By Michael Gioia
09 May 2014
Georgia Stitt, a jack-of-all-trades with an influential voice amongst contemporary songwriters, is a composer and lyricist who has also worked as a music director, arranger, pianist, coach and educator (and also dabbles in performing, having recently been seen in "The Sound of Music Live!" on NBC). She wrote the original musicals Big Red Sun (Arlen Award 2005 with playwright John Jiler); The Danger Year (with Jamie Pachino); Samantha Spade: Ace Detective (for TADA! with Lisa Diana Shapiro); Mosaic (for Inner Voices with Cheri Steinkellner); and The Water (with Jeff Hylton and Tim Werenko); and has released three albums of her music: "This Ordinary Thursday: The Songs Of Georgia Stitt" (2007), "Alphabet City Cycle" (2009) and My Lifelong Love" (2011).
Her songs and arrangements are represented on the solo albums of Susan Egan, Lauren Kennedy, Kate Baldwin, Robert Creighton, Stuart Matthew Price, Caroline Sheen, Daniel Boys, Kevin Odekirk and composer Sam Davis, as well as several "Broadway Cares" albums. Her choral piece with hope and virtue (using text from President Obama's 2009 inauguration speech) was featured on NPR as part of Judith Clurman's "Dear Mister President" cycle, and her most recent orchestral piece, Waiting for Wings, co-written with husband Jason Robert Brown, was commissioned by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and premiered there in 2013 with conductor John Morris Russell.
For a performer, what is most important to a music director? Vocal technique, range?
Georgia Stitt: I can't speak for all music directors, but to me the most important thing an actor can do is know how to act through a song without compromising its musicality. Obviously I am wooed by actual musicians — performers who can read music, hold harmonies, sight sing and understand the gifts and limitations of their own voices, but when it comes to casting a show those things all have to work in tandem with the acting or they are wasted. I don't care what your highest note is; I care what your biggest choice is, and if you pull it off with grace and commitment I am your biggest fan.
Can you speak about etiquette when approaching the accompanist, establishing tempo and being clear on your cuts?
GS: Be confident about what you need from the accompanist. Wishy-washy requests make you seem unprepared. Respect that the accompanist is there to help you and can oftentimes even elevate the level of your audition. I know that sometimes you get stuck with a bad pianist, and I know that it sucks. Believe me: everyone in the room knows when the pianist is bad. When that happens, the creative team's day is even worse than yours is. But sometimes the pianist is great, and you have a fabulous musical scene partner in the room. Offer up some tips to make the sight-reading experience go more smoothly — say, "This is my tempo" or "I've highlighted the key change just after this page turn" or "You'll see I've cut from here to here." But assume that they know the song and you're just giving them a moment to understand about how you do it. And then say thank you, and hope for the best.
Depending on the audition, is it best to ask the creative team what they want to hear? Do you run a risk by picking the song yourself?
GS: I would never advise you to say, "What would you like me to sing?" It puts too much pressure on the creative team to do your work for you. We do usually appreciate when you say, "I could either sing [song title] or [song title]." But if we say, "Whichever you prefer" or "Just show us who you are," then by all means make a choice, and go for it. Those of us behind the table want you to be confident and comfortable. If you sing the wrong song, but you sing it beautifully, I have still learned a lot about you as a performer, and I will then ask to hear something more specific.