University of Utah FYI Archives
December 1, 2004:
Spotlight on James Prigmore
Musical Director for PTC’s Beauty and the Beast
“Beauty and the Beast is
a delightful and delicious score,” says James Prigmore, musical director for
the show, which opens Dec. 1 at Pioneer Theatre Company. “It’s head and
shoulders above anything that’s been on Broadway in the last few years – one
beautiful number after another.”
When Prigmore was 15, he studied piano with Ardean Watts, who was then the assistant conductor of the Utah Symphony. “One day after my piano lesson, he asked me if I wanted to earn some money playing for ballet classes. So I auditioned with Gordon Paxman and was hired for the fabulous sum of $2 per hour. Forty-five years ago, that was a substantial amount,” he says.
So he took his first step on the road that would lead to his career as a musical conductor. Along the way, he met and worked with C. Lowell Lees and Maurice Abravanel, the two men who would most influence him throughout his career. “You start out as a rehearsal pianist and you end up as a musical director. That’s the path I took,” he says.
From that time forward, Prigmore has never been without work except for two weeks after he finished his military service in the U.S. Army, where he had been composer and arranger for the Continental Army Band in Monroe, Virginia. When Repertory Dance Theatre asked him to be their musical director, he accepted. Two years later, Keith Engar invited him to join the artistic staff at Pioneer Memorial Theatre. He’s been there ever since.
“The main reason for retiring now is to devote my life to composing,” he says. Although he is best known for his musical direction, he has composed more than fifty scores and has a stack of over two hundred compositions. “They fill a box in my bedroom. I compose for the fun of it.”
When he isn’t wrapped up in music, Prigmore likes to read. “There’s nothing more delicious than coming home and reading before going to bed. I love mysteries because they are the only form of literature where you know the truth is always going to come out in the end,” he says. “And I do value the pursuit of truth. So much of our modern culture is about opinion. It’s great to have a literary form that thrives on the truth being revealed.”
He recently finished Seven Footprints to Satan by Abraham Merritt and he loves Agatha Christie. “I don’t use the library. I like to own my books,” he says. In his tiny two-room apartment, he has over 2,000 books. “Stacks and stacks. Rows and rows. Kismet, my cat, and I, we live an idyllic existence,” he sighs.
Please note: By the time
you read this, tickets for Beauty and the Beast will be 95 percent sold out.
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