We all heard about this remarkable show called “PALAZZO” in Vienna and some of us have even visited it. Did you know that the “PALAZZO”-musicians are alumni of our university? I was really curious about what a musician goes through playing over 250 shows in such a steady gig. So, not putting it off, I’ve decided to question the leader of the band about all the details, a friend of mine Martin Zaunschirm.
- Martin, how did you get this opportunity to play in Palazzo?
It all started 2 – 2,5 years ago, when “Palazzo” was searching for a new band for their shows. Our rector, Marcus Ratka managed to get an audition for JML students. And after all, together with Tobias Pöcksteiner and Matthias Leichtfried we succeeded in the audition and became the part of the show.
- For how long have you been studying in JAM by that time?
It was my 4th or 5th year.
- Did you get the position of a band leader from the very beginning?
Actually, yes, right from the start. But I must say, though I already had some experience in band leading and organization, I learnt a lot during these last 2 years playing in “PALAZZO”.
This is what a band-leader of such theater/varieté projects is responsible for: I lead the band through the whole show; I communicate with my band through talk back mic, where I give one of the many musical cues (which are connected with the show), call out the next tunes or instrument changes.
Furthermore I have to organize the band substitutes – that means rehearsing the whole show again, organizing the dates and guiding the subs through the show with a lot of help through the talk back.
Not forgetting to mention that actors and artists get injured too. This leads to scenario changes. As well as the whole show program has to be adapted to those changes, music program is being adapted too.
- Do you feel a big difference between playing a regular gig and being a musician in such a project?
Playing a show like “PALAZZO”, which is a mix of theater, variété, dinner-show and circus feels totally different compared to a regular gig. Imagine playing 3,5 hours with just couple of little brakes because the band is implemented strongly into the show. We accompany all the singers, the host, dinner sets, etc.
By the way, talking about dinner sets, it’s an important part of the show where we sometimes use “movable” instruments. For instance, I play accordion, the drummer takes his snare drum, guitarist switches to ukulele & the bassist plays on a bass ukulele. So we take our instruments and walk through the whole Spiegelpalast right next to the audience.
What I mean is that we actually play all the time. Almost every part of the show contains music in it. Moreover we have to react spontaneously a lot to what is happening during the performance: if there’s some acrobatics or comedy going on, we play the suitable music highlighting what’s happening on stage. So as musicians we have to be very versatile in terms of the styles of music and our reactions.
- What skills have you developed/achieved by playing in “PALAZZO”?
First of all I want to mention that one season (4 months) consists of about 90 shows. So you train your endurance to manage it, not only physically but mentally.
Another skill you achieve is to be flexible and to have a quick musical reaction. In addition to that you get stylistically very versatile: jazz, pop, electronics are just few of the many possible styles.
I have also learnt to perform better. I’m trying to make a connection with the audience and show them that I am enjoying what I do and encourage my band to do the same.
My communication skills with a band have developed too. Also, considering that we play a lot (more than 250 shows so far) it’s very important for me to make the band feel good and comfortable. Taking care of a good mood in the team is always a challenge but a crucial part of our success too.
To make such an amount of performances more interesting and useful for yourself, you can create your own goals. For example, what I do is work on groove and microphrasing. And I can feel the progress from one show to another.
- Do you play music by heart or with sheets?
By heart only.
- How many tunes do you have to keep in your mind?
We play about 60 songs.
- Would you recommend this kind of experience to other students?
Definitely! Especially, to young musicians who still have a lot of time and are flexible.
Moreover, if we talk about Austria, “PALAZZO” gives a rather rare possibility to have steady gigs planned for couple of months in advance with good sound engineers and world-class artists from Cirque du Soleil or singers like Ariana Savalas. She’s an American actress/singer-songwriter, co-founder of post-modern jukebox. It’s a great pleasure to perform with her.