The Music Behind SJHHS Musicals


Cooper Aitken

SJHHS’ most recent production of Beauty and the Beast featured a live musical accompaniment from student musicians below the stage.

Anna Ho, Staff Writer

It is undeniable that SJHHS puts on some pretty impressive productions.

Musicals combine the best of our performing arts programs: theater, dance, choir, and instrumental music.

The element that is the most unique to San Juan Hills, however, is the orchestra pit.

The theater, being one of the newest and nicest in the district, boasts an orchestra pit located below the stage. This feature is a luxury that few performing arts students will have the chance to enjoy, especially in high school productions. 

As a result, San Juan Hills is one of the few schools in the district that has students performing live music along with vocalists and actors for both their winter and spring productions. This privilege is greatly recognized and appreciated by participants.

“I did school of choice for San Juan because I saw Les Miserables and I thought that the orchestra pit was really cool. I wanted to have a professional experience like that,” said junior violinist Mandi Mui.

In preparation for the musicals, performers learn and practice original, professional-level scores for months in advance. Despite the considerable commitment that this requires, there are over 60 instrumentalists who have performed in the school’s most recent production, Beauty and the Beast.

The majority of these participants come directly from one of our instrumental music classes and have been performing in musicals since their freshman year.

“Freshman year, I had heard it was fun, I really enjoyed playing, so I figured I would do it to see if I like it. I did like it, so I’ve done every musical I could since then,” said senior Brayden Offord, a violin player.

The pit also welcomes, however, musicians from outside the instrumental music program. 

Senior Thai Nguyen, for example, performed with the program for the first time during the winter musical, Legally Blonde.

“They were in need of a guitarist, and I was asked by a couple people to step up to the role. I gladly did, because I love playing the guitar and being active musically. It was a lot more fun than I thought it was going to be. Even though it was a really big time commitment, none of it felt like work, it was all super fun. I liked it so much that I decided to join the next musical, Beauty and the Beast, and I’m playing keyboard,” said Nguyen

For most in the program, performing in the pit has been a very rewarding experience. This does not mean, however, that it does not come without drawbacks. 

“My least favorite thing is probably the time commitment,” said Offord. “I really enjoy rehearsal, but even though I enjoy it, it’s taking a ton of time away from things that I also need to do, like homework. I’ve had to stop my other extracurriculars to do the musical–temporarily–but it still sucks.”

Participants realize this sacrifice when they decide to participate in the pit, and being part of a performance as impressive as Beauty and Beast has been well worth the time for its musicians.

“It’s gratifying to put in all this effort practicing the music and when you get to play shows that are sold out and get to share music with a bunch of people,” said Mui.