR does but, most importantly, the volunteers who make all of it possible. I was also the music director for “Our Time: Songs and Stories,” a Cabaret produced and presented by Aaron Murphy.

Outside of music direction, I am also an arranger and composer, as well as the show choir band director for Cedar Rapids Washington High School. I have had the great pleasure of composing original music for plays not only at TCR, but also in collaboration with SPT and area creative artists. I hope to do more of that kind of work in the future; underscoring, short-film scores… you name it. Music has the ability to inform emotions, allow us to connect to material in a non-conventional way, and tell a story all on its own. I am also an occasional consultant, clinician, and adjudicator.

Approach/Style…

First and foremost, I do a lot of score study. I try to absorb as much information from the score as possible. In musical theatre, the music and lyrics tell the story as much as the book and choreography does. Musical motifs can represent characters, emotions, memories, environments…. orchestrations provide aural texture. The score provides so much story and character information. Another core philosophy of mine is that I want to make sure the performers are taking something away from the show. Growing as people, actors, singers, ensemble members, dancers…. there is always opportunity to grow. I also focus a great deal on the intention behind what is being sung, as well as making our version of the show individual and stylistically appropriate. Upbeat jazzy songs have different requirements than ballads or dance numbers or underscoring or expositional songs….. interpreting all of that with the individual or ensemble or director/choreographer is always very rewarding! And of course, it’s always good to have a little fun along the way.

Thoughts on This Season…

I am very excited to be conducting My Fair Lady under the music direction of Cameron Sullenberger. I am greatly looking forward to collaborating with him, and helping his vision of the show come to life. Next, it is always fun to work on the holiday show at TCR, and I am thrilled to be doing so for the fourth straight year with Elf the Musical!!!! The music in this show is very Christmas, and I am thrilled to help bring Cedar Rapids a spectacular and joyous gift this holiday season! Then I will turn to The Full Monty. This rock-and-jazz fused filled score has hilarious (and slightly “inappropriate”) songs to go along with a story of equal parts ridiculous comedy and meaningful grit. The Full Monty promises to be an unforgettably unique experience, and I am thrilled to be the music director! Beyond TCR, I am looking forward to collaborating with other organizations and individuals in the Creative Corridor to bring the area high-quality musical theatre productions, cabaret shows, original works, and more. Thank you for your support of the arts in our community!

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