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Clueless how he got this title
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Hi I know this is kinda a personal question, but I am wondering do I need to be a music major to get a job in a pit or can I just practice A LOT and take LOTS of lessons? Thank you for the replies.

p.s. Sorry if this is not in the correct forum, but I felt that this is the quickest and best way to get an answer.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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can I just practice A LOT and take LOTS of lessons? Thank you for the replies.
I doubt a degree is much use, the practising and lessons are definitely a good idea, but by themselves won't get you the work - you also need to be a very good player and sight reader. Also it's desirable to be a sociable and amiable person.

But you will also need to be able to work under a conductor, which is experience you can only get by playing in ensembles. University or college is a good place for that kind of experience. And you need as many doubles as possible.
 

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Forum Contributor 2012, SOTW Saxophone Whisperer,
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As both a former Music Major at a name music school (almost 20 years ago) and somebody who plays quite a bit as a pit musician - I can explain the "catch 22" of what you are asking....

#1 - never has anybody asked me about my "degree" or education before offering me a gig. I get hired because I can play - and thats that!

#2 - I can play at the level that I can because of the structured environment of a school music setting. Please don't get me wrong, I don't think I was able to play shows (meaning doubling books) at a professional level when I just graduated college - I did however have the knowledge of what I had to do in order to get to that ability.
 

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Depends. You have to go out and play. Do local theater productions. Get on sub lists. Do free productions. The more exposure you have, the better. But you have to be good. Especially on the subbing side. You have to sight read well (not get lost), be able to follow the cuts (I don't think I have ever done a show without some sort of reworking of the original music....cutting measure, etc), and play in tune. Plus, you need to have the musical intuition to know that you are playing with a vocalist (perhaps), and you should be listening and following them, or that you are background and need to play softer.

So, can you do that without getting a music degree. Maybe. A music degree is going to make you highly proficient on your instrument, or instruments. Plus, you can perform in groups in college. In fact, you have to perform in groups. That is invaluable. Playing, say, clarinet in the wind ensemble when you aren't really good at clarinet.

I'd say, even if you don't want to major in music but have a passion to play in musicals, you SHOULD at least play in groups on all the instruments you want to play. So, for a saxophonist, you need to AT LEAST have your clarinet and flute skills close to your saxophone skills. And your saxophone skills have to include playing with different styles and tones. And vibrato styles. You have to be flexible. After those three are solid, you need to add piccolo and bass clarinet. I don't think bass clarinet is really hard at all if you play clarinet well, but piccolo is it's own little monster. After you add those two, then you can dabble in Alto flute which takes a little getting used to, and perhaps double reeds.....which is a whole other topic.

So......I'd say you need to take a LOT of lessons AND work towards a music degree. When I was in college, I was taking clarinet, saxophone, and flute lessons from the teachers while taking lessons with a teacher outside of college. And towards the end I was adding oboe lessons as well........insane.
 

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No, you don't NEED the degree, BUT... You DO need to be able to play at least 3 different instruments at a high level.
I've only played 1 show where I've had less than 3 horns in the pit. Usually I've got a couple clarinets, 1-2 saxophones, and a flute depending on what I need to cover in the book. Better be sure you can swap horns/embouchures in 4 measures or less.
Granted I only play in a Community Theater Pit, but even those expect their pit musicians to be as close to 'Pro' in their abilities as possible.
Having a 'Pro' attitude helps too. You will have to be able to 'play well with others' musically and in personality.
 

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Clueless how he got this title
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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks you so much for the fast reply and the great advice.
 

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I agree with everyone else, no one cares if you have a music degree. If you can play and you are easy to work with, then you will get hired.

That said, having a music degree can be a big help. First off, it will give the training to be as good as you can possibly be. Second, it will give you the experience playing under conductors in all types of musical situations that you will need to feel comfortable in a pit. And third, it will give you professional connections. If your professor is known for producing outstanding musicians, you could use him or her as a conduit to the professional world of pits.
 

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The degree isn't needed, but I will say that it does help build a network of people. I got my first pit gig through a network like that. They needed another violinist, and a violinist that I played with suggested me. From there, they've asked me to play winds in the pit. She later asked me about a cellist, so I gave her the number of a friend that I've played in orchestra and chamber ensembles with in college. And so on and so on.

Also, making sure you're at a pretty high level of playing on all of your doubles helps too. I've only been in one show where I didn't have more than 3 instruments in the pit, but that's normally because I'm stuck a lot of times on the Oboe/EH books. I had 2 for that show, and everyone else still had 3 or 4. And making sure you befriend other people who are playing in the pit orchestras. Being a good, reliable sub is a great way to get your food in the door. I've subbed on violin for a symphony, not because I'm the greatest violinist, but I'm reliable and can play in tune with a good tone.

So i guess the moral is to practice, practice, practice and network, network, network!
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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