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How to Hire and Select a Music Ensemble

Advice for Selecting a Music Ensemble

1.  Determine the style of your wedding or special event
Select the music ensemble that will best represent your desired atmosphere or mood for the day. Some different styles to consider are light classics, popular, jazz, ragtime, show tunes, or some combination of styles. For wedding receptions, consider using the same musicians for the ceremony as well as the cocktail hour or possibly the entire reception if it coincides with the mood. Most ensembles have a variety of selections that would be appropriate for both the ceremony and reception.

2.  Determine the location of the event
Special consideration is needed with regard to location. Is the ceremony or event to be held indoors or outdoors? When considering outdoor music, most ensembles work very well, however some instruments are heard better than others. For example, a brass quintet will be heard quite easily outside, whereas a flute and harp can also be heard outside, but serious consideration must be given to the proximity of the ensemble to ensure audibility. Another consideration for musical ensembles performing outdoors is the climate and weather conditions. Excessive heat or cold and direct sunlight can cause severe damage, especially to string instruments and woodwind instruments because they are comprised of wood. Ask the musicians about their climate policy and possible alternate plans for climate issues.

3.  Determine the size of the location
Is the church, synagogue, or banquet hall considerably large or small? If indoor, the room size is very important. For instance, if the location is small, than a brass quintet, which tends to be very resonant, would be quite overwhelming. In other words, a woodwind or string ensemble, which resonates differently than brass, would be very pleasant in an extremely small space. Of course the opposite needs to be considered for a large space. A brass quintet would be more appropriate in a large space whereas a flute and harp duo may not be as audible. Sometimes the actual location or position of the musicians within a large or small space can possibly compensate for any audibility concerns. Most audibility concerns are slight, so most important is to choose the type of ensemble that compliments the mood of your wedding or event.

4.  Agency or not? 
An agency represents many types of musical ensembles. The main benefit to an agency is that it provides one location for a choice of various styles of ensembles.  But, if you basically know what type of ensemble or style of music that you want, then it is more beneficial not to use an agency. For instance, you save money by working directly with the musicians, no agency fee, and you also consult directly with the musicians without having a middle person. Why risk the possibility of a communication breakdown between the agency and the musicians?

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         Advice on Hiring a Music Ensemble
What should you expect and questions to ask when hiring a music ensemble

1.  What is the experience of the musicians? Professional vs. Amateur. Professionally trained/educated musicians will most likely be full-time musicians who hold a degree from a music conservatory or music school. These musicians have spent their lives learning the fine skills of performing their instruments and it is apparent in the quality of the music.

2.  Ask for a demonstration tape and a repertoire list of musical selections.  Professional musicians will have both of these items as well as a complete price list and the musicians' biographies.

3.  What is the procedure for special requests?   If a selection that you want is not listed in the repertoire list,  many musicians are willing to perform the request with adequate notification and an additional fee. This fee is due to the time it will take to arrange your particular request for that particular instrument combination.

4.  What is the musicians' attire?  Many musicians wear formal concert black, but it is completely appropriate for you to request that the attire be well-dressed, but not necessarily concert black.

5.  How many breaks will the musicians need?  Most musicians will state on their contract the amount of break time in reference to the amount of performing time.

6.  Does the musicians' service include a consultation and/or site visit?  Most musicians provide consultation via phone and email. Professional musicians are so experienced that it is usually not necessary to visit the site or rehearsal. If the musician attends a rehearsal do not be surprised if an additional fee may be charged. It is recommended that you consult with the musicians to discuss the logistics of the day. A logistic of top priority is the timing of the music during a wedding ceremony. Take the time during the consult or site visit to determine the optimum location for the musicians to be able to view the ceremony, because an unobstructed view is vital in ensuring the proper timing of the processionals, recessionals, etc. If the musicians' view is hindered or obstructed in any way, then make arrangements for someone to cue the musicians to ensure a smooth ceremony.

7.  Do the musicians have referrals or a list of previous clients?  Most musicians will be able to provide some type of referral. Be aware that it is very common for many of the referrals to be from establishments, such as wedding or reception sites, as well as individual clients.

8.  Are there any supplies or special needs required by the musicians?  For instance, in dim lighting, it might be necessary for the musicians to use stand lights, so accessibility to electrical outlets and extension cords may need to be provided by you. Or, the harpist might need assistance with moving the harp up to the choir loft. (In such circumstances it is advisable to ensure the instrument will fit through narrow openings prior to your special day). Also, armless chairs might need to be provided, however, most musicians will provide their own music stands and lights.

9.  What is required to reserve your date with the musicians?  Most musicians require a non-refundable deposit, usually 50%, and a signed copy of their contract in order to book your date with them. Try to reserve your date early for the more popular summer-time weddings and holiday celebrations to ensure you get the day. 

10.  What is the cancellation policy?  The cancellation policy is somewhat variable, but most musicians retain the deposit regardless of the reason or time of cancellation.

Classical Elegance hopes that the above information helps to ease your wedding or event planning. Have a wonderful celebration for your wedding or special event!

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