21: Broadway Demystified with Lily Ling

Show Notes:

In today’s episode, I am interviewing a dear friend, Lily Ling, who is music director and conductor of the Hamilton Broadway show. I was connected with Lily through the mentorship program offered by the Maestra Music, an organization supporting women and non-binary musicians working in musical theater. They offered a lot of great webinars during the pandemic, and I was fortunate to be accepted into their program as a first cohort mentee.

Full disclosure, I am not terribly familiar with the industry or practices of musical theater, but through Maestra Music I have made friends in the field. In my conversation with Lily, you will hear me asking lots of questions based on my assumptions of the profession, and her insider responses and her genuine sharing are just something that I love about her as a person and a great musician.

Lily Ling is a Toronto based musician and the current Music Director and Conductor for the And Peggy tour of Hamilton. She is the first female to hold the title of Music Director and also the first person of East Asian descent to conduct the production. Most recently, Lily served as the Vocal Music Coordinator for the Netflix movie adaptation of 13: The Musical. 

Other theatrical credit highlihts include Music Director and Conductor for 20th Anniversary Off-Broadway revival of john & jen and Associate Music Director and Vocal Coach for the Chinese language premiere of The Lion King. She holds a BMus in Piano Performance from the University of Toronto and an MFA in Music Direction from Penn State University. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Education degree in Music and Music Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Links Mentioned in Today's Episode

Lily: 0:00
So for me, you know, working with actors is really taking a step back and being very holistic and analyzing not only the performance and what they’re doing and what they sound like, but also taking into account, really, the human factor of it all, right? You’re taking into account what that day is like and your environment and how–depending on the day and where you’re at–how that could affect that specific actor. I always say to my associates, You never give a note unless you have an answer. And what I mean by that is you never say that was flat, or that was wrong. You say, This is what I heard. Perhaps it is because of this, or, Have you tried this? You know, you kind of go through other scenarios before you talk to the actors.

Chaowen: 0:48
Hey there, welcome to The Conductor’s Podcast. I’m your host, Chaowen Ting, a conductor with over 20 years of experience working with professional symphony orchestras, opera houses, new music groups, and vocalists. I’m also founder of Girls Who Conduct and have mentored hundreds of conductors from across the globe. I created The Conductor’s Podcast to share all the behind-the-scenes secrets with you while I interview conductors, musicians, and business gurus from around the world. This is a space created for conductors, conducting students, musicians, and non-musicians who are curious and interested in learning more about the profession, craft, industry, and business.

Chaowen: 1:35
Shy away from the real talk? No way. Money, hardship, growth, and the rollercoaster of conducting career are all topics we discuss here. I will give you simple, actionable, step-by-step strategies to help you take action on your big dream, move through the fear that’s holding you back, and have a real impact. Now, pull up a seat, make sure you’re cozy, and get ready to be challenged and encouraged while you learn.

Chaowen: 2:09
Hi there, welcome to another episode of The Conductor’s Podcast. I’m your host, Chaowen Ting, and I’m thrilled that you’re tuning in with me today. If you’re loving the podcast, please share it with someone who you think would benefit from the shows, and I would really appreciate it.

Chaowen: 2:29
In today’s episode, I’m interviewing a dear friend, Lily Ling, who is music director and conductor of the Hamilton Broadway show. I was connected with Lily through the mentorship program offered by Maestra Music, an organization supporting women and nonbinary musicians working in musical theater. They offer a lot of great webinars during the pandemic and so on, and I was really fortunate to be accepted into their program as a first cohort mentee.

Chaowen: 3:05
Full disclosure: I’m not terribly familiar with the industry or practices of musical theater, but through Maestra Music, I have made a lot of friends in the field. And it’s just a great organization with a lot of wonderful people supporting each other. So I would really encourage you to check out their great works. And of course, their link will be in the show notes. In today’s conversation with Lily, you will hear me asking a lot of questions based on my assumptions of the profession. And her insider responses and her genuine sharing are something that I love about her as a person and a great musician.

Chaowen: 3:53
Lily Ling is a Toronto-based musician and the current Music Director and Conductor for the And Peggy tour of Hamilton. She is the first female to hold the title of Music Director and also the first person of East Asian descent to conduct the production. Most recently, Lily served as the Vocal Music Coordinator for the Netflix movie adaptation of 13: The Musical. Other theatrical credit highlights include Music Director and Conductor for the 20th Anniversary Off-Broadway revival of john & jen and Associate Music Director and vocal coach for the Chinese language premiere of The Lion King. She holds a BMus in Piano Performance from the University of Toronto and an MFA in Music Direction from Penn State University. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Education degree in Music and Music Education at Teachers College at Columbia University.

Chaowen: 5:03
Welcome to the show, Lily! I’m so thrilled to welcome you to The Conductor’s Podcast. And I can’t wait for you to share your story and experience with my audience.

Lily: 5:11
Hi, thanks for having me. I’m so excited to join.

Chaowen: 5:15
So before we get started, though, will you please give everybody a brief intro–just a little bit about your background and how you got to where you are right now?

Lily: 5:24
So my name is Lily Ling, and I am currently the conductor and music director for Hamilton, the And Peggy tour of Hamilton. So I think it’s the third national. I was born in China, in a little city called Guangzhou, and I immigrated to Canada when I was seven and a half, and I grew up in Vancouver. So I always joke that I’m a double immigrant working in the States. And I left for Toronto for my undergrad; my undergrad is in piano performance.

Lily: 6:01
I actually, interestingly enough, started in pre-med, being the only child of Chinese immigrants. So I did one year of pre-med and was miserable. And you know, even before that, by the time I realized I wanted to go into music, my parents were like, That’s very impractical, you probably shouldn’t do that, and so I was very unhappily doing sciences.

Lily: 6:32
And then I switched over–I did my undergrad, like I said, in piano performance, really enjoyed–actually, not the solo piano aspect of it, because I really didn’t like the solidarity. Like just being in a room and at the University of Toronto where I did my undergrad, we call it the dungeon, it’s really, like, in the basement. So you know, I really didn’t like that aspect of it.

Lily: 6:57
The thing I really loved was chamber music, you know–really playing with instrumentalists, and then also specifically, working with a vocalist and having a story. And while I was there, I did a lot of theater at Hart House Theatre, and then also in the Toronto theater scene. So after I graduated, I originally thought about going into collaborative piano; I actually looked at collaborative piano programs around the States, and [I] ended up just doing more theater in Toronto.

Lily: 7:28
I got to a point where I felt like I hit a glass ceiling because I started when I was so young. So I actually had an LSAT right in front of me, like a mock LSAT, [I was] think[ing] about going back to law school, or going to school. And I thought about, well, is there a program for music direction, you know, for what I specifically want to do? Luckily, it was brand new. I ended up becoming the only second incoming class and I went to do my MFA at Penn State, which was amazing, in music directing, specifically for musical theater, where I learned so much there and you know, there’s nothing like learning from the people, from Americans–from the horse’s mouth, as some would say.

Lily: 8:15
And then from there, before I finished my degree, it was just this very serendipitous thing where I speak the language, I speak Chinese, and I’m a trade music director. So I ended up being the associate conductor for Lion King in Shanghai. I think it was around there where my parents were like, Oh, she made it, or, She’s gonna be okay. (laughs) Because they saw me doing it in Shanghai. And then very luckily, through actually my grad school connections, my upperclassmen, Roberto Sinha, ended up getting a job as the conductor for Hamilton for the second national tour. And then I auditioned to be his associate. And I’ve been with the show ever since.

Chaowen: 9:00
So I think it’s amazing that you mentioned going into a degree program for music direction for musical theater, because from my little knowledge about musical theater, this kind of program doesn’t exist a lot, right? And there are only a few of them. So I guess that a lot of my audience and also including myself, are less familiar with the musical theater scene. Could you just tell us a little bit about how you work as music director?

Lily: 9:27
So in terms of schooling, it’s really interesting: for the longest time, really, there was no school for it. It’s really a craft, and you learn by doing, and so many of the music directors on Broadway and the legendary music directors all come from different walks of life. You know, I always joke around saying, Nobody grows up–you know, they’re like, I want to be a doctor. I want to be a lawyer. I want to be XY and Z, but no one–I doubt most people ever say, When I grow up, I want to conduct a Broadway show. So nobody knows kind of what the job is until you get in the room and you do it. And I think if you were to survey all the music directors on Broadway who are currently working on Broadway, they would have a different definition of the job and what they do. And that’s kind of what makes it exciting. But also like, it’s hard to define.

Lily: 10:20
So in terms of schooling, yeah, I think the best example like to give is Paul Geminiani. And Paul Geminiani is the legendary conductor, one of the conductors for Stephen Sondheim. And he was Sondheim’s drummer for a bit. And then so he was a drummer, you know. There are people who were organizers, people who were conductors, who were performers, who were arrangers, [and people like] myself, you know, who are pianists–everybody comes from different walks of life. And so we all, you know, entered the industry, into the trade, in different ways and different times.

Lily: 10:57
And I always like to say that, [to me] personally, the way I see it, I’m an amalgamation of all the people who I’ve worked under, and the only way to learn is to work with people–is to really apprentice, you know, in that sense, and watch. And then all the different productions, I’ve worked on, the different music directors I’ve worked under, you know, I take kind of the best parts of their job, whether it’s the conducting, whether it’s the piano playing, whether it is the bedside manners of how to talk to actors, and how to know and how to work with musicians, rehearsal technique, all of that. And then you kind of soak it up and it goes through a centrifuge, and it becomes yours. And that’s who I am. And hopefully, you know, people that I mentor who end up working under me, they learn from me, and then they make it their own as well.

Lily: 11:50
So that was kind of how I think, you know, it was done for a long time. And it’s weird, because like, I’m Canadian, [and I’m] doing the American art form as well. So you know, I only have a very narrow experience or perspective. And then school started popping up. I think it really started in the UK where you could get like a one-year MA program, but like, you know, Emmys aren’t really recognized in North America.

Lily: 12:15
So one of the first programs that popped up is a program that I started at. It’s at Penn State; they only took two every two years. And it was started by Dan Riddle, who–if you know The Light in the Piazza? He is the piano, like it’s known as one of the hardest scores on Broadway, [and] he was the pianist at Lincoln Center. He’s conducted many shows and was a classical pianist growing up. [He] got, like, two Fulbrights to learn as a opera conductor.

Lily: 12:49
So I started there. And I know now [that] there are more programs that have crept up. If you’re interested in doing that, at CCM and at Michigan, there are programs where they work in conjunction with the theater programs. And that’s how you would do it or some people, they will go and get a conducting degree. But because that school has a very healthy and well-established theater program, that’s how they get connected. So that is one way of doing it. There are also many people who show up on Broadway. And like I said, as a trade, when you’re talking about the associate–there’s the music supervisor, music director, the associate assistant, then you have like interns and you know, and I think each production’s definition of what those posts are are different. I think if you were to work in a regional theater or community theater, you probably won’t have associates or assistants, you know, because there’s probably the budget for like one music director and they do everything; it’s all-encompassing. If you’re working on a big Broadway show, then you would have a music supervisor who basically oversees the integrity and the quality of the piece. And they are kind of the liaison between the composer, the choreographer, the director, the arranger, the programmer, and then the music.

Lily: 14:21
Then you have a music director, and a lot of times, a great example of it would be like Alex Lacamoire with Hamilton [or] Steven Oremus with a lot of his shows, where the music director and music supervisor are the same person, and so they end up conducting the show as well. So the music supervisor doesn’t always execute, whereas the music director does–you know, they are on the podium; they play. Usually on opening night, they’re the ones who are at the podium conducting the show.

Lily: 14:51
So, music directors execute, and then you have their associate, who’s usually second in line. And so when the music director steps back, or if they take a vacation or they need to rehearse, or note the show, then the associate steps up–most of the time–and they conduct. A lot of times when there are keyboard books, the associate’s probably playing one of the keyboard books as well. On Hamilton, [and] I can only speak for the associate, it’s the second keyboard. And then the assistant is probably third in line: they usually maybe play rehearsals; they’re always the first one to step into the pit when you know, so it’s kind of a step ladder thing.

Lily: 15:32
And then, as a trade, going back to the education part of it, I think for a while, for a long time, and I think it’s still happening now, rather than going to school, you learn on the job. So there’s the the intern, or the music assistant position, where you’re in the room and you get to be in the room, and you don’t maybe do a lot of playing, but you do a lot of observing. So most of those assistants are probably well-versed in Finale–well, or Sibelius, depending on where you are, but Broadway’s Finale–probably in Logic, you know, and probably somebody who’s very organized, so that they are the ones who are making changes and liaisoning and doing a lot of the paperwork and making sure that the band and the music directors have printed out sheets for the next day, in terms of sheet music and things like that.

Lily: 16:26
And then when the time comes, hopefully they will be prepared. And then you say, Oh, we need a pianist. So the the intern or the assistant will step up, and they will play and then they hopefully will know the show well enough that once the show opens, or we get into tech, the technical rehearsals, that they end up being the ones who are hopefully the obvious person to move up into the positions as well. Sorry, that was a very long answer. But it’s very fluid, I think. And with every production, it’s a little bit different. It’s not fully defined. And that’s, you know, that’s what’s tricky about it. But that’s also why it’s really great to be able to be malleable and for every production to find the people that they need, and to be able to create those positions.

Chaowen: 17:19
Yeah, I think it’s actually great that you have the structure and some kind of hierarchy. So you learn from doing and observing. And you hopefully move up the ladder when you are prepared and you’ve learned enough craft, and of course, knowledge and understanding of each show. Of course, we know is production is different.

Chaowen: 17:39
And we were chatting before we started recording that you’re currently in Reno, and you just conducted eight shows in a very short amount of time. And we know that Broadway shows tend to repeat [themselves] a lot during the days. So can you talk to us a little bit about the production side? Because I know from my experience during operas, we usually have musical rehearsals and then staging rehearsals and then tech, as you described, might be a little different. We work with the orchestra separately before we put singers and orchestra together. But do you do the same? Like [do] you have different weeks of preparing different parts of the elements in your production?

Lily: 18:20
Yeah, that’s a great question. And I think, again, the answer, with a little caveat, is dependent on the level that you’re working at: the Broadway level is a different beast, you know, it’s everything magnified, right? Because commercial theater is so different. Whereas when you’re working on–even a brand new, like a world premiere–when you’re at a regional theater, or if you’re at–with my experiences when I was still in Toronto, where you know, a company will put on a production of something that already exists, and you just buy the rights to it, those are all very different.

Lily: 18:54
But it is actually very similar. In music theater, we usually spend, I would say–depending on the length of the schedule–I would say like the first one-third…not even a third, like maybe a fifth of the time teaching music, putting it all together. It’s usually almost always at the beginning of the rehearsal process. And then we do staging. And then once you’ve done the stage with the director in the room, you know, we run through these; that’s all very similar. And then for the music director, it’s always like the double task of when the actors are not rehearsing, then we split our time. So like usually even on the day off or something, then we have orchestra calls. And then we start rehearsing with the band or the orchestra.

Lily: 19:48
And then everyone’s usually favorite day is the sitzprobe, where we all come together and it’s only about the music and the music only, which never happens–which is crazy, right? You know, it’s musical theater, but a lot of times, there’s so many other technical elements, it’s about the visual of it. And so it’s really lovely when you actually, you know, when the cast and the band get to see each other at the same time; they’re the same room, [and] it’s only about the music, which is so lovely. So we have the sitzprobe, and then we go into technical rehearsals; we usually have 10-of-12’s, I think? So out of the 12 hours–you have 12 hour days, and you work 10 hours out of the 12.

Lily: 20:24
To be a bit more humane, truly, you know, I remember when we were teching Hamilton in Seattle, the band would rehearse from nine to 12, or like 8:30 to 11:30. And then we’d have a half hour break, and then we would start teching with the actors, so the band would be off, but the music team would still be there. And then we had a 10-of-12. So basically, it was like noon till 11 o’clock or noon to midnight. And we would work through all of that. And then the next day, it was like rinse and repeat. So like, the music team have very, very long hours.

Lily: 21:04
But luckily, when you get to that commercial level, a theater level, you know, we are protected by the union. We’re not on like one contract, like, it’s ours. So that’s also really great and really helpful. But yeah, and then it all comes together. We have technical rehearsals, you know, we have cue-to-cues, with lights and all that stuff. And then we have tech dress, usually like an invited dress, rehearse during the day, perform at night. Previews–I don’t know if that’s a thing that you all do in opera as well. We have previews, and then we open.

Chaowen: 21:40
Yeah, I know. Now, unions really play an important role in negotiating the contract and the schedules. The most recent schedule that have been given in opera houses are usually like two to five and then 7:30 to 10. But you know, in between those rehearsals, of course you’re there working, meeting others. So the six hour day actually becomes 10 to 12 hours for the music staff–[just] not on the book. But I know post-COVID, people are more aware of the mental health and also just kind of general wellbeing of everybody–that you can’t work so many long hours for so many days intensively, because that’s really taking a toll on your body and your mind for sure.

Lily: 22:28
Yeah, I was just having this discussion with one of our actors. And it’s, you know, it’s one of those things where it’s interesting, right? And I only speak for theater and not for opera. Doing eight-show weeks, when you have a union contract that is so generalized, but you’re not taking into account doing Mamma Mia. Or if you’re doing Come From Away, which is a one act, as opposed to doing Hamilton–they are not the same. And so when you’re paying people with a minimum, whether for musicians or actors or tech for any of that, [if] it’s one generalized contract, as opposed to actually looking at the workload, then you’re taking the humanity out of it. You’re actually not taking into account the toll it takes on everybody’s bodies, nonetheless, their psyche and their mental health and what that means when you know, the music director–one of the highest paid music directors on Broadway is Come From Away. But that’s because they’re on stage, there’s a huge premium: they’re playing a couple of extra instruments that are not keyboard instruments: I think the accordion and bandoneon. But 90 minutes in and out, they’re done. So by the time Come From Away comes down, Hamilton’s at intermission. So in terms of the pay scale and how that works, it’s not about the work; it’s not about the level and the work when it’s only like paid by numbers. I’m sure for actors as well, it just becomes, you know…I don’t want to use the word “fair” or “unfair”, like look, we’re all very lucky to have jobs, but it is uneven.

Chaowen: 24:18
Yes, I think that’s another topic for another episode, because union is a blessing and also a beast in itself, with a union-negotiated contract. And of course, I wanted to recognize that it’s important to protect your workers, no matter [if] they are your musicians, your singers, your pianist. From my knowledge, the only people that don’t have a union in the opera house are actually the pianists. So you can work the pianist outside when the singers are by law required to have rest. (laughs)

Lily: 24:53
Wait, are pianists not a part of the musicians’ union? They don’t have to be?

Chaowen: 24:57
It depends on the the houses, but the pianists don’t have their own union. So the singers have the singers’ union. And the musicians in orchestras have their own; the only people very often [who] are not unionized are the music director and the pianist.

Lily: 25:14
They’re not AFM?

Chaowen: 25:14
It depends on the opera house if they are required to be; they don’t have to be.

Lily: 25:21
That’s so weird.

Chaowen: 25:25
It really depends. But kind of looking back to the singers and actors, because they are one of the most important people; they are actually performing on stage. And you talked about how you realized that you loved working with them. And in realizing the storyline, can you tell us a little bit more about how you work with those singer actors when they’re so accurately using their bodies while singing and doing all the things and when you have this great musical vision that you want them to realize? What are some challenges or tips that you can share with us?

Lily: 26:00
I mean, there are challenges every day. (laughs) You know, I think a lot of conductors and music directors–one thing that we don’t think about a lot, and I feel very lucky when I went through the Penn State Program. Julie, just looping back to the program that I went through the MFA, it’s a very small boutique program. And they take two directors, two major directors and two vocal pedagogy students specifically for musical theater. So when I played to, you know, pay my way through school, one of my teacher’s assistant my TA ships is to play the voice lessons, and learning and really listening to the voice teachers and how they’re working with the students to meet that was actually probably probably the most the most I learned about when I was in grad school, it was the most amount of the biggest learning curve I had. And I think one thing that music directors conductors don’t think about, so much of it is because you know, we’re conduct we’re actively performers, right? So we’re performing, we’re making the music. But the other side of it is, with actors, you know, they the, we should understand the vocal pedagogy in terms of just basic things, like I’m not a voice teacher, but to know like, for an actor, why do they sound this way? Or like, if I want them to make a tweak, How do I? What are some of the wordings I would say to them? I would never say to an actor, you are flat. You know, I would always say something like, Oh, is it and I would listen. And the other thing to think about that I always say to my associates, if you never give a note unless you have an answer. And what I mean by that is you never say that was flat, or that was wrong. You say, this was a little bit like this was? This is what I heard. Perhaps it is because of this, or have you tried this? Or is it because you were rushing? You know, it’s like, can you you know, you kind of go through other scenarios before you talk to the actors. And before you know them. And I think that’s the thing, because, as you said, it’s so sensitive, and it is so vulnerable, for them to be on stage. And so so many factors are, if I’m in a place that’s really dry, you know, like Reno right now, it’s so dry, it’s a high altitude. Are they in the house? Where can they hear the band? Like are the fullback monitors? Can they hear enough? Or does the house suck up all the sound, and nothing is coming back at them? So there’s not enough reverb for them to hear themselves? Which shows the week is it? You know? Are they singing? Are their scene partners? Is the person that they’re singing with somebody who is an understudy? Or is it a you know? And so there are all these factors that add to that performance and that specific note that I want to give, and how do I give that note? So for me, you know, working with actors is really taking a step back and being very holistic, and analyzing not only the performance and what they’re doing and what they sound like, but also taking into account and really the human factor of it. All right, and taking into account what that day is like and your environment and how depending on the day and where you’re at how that could affect that specific actor. So in the end, the the I think the general answer to that is taking the time to observe and get to know all your actors and everybody really well not the way like you have to go out with them and get to know them personally but like taking a step back, and like watching them from day one, how do they process notes, how do they process information? What are their learning habits on certain days, you know, paying attention to like, what do they sound like on this day versus that day and doing your homework and rather than Just saying to an actor or a performer, you sound like this, fix it. So I think it’s so much about empowering them to, to problem solve on their own, rather than just dictating. And I think that’s the, you know, for me, that’s always been, that is my philosophy as a music director, which is to, you know, have mutual respect and to empower them to be the best they can be on that specific day on that specific performance, as opposed to the old, kind of the old system of you know, the conductor is the be all and end all and we are going to, you know, I don’t I really don’t like that, I think it’s so much it’s about trust and making sure that everybody feels good. And I know, we used to wear safe a lot, which I don’t really like, but they feel like they can be the best version on that specific day in that specific performance, I think is the way I like to think about it.

Chaowen: 30:59
Yeah, totally agree with what you say, because a lot of people don’t even think about that, that singers or if not more, but just as vulnerable as conductors, but because you’re putting yourself out there. And when you get a note about your singing, sometimes it can sound like a personal attack. Because you say, Hey, you’re a flat, instead of you’re telling an instrumentalist, that note was flat, can you move up your finger a little bit? That is a totally different thing when being when your instrument is your body. And you’re doing all those things. And I love what you said about like having an answer before you give a note because you want to help them solve the problem instead of just telling them what’s wrong and have them figure it out themselves. But coming back, like another conductor, that was opposite 6%, that low, she comes from the tradition of being an opera coach, she also say the same thing that she learned so much from playing for all the voice studios and learn from the voice teachers. But for someone who doesn’t come from that Rao, who is not a pianist, and want to know more about just basic bottle pedagogy, as you said, or wanting to know how to work better with singers, what would be some suggestions that you can give them?

Lily: 32:21
I think you just have to one have a thirst for knowledge and be open minded. Right now we are in the place where everything there’s so many things are online as well. So I think taking classes and really investing really investing your time and also really you know if you have the means invest the money into like going to coaching is going to open masterclasses right. I think when we’re talking about the classical part of it, I know like in a University of Toronto, where I did my undergrad, there are open masterclasses all the time, you know, for all instrumentalists, and really like going to those schools, going to their websites, you know and looking at like, where are the open masterclasses? Are certain things now online? Or are they off? Are they in person and investing the time to learn and always being curious. A good example is coming back to Hamilton. I wanted to give the tools to my cast of how to restart but restart in. In not like day one, we’re singing this music and we’re going to hurt our voices because being very cognizant that this music is very demanding. And also they haven’t sung in like 17 months. Some of them have but they haven’t done this type of singing. And so I personally invested and like took a couple of Voice Lessons with a new voice teacher who works on Broadway shows. And I basically just said, here are I’m working on this. I’m coming back to Hamilton, what are some trap trappings and that was usually when one the women are all in corsets. So just breathing, you know, giving them breathing exercises in certain things like that. So I think it’s investing, remembering that like as we are helping and be helping the actors. We are also investing ourselves in our knowledge and there’s never too much knowledge. We, for some reason, don’t think of a professional development, you know, in a lot of other industries and a lot of other professions. They have conferences, you know, they go to or like teachers, they have professional development days for us and for actors and musicians. For some reason a lot of people that I’ve worked with, or even students I’ve taught, have this idea that like once I get out of school, I’ve learned everything that I’ve learned, and now I’m out here now I’m a professional And I think that’s, in my opinion, very incorrect. I think you have through school, you have gotten the foundations of what you need to know, hopefully a good foundation. But the learning starts once you actually graduate. And the learning starts in the professional world. And every time you step into a room is a learning opportunity, whether it’s, you’re learning from somebody, because you are interning, you’re observing and or through a bad experience, and you’ve learned what you don’t want to do, you’ve learned the type of people you don’t want to be associated with, or you’ve learned from other people’s mistakes, which I think is always the best observing. And you learn from people’s mistakes, and you go, Oh, I probably shouldn’t do this or say it like that, or, you know, and this approach isn’t right. And you see how the room responds to not good rehearsal technique. And so I think there’s that part of it as well, you know, if you are not a pianist, and or you’re not a singer, which is completely fine, then it’s being very honest with yourself about what you’re lacking in the, in your repertoire of tools, I think your tool belt, as I like to say, and investing the time and you know, some money into professional development.

Chaowen: 36:23
So coming back from you what you said about professional development, I think it’s super important. And the other end of it, as I see is actually about mentorship, because Broadway, from my understanding is, has traditionally been a very closed trade, as opposed to a lot of other conducting fields as well, like you only get to have to get into the circle before you can learn from the best. And we actually first connected through the mentorship program with my STRUG, which is an organization supporting all women in musical theater. So can you tell us about your idea about mentorship and how we can really invest in the younger generation to open the doors to more people interested in learning, continuing to learn and to benefit from what we have learned what our knowledge was from absorbing all this great masters?

Lily: 37:24
Yeah, I think one, maybe, verbiage I want to change what you said, I don’t think Broadway has ever been closed. I think I think Broadway is probably one of the most open community artistic communities, because everybody comes from different walks of life, I think it is niche. So therefore, people don’t know how to get in. But from my experience from from when I was in grad school, up until now, it is probably one of the most merit based places Broadway not music theater, like in like different places, not regional music, theater, but Broadway, New York. They are hungry for new names, people who are really good at their jobs. Obviously, everybody who’s in New York is really good at their job. So then the other side of it is like, Are you a good person? Or people say are you a good hang? You know, are you someone that people want to work with. And so I the only thing I would push back a little bit on is that it’s a niche thing. But once you but it’s also about if you want to go into Broadway, there are people like you can find names, right of you know, going into playbill.com and finding who are the music directors, who are the music supervisors. And I have never met a single music director in New York who was not open to having a coffee and having a conversation with someone who’s interested in the industry. So there’s that part of it too. And so it is it feels kind of nebulous, and people don’t know it. But once you just took a step in and you make that effort for you to actually you, you know, the Grandview whoever is interested to actually reach out they are one of the most welcoming communities I’ve ever been a part of. So then again, that idea of like having the onus right, having personal responsibility of wanting to and having that drive. Now with that being said, I think the mentorship with Muse and with Maestro has been amazing. And opening things up and outreaching and I think mentorship is so important. It’s that idea of you know, going all the way back to the music director, the associate the assistant that’s all mentorship and knowing and understanding that music direction on Broadway more than any other. I think categories you know, genre of music, is the higher you get is so much less about the music so it’s actually learning about the business learning about how to talk with actors. You know, and like dealing with like you were saying, like, with directors and sound designers and programmers and copyists, you know, and all of those things put together and how do you do the job? And, you know, when you’re on tour, you have company managers, you have stage management and understanding all of that with props. And with Carpenter, you know, what does that even mean? Right. And so learning all those things, I would say every opportunity when you work under somebody is a mentorship. So I think that’s really important. But I also think, on top of that, the outreach, I think needs to start earlier, and which is what, that’s really important to me as well. I think, as an immigrant.

Lily: 40:47
My having been here, since I was very young, my parents didn’t know anything about music theater. So to them, it was a lower art, right, you know, in the Asian community, I can only speak for, it’s very much opera and ballet, it’s the western music, whereas Broadway, it’s actually an amalgamation of everything. You know, I think it’s a love letter to all the different art forms. And so I think the outreach and mentorship, I can only speak for the immigrant, it’s about not only saying, like, we have these opportunities for you, but also giving them like very concrete things like this is the kind of pay that you will have when if you make it on Broadway, or if you’re doing regional theater, this is what you can expect. So then, as an immigrant child, I can go back to my parents and be like, Look, this is how much money I can actually make. This is the kind of career path I can have. Because I can only speak for my parents, but really, for them to have left, moved halfway across the world was to give me a better life. And so like for us a child, for you to be able to say, this is what this is the kind of life I can live. And also by doing what I love. How amazing is that? And so I think as mentors, not only talking about the craft, and not only talking about the conducting and what is your actus and you know, and how to play piano, but really recognizing now in the time that we live in that we have to talk about the business of the business, which is what we don’t talk about Andrew practicalities, you know. And so really talking about a holistic approach, the job, I think, is what is really important for mentors, to have, you know, to really embody.

Chaowen: 42:32
Yeah, I totally agree with it. And this is also a big reason why I’m doing this podcast because when I was in school, no one talked to me about business, you only heard that, okay, you need to network, but how I love that each guest come into the podcast talks really openly about their journey, and it’s a way I feel for everybody to see, we all have our struggles, but we all have make our way to somewhere.

Lily: 43:00
Yeah, you know, there’s that old saying, I mean, I’m not quoting it, but success comes to those who are, there’s a bit of luck, but like you’re prepared, you know, and being open minded about things. I think a big part of it, you know, about what we do now, as conductors and also as mentors is so it’s so much about like, we none of us are, have taken a class in being a therapist, but so much of it, a successful music director, and a sexually successful conductor is somebody who like, Can is empathetic, you know, and who can actually communicate and connect with their actors and their musician, not just on the musical level, but also on as a, as a human being, and be able to like read people say like, Oh, you are off today, is it because of XY and Z and, and you know, and so that your orchestra and your company wants to work for you. You know, like, I think to me, that is the mark of a successful music director and not somebody who is you know, the tyrant, you know, the old school, tired of it all, where people are scared of them. You don’t want people like you don’t get results, you don’t get the best results, especially as we’ve talked about with actors, where they are so vulnerable. You’re never going to get results and the best quality result when somebody is scared of you. So I think it’s so much the new, maybe the 21st century way of thinking is to work together and to empower each other and to like, go on a journey together and have these open discussions. And you know, I always say we have three Hamiltons in the building, if I want them to do the exact same thing. I would say it three different ways. And what does that mean and so much of it and the other part of his being very self aware of your verbiage and what you’re using and how you’re talking to people, which, when you’re younger and starting out also, like I had it, you know, there was definitely a lot of hubris when you’re young. Of course, when you’re young you think you know, everything. And the older you get, the more gray everything becomes, and then you look back, you’re like, Oh, me five years ago, I wanted to slap me. Like, who did? I think I was saying all these things and make these declarations, right. And I feel like for me, the older I’ve become, the more I am specific with my words, and with my verbiage, when I speak when I’m speaking to somebody, and I’m a bit I know, I speak very fast. But like, I used to be even quicker, because my brain didn’t go through. I doubt it’s like thinking about what is the most succinct way? And what is the most effective way of communicating.

Chaowen: 45:57
I think that’s a great way to end this and to feel like you can be direct. What was the right? Honest? Yeah, no. Unkind thank you so much, Lily for it. Oh, you have shared and I know you’re not much on social media, but share anything that you are okay with? If anyone wants to be in touch with you, the way can they find you.

Lily: 46:25
They can email me I have not on social media at all. I have a very private person. But they can email me and they can get in touch with you to get my email.

Chaowen: 46:38
Great. So if you want to get in touch with Lily, you can send an email to the conductor’s podcast@gmail.com and list your questions, and I will connect you with Willie.

Lily: 46:51
Thank you.

Chaowen: 46:52
Thank you so much. So here you have it, my friends. And I hope that you enjoy the conversation as much as I did. I always love chatting with Lily, not only for our similar cultural background, but also for her perseverance and in eagerness to mentor the next generation. Moreover, she is one of the most authentic and genuine people I know. And she always speaks from the bottom of our heart when sharing information. before today’s show, did you also have some presumptions like me about the musical theater industry? I hope the information that we shared today was useful to you. And I was curious, what was your biggest takeaway? For me, it was the advice of don’t give a note if you don’t have a solution. It’s sometimes so easy for us to pick up others mistakes, and to correct our colleagues. And I sometimes forget how I can make the comment constructive. Yes, of course, we don’t want to step on toes. But being ready and able to provide some potential solutions to your musicians will go a long way in your career. Next week, I will be chatting with my friend Kiera Ahmed chenko on tips for working with strings. Even if you work primarily with wind ensembles or with choir, she still gives great insight on how to navigate in an area that might be less familiar for you. So stay tuned. As always, if you’re loving this show, please don’t forget to subscribe and leave a review. This will be the greatest encouragement for me and I will see you next week at the same time, same place. Bye for now.