Meet Sam Henderson, Resident Music Director and Director of Music Education

Featured: Sam Henderson

Q:  What is your full-time position with Charleston Stage?

I am in my tenth season as the Resident Music Director and Director of Music Education here at Charleston Stage. My duties with that position are to oversee all musical aspects of our productions and classes including:  preparing casts vocally, preparing and conducting our live orchestras for the MainStage musicals, accompanying rehearsals and performances on piano, teaching or overseeing music teaching in our TheatreSchool and Troupe classes and camps, and providing vocal coaching to our Resident Actors and students. I also typically direct at least one show per season as well as our 6th-12th grade SummerStage show each July.

Q:  You are the Music Director for Bright Star. What makes the score for this production so unique? 

The score for Bright Star is very different than anything I’ve ever done in musical theatre. Bluegrass music is something I’ve long been a big fan of, but I’ve not had the opportunity to work on anything bluegrass in the past. This style of music brings a few new and exciting challenges. Vocally, the style is quite different from contemporary shows (Footloose, etc.) that mostly lean towards a pop-rock vocal style or the classics that lean more towards a classical singing style. Also, this show calls for instruments that I rarely get the opportunity to work with (banjo, mandolin, accordion, etc.) and therefore I’m working with a few musicians that I’ve never worked with before. It’ll be great fun for us all to get together and bring all of our different experiences and skill sets together to pull off this BEAUTIFUL score.

Q:  How many band members are in the orchestra and what instruments will audiences expect to hear throughout the score? 

We have 9 players in the band, including myself on piano and melodica (which is a new instrument to me), my assistant conductor also playing keyboard and accordion (he also had to learn this for the show!), and a full bluegrass band with:  banjo, mandolin, multiple guitars, fiddle, bass, percussion (including actual bones and spoons!) and even a cello thrown in there for some of the more lyrical moments. The score is really the heart and soul of this show, and we couldn’t imagine even attempting it without the authentic sounds of these instruments for which it was written. In addition to hearing these brilliant sounds, audiences will be able to see all the action with all 9 band members on stage for the whole show.  Julian and I felt very strongly that this was important because of the huge role the score plays in the show, but also because bluegrass is a largely visual musical style.  Seeing the energy and excitement that goes into making this music come alive is just as important as hearing it.

Q:  How has the process been with the cast and learning this music? 

Working with this cast on the music for this show has been a dream. It is one of the most capable and professional casts we’ve had from top to bottom. The leads will blow you away with their singing, but you’ll notice the ensemble (either on stage or off) in almost every song. They provide the texture and support vocally that will leave you with chill bumps throughout the show.

Q:  What are you most excited about that audiences will take away from Bright Star?

The thing that excites me most for audiences to take away from this show (in addition, obviously, to the gorgeous score and wonderful story telling) is the appreciation for a new, original show. So much of what is coming off of Broadway now is just adaptations of popular movies, etc.  It’s so nice to get to present a piece that is a new story with new characters and new songs that people don’t already know or have preconceived notions of.

Bright Star performance run September 11th – 26th at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. For tickets, click here.