October 16, 2008.
Here we are last March, entertaining at a private birthday party in the Pavillion at the San Benito County Fairgrounds, in Hollister. This is a little beyond our customary territory, but what a celebration — like a night in Casablanca! Set in an elegant 1930s nightclub, over a hundred close friends gathered to eat, drink, dance, and toast the guest of honor. We were flexible that night, beginning as this quartet providing soft background during cocktails and dinner, and then added a saxophone and a trumpet for some pretty lively dancing afterward — from “Satin Doll” to “Fly Me to the Moon”.
Thanks for the nice photo, Kim. Left to right: Steve Apple, Gary Milliken, me, and Andy Norblin.
The economy’s on everyone’s mind these days. Practically every business is affected, and I hope you’re doing fine. Sure, the budgets might be tighter now, but, as they say, “The show must go on!” People still get married, still celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, still gather with friends at holiday parties, and businesses still celebrate their landmarks at dinner parties.
Successful businesses are adapting to keep up. Entertainment is no exception, and I’m sure you could tell me stories about how you’re coping, too. I see attendance at big concerts, sports events, and movies starting to reflect lower discretionary income, while free events are doing very well, thank you. It’s the same across the board, up and down the scale, ranging from recorded music sales to booking entertainment for special events. In my line of work, I’d expect that an upscale banquet, which hired a 15-piece dance band last year, might today invite fewer guests and opt for a trio, or even a DJ and a fortune teller.
A few trends seem to be emerging here, and they remind me of the ancient Greek fable of the Leopard and the Fox. One day the leopard, well known for his beautiful spots and fine fur, went out into the fields and saw that most of the other animals had plainer coats, and quickly concluded that the others were distinctly inferior. As the leopard was gloating about the nobility of his appearance, the sly fox cautioned him. 'Go ahead and rely on your extraordinary appearance, so long as my intelligence is more extraordinary than yours. Mental power is more impressive than the glamor of good looks!'
Well, maybe you think the moral is about beauty being only skin deep, or about the folly of believing that your own strength is more important than anyone else’s. But I think the moral is really about the virtues of exercising an agile mind.
What’s my point? This: Quick, deep thinking seems to underlie the latest trends in party entertainment. I certainly can’t speak for the entire field, but in my own corner — playing at parties — I’m seeing entertainers innovating to cope with two significant developments. First, we have fewer qualified clients, most have smaller budgets, and they all want memorable parties. Second, most of our clients need to avoid appearing too extravagant.
Successful entertainers for parties are now thinking creatively of ways to add or enhance the bang for their client’s buck — providing more for less, without going broke. In many cases, this requires digging down to find out what each client REALLY wants, and “brainstorming” new, tasteful, and economical ways to make it happen. Adding extras and some “freebies” is always possible, of course, and I’m delighted to see entertainers working more closely with other event professionals, to create what their clients want. The bottom line for success these days seems to rely on our imagination, resourcefulness, and flexibility.
If you catch the band “in action” today, you'll find us coordinating our music with a DJ, or our attire with a decorator, or the meal presentation with a caterer, or special highlights with an event planner or a photographer. Or you'll find us playing in several locations at the facility, to help guide “traffic” and create distinctive moods throughout the event. These are a few simple ways we’re offering flexibility these days.
I’m trying to take my own advice here. We’ve spent years honing our skills, learning what makes parties succeed, and we strive for our very best at every party. We can do the same for you. Is a significant event coming up in your life? Throw a party and include us. Or do you have friends planning their wedding? Please recommend us.
Today I'm talking with people planning parties for Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. If you'll have a party on one of these days, or on any day in between, now's a good time to plan the details, including the music. Have a question? We’ll have the answer.
Call us at 408-245-9120. You'll love what we do. We're easy to work with, so let our experience help your celebration. We play at private parties nearly every day, and you can preview us on Tuesday, October 21 (at a casual cocktail party in Saratoga), on Thursday, November 13 (at a casual benefit dinner in San Jose), and on Saturday, November 15 (at an elegant benefit dinner in San Francisco). Please visit MagnoliaJazz.com for details on these events and more, and I hope to see you soon.