By MYRON LOVE
Joseph Tritt has sampled Manhattan, but prefers what his hometown has to offer.
The 22-year-old homegrown musical talent spent two years studying at the Manhattan School of Music. “When I went to new York (in the fall of 2009), I went with the idea of focusing on writing musical theatre,” Tritt says. “MSM wasn’t the right place to study musical theatre writing, but it certainly sparked my interest in classical music and gave me an excellent foundation in music theory, history, ear training, etc., not to mention the fact that I was able to take in live performances on Broadway and at the Metropolitan Opera regularly.”
“I went as a composition major, but studied voice extracurricularly with a teacher on faculty. I spent my second year at MSM as a voice major. Ultimately, I discovered that I wanted to be a musical director and that a conservatory was not the right environment in which to cultivate the broad skill-set needed for that (accompanying, vocal coaching, conducting, orchestrating, etc).”
Tritt found that he could better expand his tool box of different musical skills at the University of Manitoba’s Desautels Faculty of Music. What sealed the deal for Tritt was meeting with, and beginning voice lessons, with Professor Mel Braun.
“I began studying with Mel privately in the summer of 2011 and realized that he was a good fit for me,” Tritt says. “While I did learn a lot at MSM, I decided that I wanted to stay here and study with Mel, also avail myself of some music direction opportunities.”
The son of Dr. Steven Tritt and Dr. Sharon Goszer Tritt well remembers his first exposure to musical theatre. He was six years old and his parents took him to a production of “The Sound of Music” at Rainbow Stage.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about it and humming the tunes,” he recalls.
He started piano lessons at the age of six or seven and began taking voice lessons with Donna Fletcher (the co-founder of Dry Cold Productions) when he was in junior high school. Incidentally, Fletcher played Maria in the 1996 Rainbow Stage production of “The Sound of Music” that so captivated Tritt.
“When I was in high school, my piano teacher, Leila Alvare, began suggesting that I could have a career in music,” he says. “I wasn’t convinced that I could earn a living at it.”
After Grade 12, however, he entered the U of M Faculty of Music, spending one year there, before going to New York.
But Tritt did not just study music. Starting in high school, he has been actively involved in local musical theatre both as a performer and music director.
In high school, he co-founded Stage16, an independent theatre company, with friends Ryan Segal and Jillian Willems. Tritt had on-stage roles in Stage 16’s production of Sondheim’s “Company” and Finn’s “Elegies: A Song Cycle”.
“Some of the alumni from Stage 16 remain my closest friends,” Tritt says. “And the vast majority of them have gone on to pursue careers in music and/or theatre.”
In 2010, Dry Cold Productions hired him as the apprentice musical director for their production of “Company”.
He also served as assistant musical director for Kayla Gordon’s Winnipeg Studio Theatre for the 2008 production of “Hair” and “The Altar Boyz” the next year. He later served as musical director for Winnipeg Studio Theatre’s staging of “The 25th Annual Putnam Country Spelling Bee” and PTE’s re-mount of “Altar Boyz”.
Last year, he had an internship with the Manitoba Theatre Centre, working on the musical “Next to Normal” with musical director Bob Foster from Toronto.
“That was a really big opportunity,” Tritt says. “Bob (Foster) is a master of his craft and he has served as associate music director on the Mirvish productions of “Billy Elliott” and “The Wizard of Oz.” I learned a lot working with Bob, particularly about interacting with the acting company. Bob is firm, but kind and always knows when it’s the right time to push an individual and when it’s time to give some encouragement.”
This year, Tritt served as musical director for Dry Cold’s recent production of Sondheim’s “Follies” and he will be serving in the same capacity for Winnipeg Studio Theatre’s “Rooms: A Rock Romance” in the spring.
Tritt will be graduating from the University of Manitoba’s School of Music next December. While he is still taking voice lessons, he is not sure he will pursue a career in classical singing. He has created a niche as a music director and will invest in that, for now.
Voice lessons, he notes, help him to understand the vocal instrument. Studying voice allows him to better serve the singers with whom he works in musical theatre productions.
As there are very few degree programs geared towards musical directors, Tritt continues to gain hands-on experience in the field.
He says that he is in no rush to leave Winnipeg. “There’s a lot of work here. But I am certainly open to theatrical opportunities elsewhere in Canada.”