SOMD Violinist Says “Hello!” to The Book of Mormon National Tour

By Kristen Hudgins


The day after Annika Porter’s 21st birthday she opened her email to find a message she thought, certainly, was a prank. The email congratulated her for landing the job as a violinist with The Book of Mormon National Tour. “I didn’t think it was real!” Annika laughed.  

She had, in fact, applied for the spot, but her audition tape admittedly felt rushed. At the time, she had a lot going on! She was trying to get through finals week as a junior at the University of Oregon and it was her birthday. So, when she saw the job posting, she quickly recorded her tape in a few hours and sent it off, thinking nothing would come of it.  

But no more than 24 hours later, the acceptance email came. Even though she doubted its authenticity, she responded, saying she was interested. A person identifying themselves as the show’s Music Contractor sent back excerpts from the contract she would have to sign, and she still thought, surely, it was all a scam. “When I finally received the full contract, it finally hit me that it was real and that the tour started in a matter of months,” Annika said. 

It was her dream job. She couldn’t pass it up. So, she signed on the dotted line.  

Annika’s journey to saying ‘Hello!’ to The Book of Mormon National Tour started at six years old when she picked up the violin.


In seventh grade, her love for the instrument exponentially blossomed when she played in her first musical. “I loved the music and taking part in storytelling!” she recalled. “That’s when I started taking violin seriously.” 

She caught the theatre bug and couldn’t get enough! She emailed the community theatres in town, inquiring about opportunities in their pit orchestras, which led to a gig in Newsies. From there, word of her talent spread, and she scored more gigs, establishing herself in the Detroit community. “I really enjoyed being part of a team and theatre brought that aspect to my music,” she said. “I also fell in love with how the set, music and cast all seamlessly come together to create a beautiful story that captures the audience. I really wanted to be a part of that.” 

While playing in a local pit orchestra, she met Detroit-based music director, Matt Croft, who informed her that she could make a career out of this passion. That was all the motivation she needed to improve her skills and fight for her dream job. Her first step on that journey was the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance (SOMD).  

She arrived in Eugene in 2019 to study violin, and later viola, and immediately felt connected to the students and faculty on campus. “Musicians can be competitive, but I found my classmates to be kind, welcoming, open-minded, and supportive!”  

Through the UO Department of Theatre, she added to her pit orchestra resume, playing in several shows, including Once, which presented an exceptional challenge since the musicians appear on stage during the entirety of the performance. She also performed in Songs for a New World at Lane Community College, and more. 


Annika smiles alongside the lead in an SOMD production of A Little Night Music 

Following a break from live theatre during the COVID-19 pandemic, she felt more certain than ever that she had chosen the correct career path for her. “It was so refreshing to get back into theatre,” she remembered after theatre came back. “It filled me with the desire to keep working and keep learning.” 

After the pandemic, she worked her connections to get a glimpse into the life of a professional pit orchestra violinist. Croft helped her get in touch with other music directors and pit orchestra members who brought Broadway shows to Eugene. When they came to town, she sat in the pit and networked with them. “I asked what skills I should be working on, what challenges I could expect from touring, and how I should record a demo reel,” she said.  

All her hard work paid off when she landed her job as a violinist in The Book of Mormon National Tour. She started in September 2022, and has been on the road since, performing in 27 states. “It has been a dream come true in a lot of ways!” Annika said. “Getting to travel and see a lot of different places is incredible. I also love watching the audience members’ jaws drop with every number. They're amazed and I love witnessing that joy.” 


Annika sightseeing while touring across the country 

But there are certainly challenges that come with being on the road. “It’s been hard!” she admits. “As an outsider, it didn’t look hard. But it’s emotionally taxing to not have a home base, to live out of a suitcase.” She also has a rigorous schedule. Just like on Broadway in New York City, she performs in eight shows a week, but on Broadway, they aren’t traveling. Those travel days are typically reserved for Mondays. Then, they do one show per evening on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, she plays in the matinee and evening shows.  


Despite the challenges, she can see herself enjoying life as a pit orchestra violinist for the next five to ten years! She loves the stability, and she has learned quite a bit on the road—tackling jazz and swing music, on top of her classical training. “Just because I have my dream job, it doesn’t mean I have stopped learning,” she said. “I am always challenging myself to grow.”

She has also developed life-long bonds with her band mates. To stay entertained during travel days, they started a tour library, where they buy books from secondhand book shops around the country and share them amongst themselves.  


Annika poses with her bandmates 

None of these experiences would have been possible without the University of Oregon, Annika says. “The SOMD is what got me to where I am today, and I'm so grateful for all the musicians I have worked with and under, especially my viola professor Arnaud Ghillebaert,” she said. “I am so appreciative of my time at U of O.”  

Her time as a Duck isn’t over! Annika plans to finish her senior year by taking online courses and Zoom lessons. In the future, she hopes to make it to Broadway or settle down in a city like Chicago or Portland and continue her theatre work. Her dream shows are Finding Neverland, Hadestown, and Some Like it Hot.