An Interview with Jonathan Bauerfeld

This Fringe the talented MA Musical Theatre students of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland are bringing us, among other things, Legacy: The Book of Names. The Mumble managed a wee blether with the writer…

Hello Jonathan, so where you at, & where ya from, geographically speaking?
Jonathan: Hi Mumble! I live and work in Manhattan and I grew up not far from NYC in Connecticut.

Can you tell us about your musical training?
Jonathan: I started classical piano training when I was four years old and played for the first time at a friend of my mom’s house when I was two. Since then, I’ve studied violin and trumpet. I stopped playing violin in early high school but I continued to play trumpet in pits/various orchestras throughout university. In high school, I shifted my focus to jazz music, attending the Skidmore Jazz Institute twice for trumpet, and studying jazz piano/theory with the director of the music programme at my school. I started composing at an early age and studied with a few teachers privately in my hometown. At Northwestern University, I got a BM in Music Composition and studied orchestration and arranging. I was a head writer for the Waa-Mu show in 2015 and 2016 and also orchestrated for the shows. The culmination of my formal music education was my senior recital, which was a musical called DEVOTED written with my writing partner Casey Kendall. My musical theatre training has continued, observing my killer bosses at the top of their games at the shows that I’ve had the privilege to be a part of in NY in the past few years.

What is it about Musical Theatre that makes you tick?
Jonathan: When all the moving parts (orchestrations, lyrics, music, staging etc.) come together to create an honest and beautiful look inside of an emotion, it’s a magical moment. Musical theatre is one of the most collaborative art forms that exists, and that collaboration is why I love it so much. Every person on the team is on a journey together, and when all of those parts mesh perfectly, it’s one of the best forms of art.

Can you tell us about the BMI musical theatre workshop & your role with them?
Jonathan: The BMI musical theatre workshop has been one of my favourite parts of living in New York. It’s a free programme that meets on Mondays and some of my favourite writing teams have gone through the workshop at one time or another (Ahrens and Flaherty, Pasek and Paul, Alan Menken etc). I am a composer at the workshop. During the first year, composers get paired with lyricists by the instructors and we are given assignments (i.e. write a ‘charm song’ for a moment in Tim Allen’s The Santa Clause). Every Monday, a few teams would present the songs they’d come up with and we and the instructors would share comments. I had some wonderful collaborations throughout the year.

What does Jonathan Bauerfeld like to do when he’s not immersed in the arts?
Jonathan: Well, when I do get free time, I tend to spend most of it hanging out with my friends in the city, coming out to visit my family and dog, or locking myself in my room and playing Zelda. I also try to see as many shows as I can around town, but I guess that still counts as arts immersion. I like the arts.

What are the keystones to a good musical, & then an amazing musical?
Jonathan: I think structure is one of the most important things to making a good musical. Everything hangs around how the plot and characters are introduced and presented, and stage time is precious real estate that has to be used perfectly if we want to get an audience to care about our characters. The key to an amazing musical is detail. Every musical line, every rhyme, every piece of staging all has to be working together perfectly. All of the great musicals that have stood the test of time have meticulous attention to detail.

What are your connections to Fringes past?
Jonathan: I’ve been connected to festivals/fringes in the US as an orchestrator and arranger but this is my first time coming to the Edinburgh Fringe. I’m very excited to be a part of it.

You are bringing LEGACY: THE BOOK OF NAMES to the Fringe this August, can you tell us a little about it?
Jonathan: THE BOOK OF NAMES is about one day on Ellis Island which served as New York City’s immigration station for 60 years and saw over 12 million immigrants during the largest human migration in history. Ellis Island was the last obstacle between all of these people and their dream of America. Our show explores what it would have been like to be an immigrant coming through the station; how scary and disconcerting it could be, how heartbreaking being told you couldn’t come through was, and how new connections can be made across divides. It is very much an ensemble show and we have a wonderful cast of 15. We will be using all of their voices to create a big, sweeping musical world for the show. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done so far and can’t wait to share it with audiences this August!

How do you find working with Ryan Cunningham?
Jonathan: Ryan Cunningham is a genius! Working with him has been amazing. He’s an incredibly quick and smart director, and his background as such a great writer makes him a perfect fit for directing this new musical. His ideas for the stagecraft of the show are very exciting.

How much contact have you made with your Scottish counterpart, Finn Anderson, on the project?
Jonathan: We talk with Finn every few weeks to check in and we spent two developmental weeks (one in Glasgow and one in Chicago) with him where we each were able to share our work and discuss how the two projects talk to each other. Just the other day we texted each other to say that we both had songs from the other’s show stuck in our heads! I think the two shows work together in a great way – at their hearts they deal with similar themes (tradition, family, migration) but they come at it from completely different angles.

What aspect of the show are you most enjoying? Do you have a big moment that you always look forward to?
Jonathan: The aspect I’m most enjoying is just being in the room with the team of people AMTP and RCS have assembled. The big moment I always love is the first time we run the show with all of the staging, lights, costumes and band. It’s always so exciting to see it coming together, and to see all of the thoughts and contributions that our amazing team will bring to the piece we’ve written.

You have twenty seconds to sell the show to someone you are flyering in the streets of Edinburgh – what would you say?
Jonathan: If you like big ensemble vocals, funny, honest and beautiful stories, and exciting dance sequences, come see LEGACY: THE BOOK OF NAMES. It’ll make you feel things!


Assembly Hall, Mound Place
Aug 3-26 (15:00)

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