Making musical magic at the Fulton | Sponsored content









“Where Words Fail Music Speaks”

-Hans Christian Anderson

It’s dark in the orchestra pit of the Fulton Theatre, with bundled electrical wires, exposed plywood, peeling paint and questionable carpeting. A bent metal stepladder leaning against the wall leads to the podium where bandleader Ben McNaboe awaits the start of “The Sound of Music.” With just a minute until the show, the 12 musicians below seem relaxed as they chat quietly and check their phones. At the last second, with a subtle cue from McNaboe, they put their instruments in place and immediately play the opening score in perfect tune, with grace and effortlessness.







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Ben McNaboe, conductor


Day after day, night after night, performing out of sight, this team of professionals brings life and joy to The Fulton’s live performances. Their underground location is not a negative; it is an essential ingredient.

“The goal is for the music to be a layer of magic,” McNaboe says. “We are the atmosphere of the story.”

Being out of sight helps to work the magic.

However, being out of sight risks becoming out of mind. Other regional theaters of comparable size have reduced their musical staff for financial reasons, McNaboe says. These theaters have replaced musicians with pre-recorded soundtracks that cannot replicate the emotion and responsiveness of live performances.

As Music Supervisor and Resident Conductor, McNaboe’s mission is to raise the profile of the music, which enjoys exceptionally strong support at the Fulton, he says.

“I feel very lucky that Marc Robin (the executive artistic producer of The Fulton) is a musician,” says McNaboe. “He’s a composer, so he appreciates the music and doesn’t want it to go away.”

McNaboe also notes that The Fulton’s chairman of the board, Elliot Sterenfeld, has a deep appreciation for music and is supportive of the players. “I have leaders who speak my language,” he says.

As a result, audiences at The Fulton are treated to deeply skilled musical performers at the peak of their abilities.

Being a theater musician requires flexibility, time management and a willingness to juggle. An average show schedule includes nine performances per week, with up to five shows over the course of a weekend. Musicians are expected to master the score at their own pace. They only have two rehearsals until opening night. On days when there is both a matinee and an evening show, the musicians don’t have time for their other duties. And all musicians have other jobs. Here is an overview of a few:







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Janine Thomas, flute


Janine Thomas, a 47-year-old veteran clarinetist and flautist, has been with The Fulton for decades. Child of a clarinettist, Thomas always knew that his vocation was music. For many years she performed in three different regional symphonies while teaching generations of students the art of clarinet fingering. In the pit, she’s a mix of comedian and mother hen, praising her fellow performers while laughing at the naughty nicknames she’s had on various shows. “I’m inspired by my colleagues,” says Thomas. “We bring out the best in each other and feel like family.”







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Jaren Angud, percussion


Percussionist Jaren Angud is part of a commercial band that plays corporate events and weddings. He also plays as a session musician and in his church. And if that wasn’t enough, Angud also runs a personal training business for which his biceps are a jaw-dropping endorsement. Angud says The Fulton has been incredibly drum-friendly, more so than other theaters.

Musicians around the world are expected to purchase their own instruments, which can be expensive and, for percussion, cumbersome to transport. “Ben (McNaboe) has arranged for the purchase of timpani and bells, which is huge,” says Angud.







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Sara Male, cello


Cellist Sara Male’s daily jobs include teaching music at Franklin & Marshall College, running a private studio, performing at the York, Lancaster, Allentown and Harrisburg symphonies, and performing in ensembles. chamber music. She also sits on the board of the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra. “As a musician, you really feel that hectic schedule, but you’re also constantly aware of a sense of gratitude for being able to play,” Male says.







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Jessica Kling, violin


When not playing first violin at the Fulton, Jessica Kling is an elementary orchestra teacher at the Hempfield School District, responsible for 185 budding musicians. Kling also played in other pit bands in the area and traveled as far as Arcadia University outside of Philadelphia to perform. For Kling, music is both his career and his hobby. On the weekends, when she has five shows to play, she does what she loves: “Our job is to support the magic and emotion that the audience feels in ways they don’t even notice. “

What’s lost in musical theater if you don’t have musicians? You lose the chemistry that happens in live performance when actors and musicians feed off each other’s energy.

“I’ve been to shows with canned music and I can tell the actors and singers are limited in what they can do because they have to match the music. It’s set,” says Kling “So that we’re able to have a musical dialogue, a conversation, during every show.”

In a nutshell, without the musicians, you lose the magic.


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