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Arts Toolkit

Arts Toolkit: Drama

Kentuckians in Theater

Musical Director Tim Mathistad
Louisville, KY

Tim Mathistad

Who Tim Mathistad is director of operations and musical director for the Blue Apple Players, a touring children’s theater company based in Louisville, KY. He has worked full-time in theater for almost 30 years, as an actor, director, and administrator. He has a bachelor’s degree in music/vocal performance from Wartburg College in Iowa.

What “As musical director, my job is to coordinate the voices in a production. You have to teach the music to the actors, and once they learn the notes, I try to help them get a character interpretation that fits the actor’s particular voice. We do so many shows, I need to make sure there is no vocal strain with any of the actors. I will raise or lower the key of a song to suit the actor’s voice or make a song a patter song [a song that is spoken more than sung] if the actor cannot physically cut the notes. I also arrange the music and then send it to an orchestrator who adds the individual instrumental sounds. And, instead of teaching harmonies to the actors, I lay down a harmony track in the studio that plays as accompaniment. That gives the director more time to work on character development.”

When/Where “Some musical directors also conduct the orchestra and actor/singers, but we tour, so I lay down all the music on a mini-disk. I’m based in Louisville and work full days Monday through Friday. We rehearse in a church, and I go into a studio to record music tracks.”

How “I work with the actors and director. And I’m involved quite a bit in the creative process, because these are original musicals. I get the basic melody line and a lot of guidance in terms of style from the playwright, and then I make a musical arrangement, which I then send to an orchestrator. He takes the basic arrangement I have and my suggestions in terms of style—jazz, blues, for example—and he puts the actual instruments in. I lay the groundwork for the orchestrator. It’s an integral part of the creative process. The orchestrator and I e-mail back and forth via a music program. All the music is played through the program, Cakewalk, on a computer.”

Why “I really enjoy the effect the plays and music have on kids. We allow kids to be raucous, and they just have a ton of fun. We leave moments throughout the show where kids can interact, and we encourage response from the audience. When it translates into enjoyment for the kids, that’s the real reward.”

Getting There “Get into a good college program and get a musical background, whether it’s in education or performance. You need the creative stimulus of school to really be able to succeed. Experience as a performer also helps. You understand what the actors are up against, and you can relate to that.”

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