2015 Best Music Direction of a Musical: Adam Bokunewicz for The Boston Conservatory's "Shrek: The Musical"

Before we announce our 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Winners, we are proud to present our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series. 

NOTE: If you were nominated for a 2015 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series, please email us at brian@artsimpulse.com


Adam Bokunewicz delivers a musical experience well beyond his years in his music direction of Shrek: The Musical at The Boston Conservatory. His passionate conducting and piano playing kept the student actors and orchestra not only as a cohesive unit, but as a tight and integrated musical ensemble for this hip modern score. In his Interview, Adam tells us about some of the challenges in music directing Shrek, his pet peeves, and some of short-term and long-term goals (and even a few dreams)!

Hi, Adam, and thanks for joining us at ArtsImpulse. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a Senior BFA Musical Theater major at The Boston Conservatory (“BoCo”). I am from New Jersey. I play the piano and the trumpet. I am also a Zumba Fitness instructor.

Can you tell us a little bit about your work in Shrek: The Musical?  What were some of the challenges?  What were some of the most rewarding parts?

In Shrek, I was the music director, conductor, as well as pianist in the pit.  I am a musical theater performer before anything else. Therefore, in each new project I encounter new challenges, which then turn into learning experiences. Shrek proposed an interesting challenge due to the fact that it was my first time working with a group of musicians and “conducting” from the piano. As a student music director at BoCo, many of the shows I work on are low budget, student-produced projects. The quality of work is excellent, however the budgets and size of performance space don’t allow for a large pit. Most of the time, it’s just me and a piano playing through the show.

I was nervous on the night of my first rehearsal with the pit. Here I am in a room with extremely gifted conservatory and Berklee music students, having never conducted before. Thanks to help from my teachers, and support of the musicians in the pit, I walked away from this experience with much more confidence.

Talk to us about your style as a music director.  How do you work best?  What kinds of projects do you choose to work on?

My background is performing. Therefore, in my past experiences rehearsing shows, I’ve learned how to lead a productive rehearsal from the music directors I've worked with. Also, they taught me how to efficiently communicate with actors.  My experience as a fitness instructor has taught me how to lead and engage a roomful of people.

The pit musicians (including Adam Bokunewicz) for The Boston Conservatory's  Shrek: The Musical .

The pit musicians (including Adam Bokunewicz) for The Boston Conservatory's Shrek: The Musical.

I work best with a set schedule and a time limit. It is important that the cast understands that I am there to help and support them, however it is their job to respect the work and the time of others. I choose to work on projects that are directed by people I know and love. At this point in my education, I enjoy working on shows that I think will challenge me and help me grow.

What have been some of your biggest learning moments or experiences while at The Boston Conservatory?

My freshman year at The Boston Conservatory, my Voice & Speech teacher Deborah Cooney taught me the importance of professional work ethic, respect for the work, and poise. I look up to her and aspire to be like her when I grow up.

My last two years at the conservatory, I have been studying music and musical theater repertoire with Cathy Rand. Her talent, knowledge, and high standard of excellence make her the most influential teacher I’ve ever worked with.

How do you spend your time outside of BoCo?  How does it help you become a better artist and person?

Outside of BoCo, I enjoy dining out, trying different restaurants, cooking, wine, dirty martinis with a blue cheese olive, intense cardio workouts that involve loud music and extreme sweating, and spending time with bae. Most of the time, I try to detach from theater talk. Too much theater talk will smother you.

Having a life outside of the theater is enough to make you a better artist and person.

What are some of your favorite stories, movies, plays, and/or TV shows?  Why?

I love Law & Order SVU. Every time Raul Esparza speaks on the show, I think of his performance in the 2008 filmed version of Company, particularly his rendition of “Being Alive.” I also enjoy The Barefoot Contessa, and I have aspirations of being one of her flamboyant friends that decorates the table as she prepares a stunning lunch on her back patio with Susan Stroman.

Shrek (Cody Garcia) and Princess Fiona (Carly Rose) in The Boston Conservatory's  Shrek: The Musical .

Shrek (Cody Garcia) and Princess Fiona (Carly Rose) in The Boston Conservatory's Shrek: The Musical.

What are some of your pet peeves?

I always make my bed. Every day.

What are some of your short-term goals?  Long-term goals?  Dreams?

Short term goals would be to absorb as much as I can before I graduate.

Long term goals, I would love to be a performer/accompanist/vocal coach/fitness instructor/producer.

Dreams: a rent-controlled apartment with a French bulldog and a terrace, maybe a sensible Steinway piano, if there’s room.

What do you hope people come away thinking from Shrek: The Musical?  Did you have specific objectives for any other productions that you have music directed?

I hope people come away thinking that it’s possible to produce a high caliber production without a high budget. When we take away the glamour and spectacle, and really focus on the material itself, the message of the story is illuminated.

Give us a lesson or motto to live by.

“When life gives you lemons, pray that they’re Lulu.”

Do you have any upcoming projects?

I am music directing a production of Aida at BoCo next week, as well as a production of In The Heights next month. Also, I will be performing in the Boston senior showcase at The Boston Conservatory this spring.