Musical Theater with Brooke Trumm
Updated: May 4
*Morgan:** Welcome to Zeitgeist
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free. My guest today is Brooke Tru, a composer and drummer in New York City. All right, Brooke. Welcome to Zeitgeist Radio.
**Brooke:** Thank you for having me, .
**Morgan:** I'm so excited to have you on. So we worked together at the school that I used to run and. You have moved on to bigger and better things.
**Brooke:** I think maybe you are . That's, I don't know if that's necessarily true. I've moved as, as of you, .
**Morgan:** I feel like over the past year you've, or actually it's been more than a year.
It's been a couple years. Time, it's been wise. Three,
**Brooke:** oh my gosh, four years. We were, I feel like 20 18, 19, right? Yeah. So three years. Yeah, four years. I've almost been here for four years. Yeah. Yeah. Like four or five months. Geez. I feel
**Morgan:** like you, you're such a, in a different place. So how would you describe to people, how would you describe yourself right
Yeah, I mean, the, I think the, what it sort of turns into is like multihyphenate, like theater artist sort of situation. Like, just like you said, like composer. I'd consider my main thing. But it's, I mean, being a composer is not normally your main source of income. Usually, you know, diversifying do a lot of different things.
So like I compose for money when I can, but mostly not because that's how it works, . Sure. I play drums. I haven't had really any percussion opportunities since moving here. I've got to play a lot more drums set, which is fun and also sad. I don't get to play as much percussion, but I don't have my own set of like timony or mallets to be like speaking to auditions.
Yeah. Even if I wanted to.
**Morgan:** Actually, can you, before we go on, can you explain, I don't know that everyone who's listening will know the difference
**Brooke:** mm-hmm. Yeah. Between drums and percussion. Yeah. So there's tons and tons and tons of people who play drum set, and oftentimes if you're a drummer you just play drum set.
Or maybe you play a couple pieces of percussion, like a shaker or maybe also cajon or tambourine or something like that. But if you're a percussionist, it's sort of built on the three staples of classical snare drum. So similar, somewhat similar to marching snare drum, but like solo snare drum timane, which are the huge like.
22 to 26 or 31 inch, like steel drums, or sometimes they're 10, I believe. And then mount instruments being like mareba, xylophone, glockenspiel or bells. And vibraphone. And amongst all of those things, there's other like auxiliary percussion instruments like tamarine and like shaker and like crash symbols or other things that you end up playing also.
But someone who's trained in drum set or learns how to play drum set might not be trained in percussion as well. It's just like if you're an electric bass player, you might not play upright bass. They're, they're separate disciplines that lend to each other for sure. But not every, not each one is also the other thing.
Yeah. They're separate. Sometimes it's both. Do you have a preference or do you just like it all? I, I like all of it. I think I, in college and undergrad, I really like took a four year break from playing drum set. or that's like what I would've considered my main thing. And so I think then in college I mostly played, like, I felt like timon was my strongest thing, but I had to play everything and I enjoyed playing everything.
And I liked getting to be able to play all types of progression instruments. I really liked hand drums. I really enjoyed playing like gemba, bongos and congas. And I got to play like some other, like somber percussion, like a or sometimes a kacha, but I didn't get to play that as much. A kacha is like a snare drum.
It's very similar. It's like side slung and a lot smaller. But I'm also like by no means an expert on that kind of percussion either. I'm, I'm definitely more in this band of classical percussion. But then, I mean, moving here and also just being out of school, you get less opportunities to play percussion.
And I've done it a little bit and thankfully with like theater drumming, which I'm trying to do more of when those gigs come through, There's a little more combination of the two. Like a theater drum set player is asked to play some percussion. And sometimes if it's like a big pit for theater, a show will have a drum set player and a percussionist, and that drum set player will still play percussion instruments in their setup and they just have a crazy setup versus the percussionist ionist who just has a million different things that they're doing in their section and in their park.
So I get to use both the percussion and drum set playing in theater music, which I really enjoy doing. I like being able to combine them where I can. I think before college I might have, like when I was in high school, you know, playing , playing percussion and band, but, and playing drum set, like for fun mostly.
Yeah, I would've maybe preferred drum set, but I think at this point, like, because I can do all of it to a, you know, a decent level, I like to try and combine them when I can. And so, I had, I, I just played for do Parton show 9 0 5 at Pace University. Sweet. Which was super fun. And my roommate music treated it.
That's how I got the job. Awesome. And actually is always the thing, . But I got to, I think I just added like triangle and wind chimes and that was like the little bit of extra percussion and I was like, any little bit I get to play triangle is the best part.
**Morgan:** But Do you have all that stuff or do they provide that, like do
I, I had a triangle. I did not have wind chimes and so I, I bought a set with like half intent to return, but if I liked it, I would've kept it and I did not like it. So I return. But it's, you know, all, all instruments are expensive and, and small piece of percussion are no, you know, exception to that rule.
So I'll, I'll buy a nice one when, when I find one that I like and wanna invest in it. But I do have like a collection of percussion instruments and mallets as well. I only have some of them here in New York and pretty much every time I fly back home I bring us another piece back , because I just have like a huge, like, probably like 20, 30 pound percussion bag back in Oregon that I've just slowly brought here.
what's it like hauling all that stuff to gigs? I don't actually normally have to haul a ton because a lot of places that I play, like for drum set have a house kit already, so it is assumed that you bring symbols. So I have my own set of symbols here and those are kind of. Especially if you're like walking up and down the subway stairs like you are.
And I have like a little bit of asthma, so there's like certain venues that I'll trek to and I'll be like, I know this one sucks. Oh no. Just with the symbols on my back. And now I, I got like a new bass drumm pedal that I really prefer to use, so I've been taking that as well. So the only time I've like asked an artist or if it's like a show to provide like transportation costs, which sometimes they will is if I'm more than my backpack of symbols and two hands.
There you go. . So like some places you have to bring a kick pedal and a snare drum. I think there was only one gig I went to where it also wanted me to bring a drum throne and I just like got the info of one of the other drummers that was playing at that gig and was like, Hey, Do you wanna share something like drum thrown, by the way?
All of this Yeah. drum thrown by the way, is
**Morgan:** I think my favorite. It just means the seat people. Yeah. It just means the seat . Yeah. It's a throne. Call it the throne. And I think that is
**Brooke:** so excellent. Royalty . So great.
**Morgan:** Oh, awesome. How many gigs have you been doing with this? The theater?
**Brooke:** The theater percussion.
I haven't had too many. I think most of it has been the, the nine to five show was the only one I've done, like through like a proper institution. Sure. All the other ones I've done have been for friends musicals that they'll do showcases or performances of. So like two friends of mine, Alex Becker and Kat Cardello, who I went to grad school with for writing musical.
They had their thesis show performed in three different places now, and I've played for it each time, and that's been super fun. Nice. So they did one production at nyu, which was in our old like black box. We had classes in . Nice. And that was like four performances I think. And I also like hopped in four days before opening night with the music for the first time.
It was like, okay, let's, ooh, , let's go, let's put it together. It was a shorter show, which was nice in that capacity, but then like the next time I played it was they did a showcase of it at 54 Below, which was super fun. And I was just flying back from Oregon a week before, and so I was, oh boy. I've played it once, I'll just refresh it.
And that happened to be the case again this last year when I got back from San Diego. They were doing it at the Scranton Fringe Festival in Pennsylvania. And so I hopped in on two rehearsals and then went to Pennsylvania with them, with my drums to, to do it. . Wow. And
**Morgan:** tell me about the San Diego project because I, I knew that you were involved somehow.
What was this project and, and how, what was your
**Brooke:** part in it? Yeah, so the, the show is called Come Fall in Love and is an adaptation of a Bollywood movie. It is called D D d D L J is the shortened version of the name of it. It opened in, opened, it was in theaters for the first time in 1995, I believe. And it has stayed in theaters since.
It's not actually like left. It is like one of the most popular, if not the most popular Bollywood movie of all time. And so I'll, I'll get to my role on it. I'll just talk about the show a tiny bit. Yeah, please. It is it is being made by the film studio that originally made the movie and the director for the musical is the writer and director from the movie from back then.
And so he is fully putting this project forward, which is super cool with his own money. And then he has like the composers on the project. There's two composers who are the team is called Vi Shaker, and they are like two massively, massively famous composers and like rock stars in India. And they're both like super awesome people and their music is very, very fun.
So it like certainly works well for a Broadway stage. And then they brought on Nell Benjamin to the project who was the, I think just the lyricist for the Legally Blonde musical. And then I think also just the lyricist for the Mean Girls musical. Wow. And she is fantastic. And she is Broadway celebrity, right?
like Right. They really like the, the various people that they gathered are tons of people from the film industry in India and from Broadway here. And my role in it is one of the smallest. Roles. That doesn't make it unimportant. No, I can, I can get into that in more detail, but my, the title of my role was Music Assistant is not an assistant job.
I'm not like getting coffee for people. , which I think is a retitling of the role and the one of the ways is often underpaid and underappreciated. It is also the not only non-union job on a show. So there's things that need to be happening with it, and there's, there's a whole thing about music assistants trying to fight for their own better pay and yeah, rights and whatnot.
But the essential, like basic outline of a music assistant role, which was what I did, I didn't do too much beyond that. I did a little bit beyond that, and I can get into that as well, is that you are in charge of all of the changes happening to the piano vocal score. So like what the pianist in rehearsals is playing.
And what the vocalists are singing. So like one of the composers might like say like, no, I want this melody to change this and I have to live transcribe it and change it in the music. And then keep a list of all the changes I've done every day. Reprint new music for those people that need that change.
Gotcha. No pressure. Yeah. Right. And so I like, I have daily lists of changes that, that you make to the score. So you can track back and be like, where was that old one from? And I can pull the exact date of the score from an old file and find that change that we made. And so then there's also like a running list of every change you've ever made for the whole span of whatever the project is.
Wow. In San Diego it was two months. I did a month long workshop with them in like March and April before that summer. So around this time last year, I was doing the month long workshop for them and had a list of changes from that workshop. And you know, Daily scores that are saved. There's so many finale files.
finale is just software that you, you used to notate music on computer. So I literally was just sitting there with my computer all day and like live transcribing changes or getting lists from like script changes and lyric changes to apply. And I'm essentially sitting just right next to the music director and or the composers all day.
Man, that must have been incredible. It's really fun. . Yeah. And it's obviously great when you have a good team and this, this project has a really like lovely team of people on it. But it's, it's what is the purpose? Not a low pressure job. It is very much a high pressure job that is not entry level. You need a lot of education to be able to do it.
For sure. And I think that's the, the difficult part cuz it is very much treated like an entry level job in Broadway because it is the lowest sort of rung on the music team. Yeah. , but that does not make it unimportant as you . No. What is the, a sense of what the, what the role is, .
**Morgan:** What is why, where do they keep, or why do they keep every single revision?
Do they ever re, like do they actually
**Brooke:** refer back to those? Mm-hmm. ? Yeah. Yeah. Wow. Because we're talking about like, you might cut, like fully cut out of a score, like, wow, six bars, and what if there's a change in the choreography and you need those six bars back? Then you put 'em back like, gotcha. You also never actually change measure numbers as you're working through.
You have to maintain the same measure numbers. If measures are cut or added, how do you do that? ? For cut ones, you just write a jump in it, so it's like 23 to 60. Oh man. And you don't have cohesive numbers. And then if you're adding bars, you get like 60 A, B, C, D, E, whatever, as it keeps going. Wow. And I think there's, there's only, there were only a couple instances in the two months for that workshop and show that I like re numbered things, which is like kind of a, a no-no.
But I, it was a discussion with like me and the orchestrator and the composers making sure we were all on the same page and like before we sent it to the copyist, which is a totally separate job. Which I did do a little bit of work sort of in that sphere as well when, and a copyist. I also have, have training in that and I'm sort of working towards a bit more of that kind of work now on top of everything.
But that is like you prepare the final like, physical scores that the composer, not composer, the conductor, keyboard player and instrumentalists will read. And so when changes then happen to those parts that have already been physically made and shipped right to wherever they're going. You have to then put out the new parts and put them physically in their scores.
You don't reprint for them. And that is copy work job, because it's related to the instruments, not the piano vocal. But I did have to do some of that in San Diego as well. But that is not normally a music assistant job. Right? Oh man.
**Morgan:** I feel like there's so many little, little ins of Broadway that I have no idea.
**Brooke:** Just like, and, and originally too when I was like, I mean, I'm still very early in my like Yeah. Experience in it. It takes, it takes decades for people to like get anywhere. Yeah. So like initially also as a composer, my understanding when I, when hearing about like, oh, there's a different composer, orchestrator, vocal, arranger, you know, copyist, all of the different roles that you have, not even knowing that music assistant was a job, obviously
Right. Before I was like, well, I can do all those things. Why don't I quote, unquote can do all those things. Why wouldn't the composer just orchestrate and do everything? There's no time . Sure. Things just go up so fast. Sure. And changes happen so fast that you like really wanna be able to focus on your one task and it would actually be impossible for you to try and even do two of the roles nonetheless, like four or five of them that exist.
Wow. So there's
**Morgan:** so, so things that you would normally just be able to
**Brooke:** jump in and do, it's how's just someone else's job's, the thing. Yeah. Nice. And I mean, there are, you work with them very closely, so obviously if they're doing something you don't like with your music, then you change it. But there's, there's certainly a process about it.
And you don't orchestrate too soon because changes happen so often. Like you want the core of the songs to be pretty dang conquer before you orchestrate anything. Which then also means your orchestrator has to be speedy. They have to be really fast. Yeah.
**Morgan:** typically, is it written then just on piano and then the orchestration?
how would you, I guess I never considered that being separate. Like how would Right. The orchestrator person doing it. . Yeah. How
**Brooke:** they know what they want? Yeah. It's a lot of times it's like, to my understanding, sometimes it's the orchestrator sort of going crazy because they've like going crazy in the best way of like they see what's in the piano part and what's in the vocal line and really just like do their thing and exploded into all the different parts.
But like, I mean that would be when there's more like interpretation that might be more of a case of like someone like Jonathan Tunic who does Sondheim Orchestrations, that he is like famous for his orchestrating . And I've forever thought Sondheim did all of his orchestra. Yeah. Cause it just sounds like his music, because it is, and Jonathan Tunic just does an excellent job of still making it sound like Sondheim, but adding so much to.
and like you have to know what the themes are in your show. You have to make dramatic decisions just like you do as a composer, as one of the writers. Like, you have to know the show inside and out and in at least these processes, the few that I've been in where you're there when it's happening, the orchestrator is present for all of this far before they start writing.
And so they can have discussions with the composer or composers about what they want, what kind of mm-hmm. , oh, what kind of instrumentation first is important. They'll know that, of course pretty quickly. But it's, it's a lot of like, you are so seeped in the music that you can get a sense of like what should go where pretty quickly.
And also like some composers will make demos and then you can go off of that too, versus like something that has no information and then you are really putting more into it. But yeah. Wow. It's, it's very fun. I like, I'm . Because I also like to orchestrate. I yeah. Am working on loosely, working on orchestrating one of my friends' shows.
And I've talked with my friend Earl, who's the composer for, for that show about like, you talk about instrumentation and then it's a lot of, like, as I'm starting to put sketches together for it, I send it to him to make sure I'm going in the right direction. But like, I get plenty of information from the piano part and like I know what he's going for.
I know the music from the show pretty dang well, . Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. , I've also played for it, but they did a, they did a version of it at 54 Below also, and I got to play drums for it. And he's a good orchestrator too. He has some versions of the songs that are orchestrated, but it's sort of like the ones that aren't orchestrated.
I'm like, how, how much do you want me to just like go ? Right. Because if you want me to just. Drive it home because I can usually get like the direction that he's going with things. Cuz you know, when it's only in a piano part, you have to make the piano do so much work. Right. Which once you actually orchestrate it, it doesn't have to do that anymore, which is the best part.
Yeah. So it helps to have a composer that is really good at writing those piano parts with all the information it needs to have. And I've like
**Morgan:** I imagine for them to, for certain people, it's probably a huge relief to have someone who specializes in like, and also, I mean, my, my mom played in symphonies forever and she has, she plays French Horn and she has so much respect for composers.
She always talks about composers who understand the, the true natural sound of, for example, the horn. Right. And, you know, it's, it's placed in the
**Brooke:** orchestra. Yeah. And that's all like, I mean, I'm. Forever learning . Yeah. About all of that. And I feel like I have like certain instruments that I have a pretty good understanding of and other ones where I'm just like, I'm just gonna sit down with a player as I'm working on this part.
And so that way whenever anyone else reads it in the future, I don't have to worry about it. And I know it works for that instrument because I've talked with a player that can look through it with me. Mm-hmm. And I literally just did that today for one of my songs that I'm trying to get recorded. Nice.
Cuz I like, I did a guitar keep thing wrong, which of course, yeah. Guitar is incredibly hard to, to put together if you don't write for it. I feel like all I have to have an understanding of all the instruments, but it, to me it seems like guitar and drums are somehow the hardest one to write for if you don't play them.
Ah, that's interesting cuz so
**Morgan:** many people do play guitar. I'm surprised that's on that
**Brooke:** list. It's like, well, that's, that's in, in me thinking about it. I know drums and percussion are on that list from just talking to any other writers. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. where I'll meet them and they'll be like, can you help me with like drum parts?
And I'm like, that is my literal mission in life. Yes, I will, I'll help you write better drum parts and percussion parts. There is a way to do it that's not awful. And so much of the time, it's awful. . I love it. What makes it awful? There's, there's not quite there. It's pretty close now. I have a, like a concrete opinion about it, but it's not quite as standardized as other instruments because it's a newer instrument, like newer as in the last 120, 30 years that people are actually making music for it, making solos for it.
And especially like drum set. Yeah. If I'm talking solos, that's like snare drum man or timony. That's earlier than that. Same thing with like, saxophone is standardized, but it's also a newer instrument. It is newer, yeah. The, all the solo material for it is, is within the last a hundred years or so. So all the other instruments, there's tons of like repertoire and research and things you can find on how to write for them effectively and what sounds really good in them and what is a bad example of it.
But with drums you can look for like a key and I know what good drum music looks like cuz I've read it forever. But like a lot of drummers don't read music. Yeah. And like a lot of them learn by ear and there's a lot of people now that are making their drum parts on a DA or like on Logic or Pro Tools or something.
And those are computer programs? Yes. DA is Digital Audio Workstation that they just throw some drum programming in and then expect a real drummer to play it. Sure. So, and it's, it's people that actually like make the effort to talk to a drummer and work through it with them to be like, is this playable?
Like not only is it like playable, is it effective? like, and I love talking about that with friends of mine who I've helped with drum parts over the years and just talking about like, okay, you know what it's supposed to look like now , I can trust you to put everything in the right place and I'll be able to read it.
But is it doing what you want it to do in this moment as an instrument? Yeah, and there's like just a million different things you can do with drums. You can make it, I mean, obviously beats, that's like the first thing you would do with drums, but like you gotta throw fills in there somewhere. And sometimes it's treated more like a progression instrument with like textures and a little less like a drum set and like when is it time to put certain kinds of beats in there and when is it time to like not let that happen quite yet?
Cuz once you're in it, you're like a little stuck unless you fully just like flop the other way. and switch styles dramatically in the song. And there's. So many small details of like level building with drums because there, there's such a powerful thing to add to something. Yes. Whether you don't have it or you have it
**Morgan:** Yes. And I know this from playing, I mean on obviously not in a theater sense, but from playing with you, we've performed together. Yeah.
**Brooke:** And in such, we were in such a small ensemble. It was small drums and vocals. Mm-hmm. . So any drums I added was like, whoa, there's drums now . Right.
**Morgan:** But even the tiniest little amount, it added so much.
But it also, like you said, like could be very overwhelming. Or just completely changed the, the entire feel. I mean, it's, it's the be it's the groove .
**Brooke:** If you, if you
**Morgan:** change grooves, then you're out of the groove. I don't know. , do you like my technical explanation? You can just tell your friends that
**Brooke:** change grooves.
You're out of the groove, man. Yeah. You're out of the groove. You can't change the groove in the middle of the song. Yeah. Just depends how Yeah. So then if you're
**Morgan:** playing these theater productions that have
**Brooke:** like sets
**Morgan:** in 'em, are you playing, are these like rock musicals or what style is, are you
**Brooke:** typically playing?
So, so far what I've been playing is mostly rock bass. There's a lot more like pop rock musicals happening and, and being played that I understand. Mm-hmm. , I also like am not the person to call if you're wanting a player for a jazz musical or like certain other genres. I'm very much like more comfortable in the rock pop genre just cuz that's my playing background.
And I can play a little bit of jazz. If I'm asked of it like in nine to five, there was like one, one and a half jazzy songs where I'm like, I can, I can put this together, but I'm gonna have to practice it more than the other songs cause I can't, I can't just read it because it's not notated. Cuz jazz drums aren't fully notated.
I have to do a lot of assuming or listening to the recordings that already exist of the songs. But I think it really depends on the kind of show. I've had a couple friends write a little more folky like songs or like singer songwriter based ones, which are also happening, which then leads to a little more creative playing, which is, I would think of it as like more texture based rather than group based.
**Morgan:** People come to me all the time asking if I can help them figure out if they have a good voice. In fact, I get asked that so much. I made a mini course. You can take yourself to help figure out what good means to you, identify your strengths in your voice, and find the areas you can work on to make your voice even better.
Head over to zeitgeist academy.com/radio for free access. That's Z E I T G E I S t academy.com/radio. So switching over to composing just for a little bit what are some projects that you've done that are fun?
**Brooke:** Oh my gosh. I still have the, the movie musical that I worked on in grad school. I haven't done a ton of work on it recently, just cuz you know, it's the amount that we are submitting to people is like the script and three songs and we have those nice.
So other, other work will happen when I have free time and or motivation or we have someone that wants to hear more of it and then I'll work on more of it. Where are you submitting it? So at the moment it's like mostly screenplay competitions and it's, it's hard to get traction for, especially cuz my collaborator and I are not in the film world as much.
We are very much in the musical theater world and we chose to do this movie instead of a stage musical for our thesis in grad school specifically because we knew we would need more help with it. So I think we got that help and I think it was, was a smart idea, but again, it now we're left with nothing to submit to anything because we don't have a full stage show.
We've written together men and the stage show Catch 22 right there. No, that's the, that's the problem. I'm exactly in right now and I will be for the next several years as I'm working on the current stage show we're working on. But the other. Two, I guess like one and a half shows I've written, I don't wanna take anywhere.
They really feel very much like they were practice and that I learned a lot from them. And it really feels like Pandora Rocks. The movie musical was the first project where I, I'm like, okay, here's the first rapper thing I've written if I'm thinking of like my catalog as a writer that I am trying to share with people.
Yeah. And then this that
**Morgan:** idea is so fun. Can you, can you describe Pandora rocks real
**Brooke:** quick? Of course. Yeah. So it is meant to be like a, a family friendly animated musical. Preferably 2d, but I mean, , whatever gets funding, I will do . And it is essentially based off of the Pandora, Pandora's Box Greek myth.
Where instead of the story ending when the box opens and she's sort of punished for the sins of the world she chooses to fight back and put the evils back in the box. And in this case, in the show, it's with like a battle bass, sort of like Scott Pilgrims style fighting with musical instruments. Very rock heavy score.
I wanted the score to sound like rock music, not like theater rock . Right. Which is a big, big part of why it was fun for me and also why I orchestrated along the way, which is has its own challenges. But I can't write a hard rock score on a piano . No, that's not how it works. But the, but the show itself has very much like a critique of sort of family relationships and when they are working and when they're not.
And the theme of chosen family, so like in the show . sort of like Pandora is a demigod situation where her father is Zeus and she has a human mother named Pira. And it's very clear as you sort of like get into the show that Zeus maybe hasn't been the best father. Yeah. And then he then Pandora for, for disobeying him by stealing his lightning to make her battle base punishes her with the box.
And then as she spends her time trying to prove herself, thinking that this will prove herself to her father by being able to fight these, you know, beings that are much more powerful than her. It really is exactly the opposite of what he wants to be happening cuz he just wants to teach her a lesson that she doesn't wanna learn cuz it's not a lesson for her to be learned
Right, right. And it sort of gets uh, to the point, at least near the end of it, I don't wanna spoil it too much. But of like the whole time she's, she's wanted to be like a god, like a full-fledged God and proof to her father that she can be powerful like him and that she deserves a place with him. And eventually she comes to the point of like, if this is what a God looks like, I don't think I wanna be like that.
And then she chooses to be like her mother. I love it. It's very, and I do say so myself. I'm
**Morgan:** very lucky to have heard early drafts of it and well actually, I think you sent me some later files too. They're, it's very good. . It's pieces
**Brooke:** I've seen are very good . I'll have to, I'll have to send, I have really hope it goes somewhere.
Script. Yeah. I, the, that's, that's one fun thing though about like anytime you share your work with people is, like, with Pandora, we've gotten a lot of really positive like, reactions from people and not even like, Like sharing the material after we share the material, we do too. But like, just sharing the concept like I am right now, I've had a lot of people get really excited about it, which makes me happy cuz I feel like we've written something really fun and special and something that can be enjoyable for all ages, which was a big thing for us.
And like I think that the music is, is super fun. And I would've loved to hear more music like this when I was younger. And I mean, I did, I did grow up hearing like a lot of classic rock and I loved that. But I think like some of the, like one of the songs is based off of like animals by Muse and like there's a song that's based off of Lazaretto by Jack White and it's like very groove heavy, like hard rock that's super fun.
And that the, the genre really like is meant to really add to and emulate. Battles that are going on between Pandora and these evils that she's fighting. Who did you write
**Morgan:** this with? Yeah. And what is their role versus your role?
**Brooke:** Mm-hmm. . So the person I wrote this with, his name is Carrie Kasich Trim, the very long last name Trim.
And Trump. I know exactly. . When I met, when I met him, he was like, what is the origin of your last name? Because it sounds like one of mine. amazing. And we're both blonde with blue eyes, so we're like, this is suspicious . But he's fantastic. I'm also writing the stage show. We're currently working with him.
He writes the book in lyrics for it and I write the music and we work on the story and outline and, you know, brainstorm scenes and everything together. So it's fun, very much. Being a part of the whole thing, even though I'm not writing any words, . Right. So this is something
**Morgan:** that I learned when you went to college or grad school, which was fascinating to me.
Is not everyone who goes to what I would consider grad school for music writes
**Brooke:** music. So the, the program is not a music program, which is Okay. That would explain it. About
**Morgan:** it. Yeah. I thought you were gonna grad
**Brooke:** school for music. Yeah, I, I was, I wrote music and only music for this grad program, but it was an arts program.
Okay. So my, my degree is technically an arts degree. It's master of Arts. It's not a music one like I did in undergrad. Okay. And so in, I went to the NYU grad graduate musical theater writing program. Goodness. It's a big thing to say. Highly recommend if you, if you can get enough scholarships like I did to be able to go cause you have great professors and it's a fantastic two year program where you just get to write and write and write.
and learn from a lot of trial and error and really like ingrains in collaboration and the process that writing is rewriting. And especially if you're like me who came from classical composing, mostly like pieces aren't done really. They're just left like that. You can always go back and change a piece if you want to, and it's done sort of when you decide it is.
And it doesn't have to be this thing of like, now it's finished, I'll never touch it again. And it's like, mm-hmm. perfect or not perfect, it's done and I'm not gonna touch it and I'll just go out to perform it. You could change things whenever you wanna change them. That's an active part of musical theater and it can be part of any other writing practice.
But I was very much previously under the impression if you finish it, it's done. You never touch it again. Right. Yeah,
**Morgan:** for sure. I mean, the whole music assistant position is based off the idea that
**Brooke:** it's never gone Exactly. That it, it changes over and over again. Yeah. And for, for come fall in love, I literally up till my last 30 minutes of work was, was fixing things.
I like 30. Is that
**Morgan:** 30 minutes before? What like, is it like curtain time? My
**Brooke:** day was done before opening night. Before opening
**Morgan:** night. They're making
**Brooke:** changes that late. It depends on the show. This one, they were . I literally was like, I, I had like four hours and I was like, okay, I have all of this to do before I am officially done working for this project.
And I fly back to New York and I somehow scrambled it in, just barely like in the last minutes. I was like, okay. I, I finished it somehow. . Wow. That's amazing. Okay,
**Morgan:** so back to your project. So what is your process you submit to these competitions? . And then what happens if someone picks him up? Like, what, what does that even look like?
Do you have any idea?
**Brooke:** I, I don't quite know. I have a lot less experience in it than, than my collaborator does. Carrie, thankfully, has done and does work in TV and film as well as in theater. Mm-hmm. , most of his work is in theater, but he, like, I don't think we would've chosen to even write a script if neither of us have had any experience in it.
So he, he definitely led the way more with like creating a pitch deck for it so that, that is what we send to people if anyone has any interest in it. And we did have a lovely call with a studio at one point to get thoughts on it, and that was super helpful in part to actually talk with some people about it, like some actual industry people, but also to get a sense of like, okay, is our, is our pitch deck accurately reflecting what we want it to be reflecting?
Sure. If someone sees that and then reads the script, they're one cohesive message and it can really add to what they're. Yeah. But that, that was one, one big part of it that we just, it's not something that exists for theater. You don't make a make a pitch deck like you do for movies or for TV shows.
Do you know, how
**Morgan:** do you get what's the process for getting a show produced? A theater
**Brooke:** show? So unless you already have money, , right. Which is always the, the big piece of it is, is getting it produced is finding someone who will spend the money to get a workshop happening and then a production happening.
So my understanding of the process for that is you write the show, you, you also submit it to many things, usually have to write the whole thing. There are a lot, a surprising number of things you can submit for, for musical theater. And you can submit individual songs, you can submit the whole show. You can submit an outline if you don't have the whole thing written to do, like.
A writer's retreat or be in programs that you can collaborate more actively or be in talks with people because they like your work and as you're still working on it. But the biggest thing that you can do if you have a show is try and get traction for it. So that is either, some people make content on TikTok , which I Okay.
Have a very hard time doing. I, I don't know if I'll ever be able to get myself to do that . And getting like workshops of it, which usually cost money. Also trying to get, get college performances of your work done a little more easily. Sure. But the first little bit is, is someone has to show interest in it, and then the more record of interest you have as you send it to things or people the more likely it is that you'll be able to get funding to start to do a workshop.
So you get a developmental workshop. Sometimes there are week, sometimes they're two. If you have a lot more money, it's like a month. And then in that time you have actors and a music director and sometimes a music assistant where you put the work together and teach it so that you can actually hear actors do it all the way through by the end.
Sure. And that just teaches you a lot about the piece to then make more edits . So like even with gum fall in love there's now been a production in San Diego. There's a ton of edits that are gonna happen after that and before it goes to another production. So even if shows have had a production, changes are still gonna be happening because you got to watch that happen and have thoughts about it in its exact process.
And it is almost impossible to get a sense of how the whole show works. And if it feels right, if you don't see it . Yeah.
**Morgan:** I mean it's like how comedians to just see it. It's like how comedians just tell jokes, you know, tell jokes and jokes and jokes and jokes and jokes, and then
**Brooke:** maybe one of 'em will land, right?
Like yeah. Huh. And with, with, with a musical, like, that's why it takes people just like years and years and years to write them. Yeah. Because you edit one thing that changes this and this and this and this, and it's all very quickly a domino effect. And sometimes it's a positive one. Sometimes you have to throw out whole chunks of the show, and sometimes that's just what happens.
I, I don't think Carrie and I threw out, I think we maybe threw out like two songs, two or three songs that we wrote for the show. But like some of our friends during like writing their thesis shows throughout like six or seven or more songs, or like half of their show. Like as you write more and as you make changes, things just don't work anymore.
Yeah. You're like, well, this was fun. I learned from it, but now it's not gonna be ever be seen by anyone. And that's fine cuz it wasn't working for the show. But yeah,
**Morgan:** you have to be disconnected cuz otherwise like the emotional, like no. But I poured my heart and soul into you can't put your heart and soul into, yeah,
**Brooke:** you can pour your heart and soul into it, but you can't let that affect what's place for you can pour
**Morgan:** your heart and soul into the project, but not an individual piece.
**Brooke:** Oh my gosh. . And I mean, with, with Pandora, Carrie and I had a song that was meant to be the third song in the show. No second song in the show called Lead and Some Light when she puts the lightning into the bass and makes it and we had to throw, we did five versions of the song and we threw it away because the second we wrote the opening, ah, it achieved what we emotionally needed to achieve for the character.
And then we didn't need that moment anymore, although
**Morgan:** fun. Fun. What does that feel like when you like make
**Brooke:** that connection? . I think, I think at the time for, for me and Carrie, it was a little relieving because we had done five drafts of it already, and the last like two, we were just like scraping. We were just like, I don't know what the song is anymore.
Because we're just like, we don't know what it's doing for the character. It's, it's not moving anything along. We know all of this already, but it's such a cool moment to possibly have a song that I think that's why we held on for it for too long. And that's tricky too cuz when you're approaching a subject like in our, was based off of Greek myth, but largely original and largely had a lot of world building around them, there could have been a million moments that you could have made it into a song moment and that would've been a cool one.
And unfortunately we didn't need it anymore because Pandora got her sort of like, I, I want quote unquote, I want song out of the way in the opening. . And so we didn't need that for her until it changed, which is when the box opened. And that's when you get the Pandora rock song, which is her new path that you get.
And you get that in that song. Well, maybe in like
**Morgan:** 20 years you'll be writing a completely different show and you'll be like, wait a second. That's the one .
**Brooke:** Yeah, no, I'll just, I, I also, oh my gosh, I was so proud of the music for that song too, because I like ripped the riff from Thunderstruck by A C D C Sweet and like rearranged it around and so that it was based on that.
And I had been doing work like that and, oh, cause it's thunder, it's lightning. Oh my gosh. I was trying to pull, pull from other, other like material, not, not anywhere close to be like recognizable, but I could be like, Hey, here's these notes in the thunderstruck line. And I put them all together and then built it around that like it was stuff like that.
And so I was sad that I had to throw that away cuz that was really fun making it. And it was also, I think the third song we wrote for the show. Third or fourth song. And so it was, was hard to let go of. Yeah, because it was, it was so early in the process, but it was very clear that it just like was not working anymore unfortunately.
But I thought was the hardest one to throw away. Cuz we had done so many versions of it. We had like rewritten it for like a week's worth of work each time, five times . Oh man. And we've done about that same amount of rewrites for Pandora rocks also. We had, we had rewritten it four or five times and then like joy After Death, which is the second song we wrote, which is later in the show, that song we left almost entirely the same from the first draft until we did like a tiny revision for the second draft.
And same thing with the disease battle song, which is the first evil that she fights. But that one was like exactly the same as we first wrote it. And then after grad school we did like one tweak. Nice. How do you decide what you're gonna write it? Just in general,
**Morgan:** how do you decide? Yeah, there's so many, like how do you decide what
**Brooke:** gonna write about for a musical or in a show?
**Morgan:** I guess either one. I'm picturing like, I don't know, like all of these, the, I was picturing within Pandora, like there's, there's obvious points on the journey, but, you know, how do you choose which one gets a song or Yeah,
**Brooke:** yeah. A lot of it with at least Carrie and I and those moments could change and you can find that you needed a song somewhere where you didn't think you, where one would work, which did happen for us, and I can talk about that.
But both for Pandora and for the, the other show we're doing, we did a very detailed outline, for a long time. Nice, nice. And explored before we wrote anything, explored possible song moments, and sort of looked at what that would look like, what it would accomplish, who would be singing it, like it, who would be singing it, to whom for what reason.
All of the, all of the details. and one of the spots that we didn't originally want a song and had several drafts of the show without a song there was when she opens the box and now there's a song there of, of the evil singing when they come out of the box and ended up being perfect and super fun.
But initially we were, we just could not figure out how to musicalize it. And I think that was one of the last songs we wrote for the show was that one. And then like the very ending song, which we had done like three, three or four different fully different songs for . Wow.
**Morgan:** So how do you get to Broadway Brook?
**Brooke:** Money Morgan. Okay. . That is unfortunately the answer. I see. Yeah, it's, it's really if you're, if you're someone like me or like any of my friends who are all, all writing, because they. Have an affinity for it and went to school for it and really enjoy it. It's very much an uphill slog. And it's a matter of working on a project that you are passionate about, a show that you, I really like the, the phrases, write what you know.
So write something from your own experience or that you can put yourself into. And really the like, best musical theater writers are people who really took pieces of themselves and like put that into their shows. So if you write a show that you think is properly good that you think you've put yourself into and you really, really believe in, the best thing that you can do is make other people believe in it.
And that comes from showing it wherever you can. Mm-hmm. , whether it's, you know, on TikTok, or at different showcases or concerts. Getting connections from other friends if they know anybody who might be interested in it or like just again, trying to. Build momentum for it in any way. Like the same, the same things that lead to workshops that lead to small productions, lead to big productions.
It's all about traction and it's all about making more people know about this show and more people interested in it so that you then can get investors. And that is the, the hardest part is just getting investors .
**Morgan:** Right. So man networking's crazy networking. Yeah.
**Brooke:** And it is, it is so, so much of theater as I'm learning more and more about it and working in is all connections.
Like there's nothing you hardly, nothing you could apply to as far as like things that will get you any consistent work. Mm-hmm. . I think the only things that I know of that you can apply to as like a writer are like the Disney or Dreamworks sort of show incubator things that they do where they hire writers to.
Ips of their shows for like cruise ships and stuff. Right. So like one of my professors wrote like a Finding Nemo musical. She was the lyricist for it because she did one of those programs because she had had success for some other work and then wanted to do that, or they reached out to her. And so she did that.
And there's like other professors of mine who have had success in other facets with their writing. So then they can write musical theater because they have more of their hey covered from royalties from set, other popular project. Sure. So again, diversifying writing for different things that you can there's a lot of ways in from like writing kids' musicals, like the Finding the Emotion Show, or even like my, my collaborator Carrie, he works, I don't remember what the, what the company is called, but he works for a company that, that.
About like children's musicals to be done by like children's theaters or middle schools. Yeah. And he's had like hundreds of productions of his shows because of that, because he's, he's, he's first of all a good writer like . I will hype him up all day. He's absolutely fantastic. Nice. And knows exactly like what to do in whatever context, whether it's for very little kids or for, you know, adults or whatever it might be.
But, you know, there's, there's avenues in, and all of it is about not just getting like traction for your piece, but sometimes the a piece you've written might be the reason someone's interested in you as a writer. And maybe they'll ask you to write something else, something else for your or your team to write something else.
So like, it's super possible to, to hop on a call with somebody with a project that you want to happen and they'll be like, this isn't quite for us, but we think we like your writing as a team. And then reach out to you another time. So that's and another, another way that you can start to get into it, there's a lot of avenues, but a lot of it is just like outlasting and always writing and just trying to, to keep yourself present in what you're doing.
And you know, there's like a lot of people considered to be like upcoming theater writers to like look out for, are in their like late thirties and forties. Like, it's very rare for someone my age to have like a big break. And like the most recent example of that is probably the writers of six. They're around my age and they're, they got the Tony for best score last year, like and it deserved it.
Six is great. It's super fun. The music is like the most modern music on. And like what maybe the last youngest person was like Sondheim with his lyrics for West Side Story when he was in his early twenties. Oh my God. But he got that in because he was like friends with the Hammerstein and got to work with Bernstein.
So it's like So disco, be friends with them. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. It's nepotism, or getting extremely lucky. And having people, you know, in your lives with money who like your work enough to put it on. Like with the six writers. Yeah. What, what keeps you motivated? Oh man. I think writing, like, if you like, it's just fun.
If you like what you're writing, it's with anything that you do. If you like it, you're gonna be motivated to keep doing it. Yeah. And I, I would not be as motivated if I didn't have a collaborator, that's for sure. Sure. Because when in the, I mean, the year I worked with you, I wrote maybe like one piece over the whole like.
Eight months or whatever. I was there longer, but I wrote the piece for about eight months. That was like a six minute long piece. And I got a performance of it cause it was for a ballet company and that was another connection for my sister. But like I didn't write really anything that year in part because I had just finished writing my first musical.
I wrote all by myself. And then I was playing with like four different groups, including yours, . So I was sort of just spending my time playing a little more. And I think one thing that having a collaborator and also like I've chosen to move to New York sure does, does for my motivation is it keeps me in it.
I'm like in the exact place to do it. I am around people who are also doing the same thing I'm doing, who have their work that are trying to get at me. I have someone keeping me accountable, which is all I need. Really? , that's huge. . Yeah. And it's, it's unfortunate in the, there's no off switch, like a, like the normal job.
That's certainly difficult. But I wouldn't be here if I didn't love it. So while
**Morgan:** you're pursuing this man, what's your day look like? Do you have a day job, ?
**Brooke:** I do, unfortunately. . No, it's fine. Yeah, I mean it's, it's sort of, I can, I'll talk more exactly about what I do, but it's sort of expected that you have a survival job Yeah.
To, to pay for what you have to,
**Brooke:** have to live in New York. Yeah. It's, it's, it, it is expensive out here. It's very expensive. At the, at the, my year has looked different every year that I've been here. It currently looks like teaching four days a week. I teach private lessons and I teach music theory classes at a string school, which is fun.
And I've been there for three years. Nice. So that's been consistent, but my schedule's been wildly different every year. . so that is the, the base of my income. And then my other freelance stuff that I throw in during the day or when I have time is usually copy work for different composers. So that would be making full scores and parts, like I said, you could do at a scale for a production or at a smaller scale for a workshop or just cuz the composer wants it.
Yeah. So I, and that is often like a connection from someone I've worked with before that will recommend me or I've been massively lucky enough to have a mentorship with Emily Grishman, who was the Copi for Come Fall in Love and has been the COPIs for like over 150 Broadway shows. I think she is like nice.
The Broadway Copyist, the Real Deal . And I did a formal mentorship through, through Maestro, which is an organization for women and non-binary people in theater. And I've done projects through her. I just got done doing it a couple. That was by far the most challenging copy job I've done cuz it was a proper one, her office.
Nice. And I was also trying to balance it with my teaching schedule, which was the hard part, . Right. I think if I was just able to focus on that, it would've been better. But it was hard trying to do all of that in a timely manner and keep up my survival jobs in this, in this case. But normally it's like a little bit of extra work through composers directly.
So I have like a couple that I've worked with in the previous, sort of like school calendar year before this last one, I had a composer that was giving me very, very regular work. Nice. And so most of my, that was most of my work cuz I wasn't hardly teaching that year. And so I, my that, that year it was pretty much all.
Freelance, like transcription work and copy work and like gigging. And then this year it's a lot more like teaching based and I'm getting less copy work jobs, but I'm still getting to gig a decent amount. I, it's sort of still a mix of like playing artists and playing theater gigs. I'd like to play more theater gigs, but those are harder to Yeah.
To get and keep consistent versus playing for an artist. Yeah. So it's, and I, I have Friday right now as my, like, carved out day that is meant for writing. And when I really try and like prioritize that. But then that often means that on Saturday and Sunday I end up doing any trickle over work that inevitably happens and I need to get better about making sure that doesn't happen.
Mm-hmm. so I can have a. As I'm sure you know, or any other, any other, well, yeah, I mean,
**Morgan:** I've, I've hustled, but this is, I mean, this is hustle. It's what you're
**Brooke:** doing is real hustle. . Yeah. Well, I
**Morgan:** have one last question for you. You
**Brooke:** know, it's, it's been an hour already. My goodness. No, I so,
**Morgan:** you know, you know what zeitgeist means,
I believe so, but you've reminded me couple times after I've forgotten it. ,
**Morgan:** the zeitgeist means like spirit of the times, right? Mm-hmm. , it's kind of like what it feels like to be alive at an, in an era. And since this is a musical show and I'm all about music and I've had this for myself where like through music, I will feel very connected.
I'll just like click into and what's cool for me is it can be the zeitgeist that I'm currently in, or if I'm like, , you know, learning something about, you know, music history. I can like just, it comes alive in a way through music for me that that makes it very real. So there's a moment I call like a zeitgeist moment where that, where you just like get it, you just kind of feel like connected through music to like mm-hmm.
everything. Mm-hmm. . What were some recent zeitgeist moments for you or one that was particularly memorable?
**Brooke:** Yeah, I don't, I don't think it was, it's not necessarily recent, but it was, but while I was in, in school one thing that I love about the program I went to at NYU is they really encourage everyone to find their own individual voice.
And there are some other programs that don't encourage that as much. And so the couple of moments I've had that felt like, okay, this is, this is what, what musical theater's gonna look like, Is hearing my friends' work and hearing how inventive it was and hearing how exciting it was and how it was exploring things that I've never heard before and trying new things musically that I never heard before.
And I think one show that is sort of an example of like a great direction musical theater is going in is Heydays Town. I saw that show.
**Morgan:** It's so, oh my God, it's so
**Brooke:** good. It's, it's so incredible musically and dramatically and just like, and the staging like, it, it does things that I've not seen a show do ever.
Yeah. And it's also not like a favorite musical of mine. I like it a lot, ed, and, and I think I, I like it because I recognize how much it's doing for the genre versus if I may be critical, a show like Dear Evan Hansen , which tries its best to do something like productive for the culture and have fun music, but ultimately becomes lackluster.
when you're trying to compare it with an actual piece of art, like Haiti's Town, . But I feel like I, there was one day we had an assignment to all write songs for puppets. Cute. And 1, 1, 1 fun thing about puppets is it really like, somehow polls at your emotions way more than people . And so there were, there, there were like songs about a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly, and like his friend not recognizing him anymore.
Oh. And like I did like a shadow puppet song about like, sort of a, a folk song about getting your heart broken and like traversy across the earth to find that piece of your heart that you lost. And like , just the, the amount of like creativity that came out of like my friends that day. and like just heart and care for the work that they've done, not only in writing songs, but making the puppets was like, was, was really like a transformative day.
And to me it felt a lot like the, the people around my age, if we are, you know, given opportunities as we've continue to make art we'll be what it looks like and can hopefully show people that it doesn't have to look like this one thing or sound like this one thing. And I think the, there is certainly that image or future at stake with how much there's the corporatism of musicals happening, like with like jukebox musicals, shows with existing music happening, or just like existing IP like movies ju that it's, there's not as much of a chance being taken on.
Mm-hmm. original shows. But there's so much incredible original work happening. . Yes. And that every time I see a little bit of it, it just like reinvigorates everything. I love it.
**Morgan:** Ah, Brooke, thank you so much for being on my podcast,
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of Zeitgeist Radio. If you'd like to take the next step in your musical journey, head over to zeitgeist academy.com/radio for my free course to help you figure out if you have a good voice. You can also check out my online course on the basics of singing. Discover your voice, ma, especially for introverted women.
Music for this episode was created by Ian Boswell. Please hit that subscribe button and tell all your friends you found a cool new podcast. See you next time.