“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” according to Martin Mull. So we’ll set aside artistic discourse for the moment and focus on a more practical matter: professional vs. amateur performers (i.e. “expensive” vs. “cheap”).
These days (and just about any day), costs are a major concern in planning an event. Music being one of the hardest items to quantify, the temptation can be to see how inexpensively musical services can be acquired, from wedding ceremony music to dinner/dance entertainment. A student-led string quartet, a friend or relative who used to sing in college, the local bar band that plays every Friday—these are tempting resources to tap. Their prices are going to be easier on the checkbook than the professional performer who needs to charge accordingly to make a living being a professional.
However, being a professional musician involves more than having talent. Amateur or semi-pro performers can be just as gifted (and occasionally more so) than professionals. However, an awesome performance in a bar, at the karaoke machine, or in the shower may not translate to a seamless, confident performance when the pressure is on within the structured, formal expectations of a social event like a wedding or a gala. As a professional bandleader, gauging the vibe of a crowd, programming sequences of songs that flow together and fill the dance floor, and projecting confidence and enthusiasm onstage while being attentive to my client’s needs offstage are all vital aspects of my work—not to mention playing my own sax part!
Plus, a ceremony postponed by the delayed arrival of key bridal party members, a guest becoming gravely ill on the dance floor, or a prerecorded audio-visual presentation breaking down are only a few examples of unforeseen events that I have personally handled deftly and with a minimum of fuss by adjusting our music to the needs of the unexpected moment.
Think of professional musicians like an insurance policy—you buy insurance for your car, home or health, hoping not to need their benefits. Above and beyond playing the “right notes”, experienced pros have the savvy and flexibility to help smooth over unexpected events that might otherwise interrupt or distract from your guests’ enjoyment of the celebration—a cost worth investing in.
You may be blessed with an event where cost is a minimal factor. But for events that need fiscal prudence, how do you balance costs with creating a memorable event with music? I’ll share more thoughts with you in our next blogathon!
In the meantime, Jennifer Silk, Chicago’s favorite strolling violinist (and coincidently my talented wife), has an interesting personal perspective on this topic in her blog “The Strolling Violinist presents…” Click here to enjoy her blog entry on this timely subject.