While many recent college graduates are searching for a job, Brandon Banks has added another to his list. Banks, as the musical director for Rivertowne Players’ upcoming show, Working marks this as his 24th theatre job. He began at age 16 as pianist for the Rivertowne Players production of 13. That is when he met John Van Dyke and Angelina Doyle, both leaders in the local theatre and music scene. Then at age 17, he took his first job as musical director for New Bern Civic Theatre’s Guys and Dolls. From then until now, he has worked in 24 shows. Any way you look at it, Brandon Wade Banks is an extraordinary young man.
Like all freshman at New Bern High School in 2008, Banks had to choose an elective. His second choice was choir, and luckily, that is what he got with B.J. Oglesby as his choir teacher and later, as his piano teacher. He wanted to play music “his friends listened to” and began to work on his own continuing to develop strong sight reading skills. That was just what the director of 13 needed. And that is when he had his first job.
It didn’t take long to go from pianist to musical director with expanded responsibilities. The musical director is responsible for all aspects of music in a show. From the auditions, where he plays the piano and helps evaluate the actors and singers; to rehearsal, where heteaches the vocal parts and coaches the singers; to opening night where he directs the show time and hiring the musicians he’s hired for the orchestra while multi- tasking as the pianist. Banks says his job is to “…Integrate the musical elements into the director’s vision of the show”.
Banks’ current job is musical director for Rivertowne’s Working, which opens July 22 and is directed by John Van Dyke. Brandon likes Working because is it “…factual, based on actual people. The dialog in Working comes verbatim from interviews…” collected by Studs Terkel of over 100 working Americans in the early 1970s. Banks enjoys the contemporary music in the show, some of it from North Carolina native James Taylor.
This talented pianist has kept busy with many other jobs. In his junior year of high school he was the pianist for Peace Episcopal Church in James City. He is currently the Music Director at Riverside Methodist Church, starting there as pianist in his last year of high school. His other accompanist jobs have taken him all over Eastern North Carolina playing for everyone from jazz vocalists to school choirs.
Quiet and unassuming, when asked if he realized how unique he was in his talents, he simply said, “Not at first.” Now that he has completed his Bachelors in Music Education, he plans to work on a Master’s Degree in piano performance. What does he expect in 5 years? He hopes to be an accompanist in New York for Broadway shows. With the outstanding resume he has developed at age 22, how could anyone doubt his success?
Submitted by: Kathy Morrison