Wedding Ceremony Trends: Live Jazz

  A wedding ceremony music trend we’re seeing more of: live jazz!  It’s different, fun and in the right hands totally appropriate.

A jazz trio or quartet is not unusual for cocktail and/or dinner music, but at a venue where the ceremony is the same location as the reception, a jazz group can provide a livelier, uplifting atmosphere to the nuptials, and then seamlessly kick it up a notch for the reception immediately following.

I recently led a jazz quintet (sax, trumpet, keyboard, string bass, drums) for a beautiful wedding at Chicago’s River East Art Center.  The bride and groom had wanted a little bluesier, jazzier, less traditional feel in their music.  Coordinated by our friends at Big City Bride, the pre-ceremony featured mellower jazz and pop tunes like “It Had to Be You” and “I Will”.  The ceremony included “You Are the Best Thing” for the groom, “Something Tells Me I’m into Something Good” (bridal party), and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” for the bride.  Following the ceremony, livelier jazz and pop tunes like “If I Were a Bell” and “Afro Blue” created a celebratory, upbeat vibe for the couple and their guests.

Tasteful song planning was called for here—wild bebop jazz excursions during pre-ceremony would have been too jarring for the guests’ arrival.  I felt we needed to set a respectful (but not dull) tone for the crowd—a few of whom were a little taken aback at first by the sound (and sight) of a jazz quintet at a ceremony.  But we won them over and created the right mood for the proceedings—fun and celebratory, yet acknowledging that this was an important, special day.

Using professional musicians (not students or club players) ensured that the music would have the right tone at the right time—a subject I’ve touched on in my previous blog (click here).  In the hands of pros, live jazz or popular music can allow brides and grooms to more fully express their unique personality and special love for each other, and can be a pleasant surprise for their wedding guests!

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How to Choose Between Amateur and Professional Musicians

“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.

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