A 2010 graduate of Oklahoma Christian University, Rebekah Bruce Parker tours as conductor of Mean Girls. The iconic pop culture movie took the stage to rack up 12 Tony nominations, and now the show hits the road. Parker embraces the opportunity to conduct with enthusiasm, determination and talent.
Rebekah is indispensable.
In musical theater, the conductor not only manages music - tempo, dynamics, entrances - but also conveys emotion through conducting, helping performers relay the sentiment in the score. Additionally, the show changes each night. Props break. Wardrobes malfunction. Understudies replace leads. Breathing changes. As the conductor, Parker directs the pit orchestra to repeat, speed up or slow down the music in response to each of these variations.
“Now, some pit conductors, who are also gifted pianists, handle all these things, but additionally, with one or two hands, playing the keyboard, while still conducting with the freehand or with head nods and eye shifts,” said Dr. Ken Adams, former OC professor of music, who instructed Parker. “My former students know that would NOT be me! But that is Rebekah 100%!”
Parker debuted on Broadway as a pianist, working her way to Music Director for the touring show.
“After [filling in as conductor] in the pit over the course of a couple months, I was invited to direct music for the first national tour,” Parker said. “I have a 360 degree perception of the entire show because [I have worked] in so many capacities on the music team.”
After graduating from OC, Parker worked as a vocal coach, pianist coordinator and music director at Oklahoma City University. While she loved her job, she felt called to New York City. Parker followed her dream to Broadway with a heart filled with passion and less than one thousand dollars in her pocket.
“It was extremely difficult to make rent and pay my expenses,” Parker said. “Every gig I had was a one off, and I had to really sell myself and sometimes put in a ton of hours for very little money. I also moved by myself and left behind an excellent job, and many friends and family in Oklahoma. It was a huge thing to do alone.”
Fortunately, Parker achieved her dream by dedicating herself to persistence and maximizing her talent.
“NYC is just as hard as everyone says, but I love it just as much as I always have,” Parker said. “In the Oklahoma music scene, it’s more about connections and friends giving friends jobs. In NYC, I found that my abilities spoke for themselves and I didn’t have to do anything other than a great job to get rehired somewhere.”
Living her childhood dream, Mean Girls challenges Parker, keeping her busy. She’s thankful to have the support of her friends and family as she tackles such a demanding job. Crediting her success to the many people who encouraged Parker and taught her to embrace confidence and diligence, she wants to do the same for current students. To those wanting to pursue a similar career, she says, “Practice more. You haven’t practiced enough yet.”