Scoring. Probably the most boring but most necessary part of the process. Without the score there is nothing. Unfortunately when I write music I write the notes in such a way that only I can read them. I actually am a trained pianist and can read music just fine- it’s transcribing it that I never mastered. And yes, there is great software that can speed things along- but you still need to master that. So that is why I spend hours and hours with Alfred Goodrich at Silvertone Studios in Ardmore.
Alfred is amazing. I spent literally hundreds of hours with him when working on my first show, Class Reunion, because not only is he a master at Finale- the scoring software, but he also has an incredible recording studio in his house. But for right now we are just hard at work scoring the songs for Brilliant. Heres how we work. I go to his studio, I play the songs piece by piece, and he makes sure every note, every rest, every little everything is perfectly placed on that paper. Once I have completed scores I can send them to the actors, musicians, anyone involved in the show. So the picture you see below is my view for hours and hours on end. Just FYI- it takes us about 3.5 hours to complete one song and there are 17 songs so far in the show (and I’m sure some will be tossed and more will come). So that’s alot of time spent with Alfred! It’s a good thing we get along so well.
Well, I wasn’t going to do an entry today- but it’s been such a good day so far I might as well. So first and foremost I finally finished the last two songs. They are short songs, “Lullaby” and “Round and Round” but still they are an integral part of the show. I just finished recording the instrumental tracks and hopefully my voice will sound okay enough later to record vocals and get them up on the website. Woohoo- songs are done!
But what’s way cooler is that I got a reply from Benj Pasek from an email I sent him a few weeks back. I feel like an idiot because I didn’t wish him good luck on the Oscars in that email. Ugh. Anyway- I was writing him because at the time I felt this overwhelming desire to connect with him because we had both worked on shows which focused on boys from the same school. Benj grew up not far from me and Dear Evan Hanson was inspired by a boy who went to Friends Central school. My show is also insprired by a boy who attended that school a few years later. And the coincidences don’t top there. Both shows deal with boys who are out of the norm. AND – his mother who is a professor of psychology, most recently wrote a book entitled, …..wait for it….”Becoming Brilliant”! I mean c’mon! So I had to reach out. I actually was able to have a wonderful conversation with his mother who was so supportive and helpful.
I decided I will print out that email along with one I recently received from Charles Strouse (composer of Annie and Bye Bye Birdie) and I will pin them up in my office to look at everyday and keep me motivated!
So here it is – my first completed first draft of Brilliant. I am pretty excited and proud about this because I am not a writer. I actually never intended to work on the book of this show until I attended Broadwaycon. At that convention I met a man who has worked behind the scenes on Broadway musicals for years. He said to me, “Stop writing songs and write the book. You know the story you want to write, so write it. Then you will have something to take to a writer who can develop it.” He also recommended some incredible books about writing fiction and writing for musical theatre. I read the books and I began to write. I learned so much from those books and I am very happy with what I have created. ( I highly recommend the book: Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver).
This picture was taken at Fed Ex at 7:15 am this morning. I was seeing my father later in the day and I needed to het him a birthday present. I realized the best gift I could give him was the very first copy (signed of course!) of Brilliant. My father was really the one who got me into all of this to being with. He created a show years back, entitled “Class Reunion” in which he found a writer and I wrote the music and lyrics. That was an incredibly fulfilling experience and I learned sooo much. I know if it wasn’t for Class Reunion I never would have thought any of this was possible. So Happy Birthday again dad and thank you!
Today the adorable and talented Melissa Stern came in to record her part as Bella in the opening number, Pose! She came in well prepared and was even able to throw in some new harmonies on the spot. I look forward to working with her younger sister, Becca, who will be coming tomorrow to record role of Julie. If you are wondering where I am finding my wonderful talent; I am getting them from theatrephiladephia.org, backstage, and word of mouth. I look forward to working with these two talented ladies in the months ahead.
So this is my very first blog entry for Brilliant. I have been wanting to keep a journal about this experience for the last year and half so I’m glad I’m finally getting around to it. I think this is actually perfect timing to begin writing this blog because last night I was at an event where a woman spoke about happiness. She actually has a Masters degree in happiness if you can believe that. Anyway, the audience was filled with woman ages 40 – 6o and for most woman this age, the speaker said happiness means finding a purpose. I sat there listening to this woman speak and I thought to myself, “I got this. I’m there.”
This show is my purpose. It is all I think about every waking moment (and many sleeping moments as well). I work on it whenever I can. I have no choice. Writing a musical, I think, as always been my life’s purpose. I clearly remember being about 6 years old, baseball and glove in hand, throwing a ball around on my front lawn while singing scenes from some made up story in my head. Any time throughout my educational career, if a teacher was wiling to accept a song in place of an essay, I was on it. Putting stories to music is what gives me the most joy, the most fulfillment. Creating a full length musical for the stage is a daunting task, especially when you are a busy mother of three, but when you have no other choice but to create it, you make it happen.
For many, many years I did not have a minute to even look at a piano. I had three young children, one of whom needed alot of extra care and attention. There were many years that were extremely difficult and my personal happiness was put on the back burner. Now what is so amazing is that unbeknownst to me, those years would prove to be my greatest gift. The memories of all difficult times and those emotions, they were all being stored away until I finally would find the time to return to the piano and begin writing again. What came out was, and is, what I feel, a beautiful story of a mother, father, and son. I have found how to make lemons out of lemonade.
Thank you for visiting my blog. From here on out my entries will most likely keep you up to date on the business side of things. There is so much happening, it’s very exciting! I also will go back and tell you how I even got to this point for those of you who are interested. But I think this is a good start. Thanks for reading and for coming along on the ride of Brilliant the Musical!