Wedding, Special Events, and Corporate Pianist: An Interview with a Los Angeles Favorite
Pianists add a powerful element to special events. They introduce acts, call on a crowd to sing a song, invite a bride to walk down the aisle, and announce the end of an evening. It’s a powerful position with a great deal of responsibility.
Knowing it is essential to hire the ultimate mood-setting maestro when booking acts for a special event, Unifier Entertainment asked one of our favorite classically trained and multi-genre skilled pianists to share a bit about what makes his process of preparing for certain audiences distinctive from others and to explore a time or two where the artist/audience connection had a deep and profound impact in his life.
What does an LA pianist bring to the scene that’s unique to entertainment industry in a town where music is king and everyone claims to be an artist?
Q: What is the process you might go through when tailoring a set list for different clientele?
The first step is to find out what kind of event it is and if there are any specific song requests and/or styles of music I should focus on. For example, there may be a theme for the event such as “Roaring Twenties.” Depending on the client’s needs, we often send them my complete repertoire list so they can see the variety of music I have to offer. The client may choose to send me a specific list of requests or they may just provide some general direction and give me the freedom to choose songs as I see fit. If there are no specific requests being made, I often determine what to play during my performance as I am constantly feeling the crowd in the moment and selecting songs that keep people engaged and interested. And, again, depending on the event, people may even approach me during my set and make requests which is fine by me as long as it fits within whatever parameters the client has set.
Q: What emotions would you like an audience to feel during a performance?
When I have an attentive audience, I want people to feel moved and inspired by the passion I bring to my performance! When playing in the background for guests who are usually drinking, eating and socializing with each other, I want my music to add flares of excitement and joy, nostalgia and connection, and complement their overall experience by making them feel as if they were taken on a musical journey–whether they were aware of it or not.
Q: Briefly describe a performance that had a profound effect on you.
There is a particular wedding I played last fall at Eden Gardens that comes to mind. For this wedding, we worked closely with the mother of the bride who was coordinating things. The bride had some very specific song requests that were sentimental for her and we wanted to make sure everything was dialed in perfectly. We were providing music for the entire wedding with me playing for the ceremony, dinner and reception as well as providing all the sound equipment and being the emcee. It was a lot of pressure as the whole wedding was riding on my shoulders. The bride loved how everything turned out and was in tears (in a good way) upon hearing the song I played for her walk down the aisle. At the end of the long and successful evening, the mother approached me to tell me she was so thrilled with how much thought and effort I put into making her daughter’s wedding so special, that she gave me the best “tip” I have ever received in my life. Through correspondences with my business partner and wife, she found out that I am a huge Lakers fan and presented me with an authentic LAKERS 2009 Championship Ring! I was beyond grateful and the ring serves as a reminder to me to always do my best to exceed expectations for my clients!
Q: Briefly describe a moment during a performance where something went wrong and how you handled it.
A type of event I play often is performing for big charity galas. For these events, my job is to be on stage at the piano and play 10 second on/off music cues for award presenters, recipients and celebrities, as well as background dinner music. This one time, I was sitting at the piano on stage during someone’s speech and quietly waiting to play my next cue, when to my surprise, a cockroach starts crawling out from inside the piano and onto the keys! My first reaction was to stay calm and not flinch. The last thing I wanted to do was draw attention to myself. I knew I had not even a minute until I was to play my next cue and the cockroach was crawling right on the piano keys in front of me! So, with a smile carved on my face, I slowly reached into my pocket and pulled out a tissue, (luckily I had one), and quickly and precisely I grabbed it and crushed it in my hand. Then I got the attention of a stage assistant to come get the trash, took a deep sigh of relief, and began playing again without a hiccup. Afterward, the stage assistant said she couldn’t believe it; I looked so calm. She just thought I had blown my nose or something. “Well played,” she said!