Rian Whitman is a freelance arranger currently residing in Westerville, Ohio. He studied Vocal and Instrumental Music Education at Youngstown State University and Ohio Christian University proudly being a member of esteemed choral groups and trumpet studios.
Rian was the co director of the Teays Valley Show Choirs in Ashville, Ohio, and Medina Show Choirs in Medina, Ohio. Currently, Rian arranges for several show choirs around the nation. Collectively, he has been involved in show choir for the last 21 years; whether it’s performing, arranging, directing, adjudicating, or providing show clinics.
1. Please describe your basic setup. (Your technical setup as well as the physical space that you work in.)
My basic setup is simple: Me, my laptop (with Finale), and my Roland A-500 keyboard! I typically work out of my bedroom office, but not a stranger to Starbucks, the park, airplanes, etc…
2. What is your process for brainstorming or inspiration-seeking as you start a new arrangement?
Once the pieces have been decided on, I tend to watch a show or two of the group in the past to see what their strengths are. As far as arranging structures: I enjoy listening to covers to see how I can add different nuances and choral moments to the arrangement. Once I’ve listened to the songs needed I start to map out where to add solos, treble only, bass only, dance breaks, etc…
3. What is your go-to snack and/or drink when arranging?
I don’t think I could survive without coffee. My favorite snack while arranging is peanuts (plain or honey roasted). It helps me think, oddly enough.
4. What is one thing you wish you would have known when you started arranging?
Three things I really struggled with in the beginning: 1. How to “set” an arrangement. Making sure the vocal range was sufficient for the ensemble, making sure the key was singable, playable for the combo, and making sure the arrangement was interesting enough! 2. I wish I had enough “business sense” back then. I let many organizations walk all over me, just to try to get my name out there. I have since learned I shouldn’t do that! 3. Lastly, one thing a fellow arranger told me, when I first started, that stuck with me was: “You’re providing an arrangement service, not a transcription service – make it your own (unless otherwise mentioned)!”
5. What is your favorite shortcut or time-saving trick in your notation software?
Firstly, I have a dedicated “show choir” ensemble in the setup wizard that saves time creating a “standard” chart. Secondly, a huge time saver for me is Vertical Collision Remover. Rather than having to edit all of the staff systems, it modifies them for you! So helpful!
6. What is a favorite arrangement of yours?
I don’t think I can nail down a specific “favorite arrangement”, however one that I’ve had in my collection for quite some time (and one of my more successful arrangements) is You Give Love a Bad Name/Livin’ On a Prayer. It was written as a closer for Hamilton High School (Ohio) “Rhapsody in Blue” several years ago!