Meet Vonda K. Bowling, music director of Frank-N-Friend. Mrs. Bowling received her bachelor’s degree in music education from Shorter College in Rome, GA. She went on to receive her master’s degree in vocal performance from the University of Tennessee. Currently, she lives in Rowlett, TX, with her husband, Jeffery Bowling, her children Harrison and Mason, their two dogs, Abby and Ranger and their two cats, Sonny and Nina.
Piano lessons from the age of 4, choir throughout middle and high school, and just a couple of shows in college resulted in her successful career as a music director. After 15 years as an MD and 20 years of teaching, Mrs. Bowling decided to be a full-time MD and voice teacher, “It was the best career decision I ever made.”
When asked about the importance of the role of a music director in a show, Mrs. Bowling defaults to Joseph Church, author of Music Direction for the Stage: A View from the Podium: “Not only do they conduct during rehearsals and performances, but they must also be adept arrangers, choral directors, vocal coaches, and accompanists. Like a record producer, the successful music director must have the flexibility to adjust as needed to a multifaceted job description, one which changes with each production and often with each performer.”
Often, the music director is an overlooked portion of the production. “You want music in your show? You need a music director,” Mrs. Bowling says. She continues, “If the composer wrote it, there’s a reason why. Music is not just the pitches on the staff. It’s about what’s happening emotionally, with the actor(s). WHY are they singing it and what just happened that caused them to suddenly break into song? The director, music director and choreographer have to be on the same page for the show to be a success.”
Frank-N-Friend is Mrs. Bowling‘s fifth world-premiere musical. Her previous world premieres include three at Dallas Theater Center and one at Theatre Three in Dallas. As a world premiere, it’s the job of the MD to change anything about the music in a moment’s notice, as actors and creatives work to open the show. She notes, “We look to the entire team to see what works and what doesn’t, which means no one can be ‘married’ to every note and rhythm until the show is frozen.” In Frank-N-Friend, Mrs. Bowling is looking forward to seeing the audience’s reaction. “The songs are fun and memorable. I think the audience will leave singing many of the songs, that’s when you know your show is a success.”
Mrs. Bowling‘s favorite part about being an MD is the ability to form relationships in every show. “I have been VERY fortunate to meet and work with professionals from all over the country at many theatres in DFW. How lucky are we, as artists, for this to be our JOB?”
To aspiring actors, current actors and other creatives in the field, her advice on building a strong relationship with the MD is as follows: “Get in voice lessons, keep up with your craft. Work hard. Do your homework. Learn how to hold a harmony. Be a team player. Be careful what you post on social media. Leave your drama at home. Take the note. Have a good attitude. Be flexible. Be prepared. Be ready to learn. Don’t settle for mediocre. Be kind to everyone. Do your best EVERY TIME!” We couldn’t have said it any better.
To all our creative staff, and especially our music directors – thank you for all you do to ensure each show is a success. Your countless hours behind the scenes certainly pay off.
Vonda K. Bowling, Merrill West, B.J. Cleveland
Frank-N-Friend runs January 31 – February 16, get your tickets today: http://bit.ly/2ZLDoIg.