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Bar mitzvah party songs and dance

Band aid

for The Brooklyn Paper

Recorded music is always flawless but there’s a reason why 500,000 people showed up for Woodstock and Radiohead tickets typically sell out within minutes. There’s something spontaneous and intangibly magical about live music and if you hire a band for your upcoming bar and bat mitzvah celebration, you can provide your guests with something as special as Jimmy Hendrix playing the guitar with his teeth.

“A wonderful variety of music to please all ages and tastes is what makes a party great,” says bandleader Ken Gross.

And many people don’t realize that personal service is just as important as excellent musicianship.

“Selecting the orchestra can be very confusing,” explains Gross. “A decision about music should be based on much more than just an appealing sound or a tempting price. Remember that music will be the life of your party. Don’t overlook its worth or underestimate the overall effort involved to do things right.”

What are the key questions to keep in mind when shopping for the right band or orchestra?

• Can you communicate easily with the bandleader. Does he or she make you feel comfortable discussing the composition of your guest list, your musical tastes, and your budget? Are you offered ideas and supporting materials (CDs, MP3s, YouTube videos, questionnaires, song lists, etc.), which world be helpful? Will you have the bandleader’s personal attention throughout the planning stages? Do you have confidence in this person?

• Does the band have a broad and extensive repertoire of musical styles? Are they willing to add the songs that are special and important to you? Will they adjust the MC-ing of your affair and the volume according to your taste?

• Will the bandleader (and the band) prepare for your event in a thorough and organized way? Will all your input be collated and will everyone be fully briefed and rehearsed? Will they follow your do’s and don’t’s and be attentive to all the details?

• Is the bandleader an experienced party professional with the savvy to keep the party lively and the dance floor full? Does he or she understand the timing and mechanics of a party and possess the finesse to cooperate seamlessly with the caterer, photographer, videographer, and others so that your party goes smoothly? Some bands don’t have a clue or won’t make the effort. The result is a clumsy and disorganized affair.

• What’s the band’s reputation? Call their references. Ask about the band’s professionalism, integrity, versatility, and service. Were they helpful consultants during planning? Were their parties truly customized? Was the music everything the clients wanted and everything the bandleader promised?

• What are the band’s professional credentials? Are they trained, full-time musicians? Is the band a set, rehearsed entity? Are the vocals strong and are there harmony vocals? Is the band talented, dynamic, and energetic? Will they be formally attired and properly groomed?

“Don’t delay your search for a band,” adds Gross. “As soon as you know the time and place, start looking. Good bands are booked early, especially for popular dates.”

“Interviewing dozens of bands is definitely counterproductive,” warns Gross. “With the exhaustion and confusion you’re likely to suffer, you might be prone to making a poor choice. It would be better to concentrate your time and energy on a handful of recommended groups. If you are still not sure, look at only a few more. Decide, then make a commitment.”

When collaborating with the bandleader you select, you will naturally be focusing on your own musical tastes. But don’t forget to consider your guests as well. “Most people love to dance and you’ll want everyone to have a great time,” Gross says. “To some, this means waltzes and fox trots. To others, it means Top 40 and disco. A wise bandleader will encourage you to include something for everyone.”

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