In the Room Where it Happens: Lily Ling
In this new exclusive series for The Magazine, members of the company of HAMILTON reflect on what’s it’s like to be a part of the show and performing in San Francisco. HAMILTON continues its smash run at the Orpheum Theatre. Tickets start at $95. Click here for tickets.
Meet HAMILTON’s Music Director Lily Ling
Tell us about your position/role with HAMILTON. What does a typical day on the job look like for you?
I am the music director/conductor and I think I have one of the best jobs in the building! I teach music to the actors, rehearse with our local resident/creative team and also have the pleasure of conducting the show with an amazing band! I like to describe my job as the gate keeper who oversees quality control of all things music. Lin and Alex Lacamoire has created such a wonderfully complex score and it is the job of the music director to make sure their vision is executed at a high level each and every show.
On a typical day, I arrive at the theatre anywhere between 90 mins to 2 hours before curtain. I’m trying to separate work and home a bit more these days so I save the typing up of notes from the night before for next day at the office.
On certain lucky days, I will have a physical therapy session with our amazing PT, Kylie – she’s really the one the people who keeps the show running smoothly but making sure our bodies are healthy and happy. Around the half hour, I will check in with our actors and the musicians with any thoughts from the previous performances. And then it is almost 3 hours of non-stop (pun intended) music!
What inspires you most about HAMILTON? Which of the show’s themes have resonated in your life?
The story of Hamilton, himself, and also of the creation and values of this piece resonates with me on many levels. I am an immigrant and arrived in Canada with almost zero knowledge of the language or culture. Learning the customs and not only trying to fit in, but also striving for success in a new country was something that was really spoke to me after learning about Hamilton’s life.
The thing that most inspires me with the success of HAMILTON is the people who had the ingenuity to create this masterpiece are all some of the most brilliant but also more importantly, kind and supportive mentors and human beings I have ever encountered in this industry. They are patient with each new company members’ learning curve, they take pride in each and everyone’s growth and success, and they take the time to get to know everyone on a very basic human level. The way they treat their company members is a great reflection of how the show was crafted – with the utmost love and care.
What HAMILTON lyric would you use as your life motto?
Oh, this one is easy: “I am not throwing away my shot.”
Are there specific moment(s) that stand out and make you proud of the work the company is doing?
I have been very lucky to participate in a various community outreach events with HAMILTON. While on the 2nd national (Philip) tour, our Eliza, Shoba Narayan, began an initiative where we would visit one foster care organization per city. We would give a musical theatre workshop and also speak with underprivileged youth about our experiences in the arts.
After arriving in San Francisco, I have also participated in events hosted by Dress For Success, the Larkin Street Youth Services, and the Levi Strauss Foundation. All of these opportunities have given me the opportunity to share my story and most importantly, meet some amazing people doing such selfless and inspiring work!
What do you enjoy about working/performing in San Francisco?
One of the things I love about working in San Francisco is seeing the diversity in both the age and cultural backgrounds of our audience members. It is so heartening to see so many families in the auditorium. And selfishly, one of my favorite things is when I step onto the podium and, every once in a while, I hear a little girl exclaim, “Look! It’s a girl!”
What’s an item on your San Francisco bucket list?
I am a novice on the bicycle (fun fact: didn’t learn to ride until I was 26) and I have a HUGE fear of heights. If I can gather up the courage, I would love to ride across the Golden Gate Bridge and celebrate with a cocktail in Sausalito.
Have you discovered any great neighborhoods?
I absolutely adore walking, exploring, and catching up on my podcasts so this is one of my favourite routes: Start around Hayes Valley with a cappucino from Ritual then up to Lower Pacific Heights. I like to take Fillmore to grab the yummiest masala chai from Samovar. Turn left on Broadway and take the hill all the way up to the Lyon Street Steps. Then down into the Presidio for a quick hello to the Yoda Fountain and then for a never not magical saunter through the Palace of Fine Arts. From there, it’s down to the beach and a most likely windy walk that ends at Crissy Field!
State Bird Provisions/The Progress (some of the most creative and delicious Californian cuisine); Cotogna/Quince (Quince has the best cocktail I have tasted in SF called “100 Years of Solitude”); Bouche (best spot for a glass of post-show bubbly rosé); Mahila (beautifully crafted Malaysian cuisine); Kantine (my go-to cafe to work or catch up with friends; great coffee, simple and delicious Scandinavian fare).
I like to take to road less traveled so I have yet to go to any of the main SF attractions other than the Palace of Fine Arts. On a two show (sunny) day, I love getting a coffee and sitting around Patricia’s Green in Hayes Valley to soak in some vitamin D.
Walk Walk Walk. There are so many amazing neighborhoods to see and explore! I consider eating as the most important and enjoyable recreational activity so I refer you all to my restaurant list 🙂
What advice would you give to someone who wants to enter your field?
Say YES to opportunities because you never know who you will meet and who may be watching in the audience.
Be patient and observe, listen and learn, and most importantly, take pride in your work by always giving 100% to every performance.
What’s one thing audiences would be surprised to know about you?
The accordion was my first instrument. It was my accordion teacher who encouraged my parents to put me into piano lessons!