Sara Schreiner is a music arranger, composer, producer and business owner in Chicago’s western suburbs. She has been arranging, composing, and producing music for over 20 years for choirs and show choirs across the country. She has also taught private voice, piano, and flute lessons for over 14 years. Sara truly enjoys writing for and teaching middle school students, because they’re hilarious, and typically very eager to learn! She has no real “hobbies” except working, of which she enjoys every bit. At home, she loves teaching piano lessons to her 7-year old son, Desmond, and laying down tracks with her husband in their recording studio!”
1. Please describe your basic setup. (Your technical setup as well as the physical space that you work in.)
My set up varies based on the project. I have a recording studio in my basement where my husband and I record live instruments for backing tracks, sample vocal tracks, and more involved midi. I have an m-audio keystation pro 88 midi controller for bigger projects, and I use Finale, Reason & Logic for all arranging and recording purposes. For quicker or more vocal-heavy projects, I can typically be found on the couch with my “little guy” (tiny m-audio midi controller), and episodes of Shark Tank playing on the TV in the background!
2. What is your process for brainstorming or inspiration-seeking as you start a new arrangement?
I look to directors and choreographers for a great deal of direction regarding logistics for an arrangement, but for straight-up inspiration, I tend to just sit and stare into space for a while, and see what hits me.
3. What is your go-to snack and/or drink when arranging?
COFFEE is my go-to drink, and my favorite snacks are pickles, cheese, or keto clusters from Costco. Mmmm
4. What is one thing you wish you would have known when you started arranging?
When I started arranging, I was in high school doing charts for my own group. At the time, I wish I had known just how valuable the skills would be that I was taught by my band director, the late Sue Halloway, who was one of the greatest arrangers I have ever known. I also wish I had known the importance of formatting a piece and creating templates!!!
5. What is your favorite shortcut or time-saving trick in your notation software?
There are so many Finale shortcuts and time-savers! Just knowing all the keyboard commands is huge. Particularly the keyboard commands to select layers, hide/show active layers, and turn filters on & off. I also always start with a the same template I created, so I’m never changing menial things like font sizes or page sizes.
6. What is a favorite arrangement of yours?
Some of my favorite arrangements are the band charts I’ve done for Sauk Prairie, since they do musicals. They’re a lot of fun to write, and West Side Story was particularly fun. But my hands-down favorites would be the original music I wrote with Alex Hall & Robert Deason for “Ferris Bueller,” then got to arrange for the Chesterton Sandpipers. I don’t have a link, but it’s gotta be on YouTube somewhere!
7. How can people get ahold of you?
Email is the best way for anyone to get ahold of me! I’m typically swamped, so I don’t have a website or online catalogue, but I have hundreds of charts and performance tracks, many with live instruments and sample vocal tracks. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’m happy to provide a list, samples, or custom work!