Robert H. Allen is a composer, orchestrator, and arranger from Clinton, Mississippi where, for the past 20 years, he has been the Instrumental Director for the award-winning Attaché Show Choir. In addition to show choir, he has also taught courses in music theory, music production, general music, jazz, and instrumental performance. Prior to Clinton, Mr. Allen was the Associate Director of Bands at Fairhope High School in Fairhope, AL where he directed the marching, concert, and jazz bands. Mr. Allen is a graduate of Mississippi College (B.M.Ed, Ed.S.) and Auburn University (M.M.Ed).
1. Please describe your basic setup. (Your technical setup as well as the physical space that you work in.)
My workspace is really pretty basic; a small room upstairs with a tiny closet (next to a bathroom of course!). My desk is very minimalistic, but I do have three monitors and a TV. I use Finale, Logic Pro and ProTools with an Apogee Duet 2 interface and a MAudio Keystation 88 for basic note input, etc. My monitors are JBL 380s, but I often use my Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones due to late nights. In recent years I have adopted a shortcut system similar to StreamDeck using Keyboard Maestro and an iPad. It simply automates the procedures that I perform regularly and cuts down on the amount of clicks I need to perform a task in Finale or Logic.
2. What is your process for brainstorming or inspiration-seeking as you start a new arrangement?
My main concern is writing an arrangement that fits the skill level of the ensemble performing it. I will often take notes from the director/choreographer first and then listen to as many versions of that piece as possible. Not every song works for show choir, so adapting its feel, tempo, etc. often produces a much better piece. I like to know how the piece fits into the show and what is happening at this point in the “storyline,” if there is one.
3. What is your go-to snack and/or drink when arranging?
Well, I try not to snack late night, but I do enjoy pretzels, grapes, peanut M&Ms, and Coke Zero!
4. What is one thing you wish you would have known when you started arranging?
What looks cool on paper doesn’t always sound good in person.
5. What is your favorite shortcut or time-saving trick in your notation software?
Anything I can program with Keyboard Maestro and the iPad. One click and I can add expressions, etc. Lifesaver.
6. What is a favorite arrangement of yours?
Wow, this is hard. I’m going to go with “One Song/Sing a Song” from Attache 1996. This was the first competition show I ever played in and the take on these tunes checked all the boxes for a great opener!
7. How can people get ahold of you?
This song, my personal arrangements and the entire David Fehr catalog can be purchased at www.rallenmusic.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org