New Memories, Old Trends

1You know that saying about absence making the heart grow fonder? Well that’s pretty much my connection with the outdoors. I was born and raised in Queens so I quickly learned to cherish my family’s excursions to scenic areas like our timeshare at the Shawnee Inn near the Poconos. Swimming in the Delaware River was fun and so was learning about the different plants and animals but I was an only child. My fondest memories there consist of running around with other kids and constantly getting into trouble! A few months ago, we performed at our friend’s wedding at that very same Shawnee Inn. While her and her hubby created new memories, all of my childhood ones resurfaced along with some new realizations.

On the long drive back home after the wedding, Sadiki and I chatted about how different the same place can seem with a new perspective. The venue’s historic charm was so much more apparent, especially during the gorgeous wedding ceremony. Outdoor wedding ceremonies are always nice when the weather cooperates but this one felt particularly magical. As we started setting up under the protection of a majestic tree, I noticed a huge scar that I’m guessing was caused by lightning or a violent storm. I wish I had taken a picture of it but we still had to sound check and then setup for Cocktail Hour and the First Dance so time was limited. The scar was incredibly deep and almost as tall as the tree itself. We were absolutely stunned that the tree survived, somehow managed to heal and even continued to grow. Chills ran through my body as my inner child imagined the stories this tree would tell me if we were able to communicate… and perhaps it did communicate. Our sound that day was noticeably different and we haven’t been able to duplicate it since. Sadiki is the more scientific2 one of our duo so he thinks it was the combination of warm, humid air and the strange acoustics of being under the tree’s canopy but my inner child has some other ideas. Later on, we entertained during Cocktail Hour on the Inn’s porch and then returned to a pavilion near the river to perform during the First Dance. Moving our equipment back and forth across the breathtaking lawn while wearing an uncomfortable dress and painful heels is a new Shawnee Inn memory that I can’t forget soon enough but it was well worth it. The romantic afternoon transformed into an unforgettable evening of celebration and we were honored to be a part of it.

After wishing our love struck couple goodbye, I ended up chatting with one of the Shawnee Inn employees while we were packing up. I couldn’t help but tell her that I felt like there was something sacred about the area next to the tree where we performed. She said that there actually was. Apparently, Native Americans considered it to be a sanctuary and would gather there every year for a special religious ceremony. It’s easy to understand why they did and why our friends chose that exact location for their wedding ceremony. There’s something powerfully fitting about getting married under an enduring tree that has weathered several lifetimes’ worth of storms and still remembers to flourish beautifully. Watch out. Having nature officiate your wedding may become the “new” trend! 😉

eL

A Vow to Imagine

I’m sure it’s no surprise that most of our business comes from weddings. Romantic music performed live as two souls celebrate their union makes sense. Unfortunately, “romantic music” isn’t very tangible or objective. It can’t be seen, smelled, tasted, touched or even heard. The songs that one couple consider to be romantic will be different from the next, yet the romantic feeling these songs evoke are the same for both. eL and I like to think that the sounds of the upright bass and voice have been in love forever and we’re just telling a bit of their story. Fortunately, those that are engaged are experiencing that same love story.

As children, we’ve all done our fair share of imagining. We imagine everything from what we want to beDahlias when we grow up to what colors our fancy cars will be. Most of all, we imagine the things, events and accomplishments that will make us happy. As we grow older and allegedly wiser, we begin to realize that some of our childhood dreams may not make us as happy as we had originally envisioned. We modify those dreams accordingly or let them go altogether. Our weddings are no different. Whether you’re five years old or thirty five years old, our dreams of what our weddings will entail are constantly evolving. One of our friends, who was recently married, always wanted red roses for her ceremony. That all changed when she met her soulmate during a springtime stroll through Central Park while dahlias were in bloom.

A similar scenario often unfolds when an engaged couple comes across our videos or catches one of our live performances. We hear about their initial plan to hire a string quartet for their ceremony and cocktail hour but now they’ve fallen in love with our style and aren’t sure what to do. We would love to say that everyone chooses to be bold and hire us instead but many are uncomfortable being different and stick with their original plan. Fortunately for us, there are still a few brave and creative folks out there and as the poet Robert Frost said, “I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” That difference is where we focus our attention and talents. As a duo with unconventional instrumentation, we know that we must handsomely reward our clients so we’ve put a great deal of thought into our wedding packages. We believe we’ve come up with the most personalized form of wedding entertainment that currently exists but it does require a couple to imagine like we all did as children.

Budding relationships usually have soundtracks that go unnoticed. We often wonder if our couples would have ever remembered Taylor Swift singing her heart out during their first kiss or the Romeo Santos songs in the background of a memorable evening taking Bachata lessons. These are the memories we ask them to recall so we can ensure that their wedding’s soundtrack pays homage to their relationship’s journey. Once the songs have been selected, we assist them in choosing the right place for them based on their messages. Some songs have a more celebratory message and are perfect for the recessional while others are more sentimental and better suited for the first dance. The challenge is to not let the style of the original song get in the way. We’re known for transforming club hits and pop songs into beautiful romantic ballads, thus exposing their deeper messages. We also enjoy learning and recreating music from all over the world. So far, we’ve had the privilege of performing in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi, Latin and several African dialects. We’re looking to add Hebrew, Mandarin and German to the list so if you know anyone…hint, hint! 😉

While it’s my personal opinion that we should be hired for our music, eL, an unrepentant fashionista who needs shopping rehab, believes our look should be as compelling as our sound. At her request, it’s become vital that our attire always stylishly complement the wedding’s theme and décor. We’ve done everything from Gatsby inspired outfits to futuristic vestments she somehow purchased from 2081. Even I have been forced to admit the obvious. Our couples really do enjoy having control of how we look, as well as sound, on their special day. Just remember that I am an unwilling participant in this dressing up thing and will not crack the faintest of smiles if the client has demanded that I wear white pants or pretty much anything pink! -_-

 

Here’s how we enhance a couple’s wedding day:

Ceremony

We start by performing love songs a half hour before the ceremony begins. It’s a wonderful way to set the mood as guests arrive. And since ceremonies rarely start on time, the least a couple can do is entertain their guests until they decide to show up. We then perform our renditions of the couple’s favorites during the processional and recessional. We conclude with another song or two as guests exit.

Cocktail Hour

Cocktail hour is where we have a bit more fun. We usually perform an upbeat set from all genres but this can be customized as well. For example, one of our couples asked us to not play any reggae during cocktail hour since they hired a reggae band for their reception. When we first started doing weddings, we were consistently hired for just the cocktail hour but those couples always offered the same feedback. Their guests loved our performances but since the couples were busy taking pictures and greeting everyone, they never had an opportunity to enjoy us. We want our couples to be 100% happy so we’ve created our First Dance & Dinner package so they can have their own show.

First Dance & Dinner

MM1As you may have gathered, I’m not the most lovey-dovey type but I can’t deny that our unique renditions are perfect for the First Dance. It’s a couple’s first dance together as one. Isn’t it fitting that they dance to a version of their favorite love song that no one has ever heard before? And isn’t it even more fitting that the sounds of just the bass and voice represent the harmony between two people with a profound connection? Speaking of connections, we want all of our couples’ dance moves to be as smooth as our music. That’s why we send them recordings of their First Dance songs beforehand so they can practice and not embarrass themselves. If they would like, we also perform for the Mother-Son and Father-Daughter Dances. After the dances, the couple is able to finally sit down, eat dinner and enjoy us perform. Once the guests are ready to get their booty shaking on, it’s time for the DJ or wedding band to take over.

 

Now it’s time for me to bore you with the decidedly unsexy but important technical aspects of how we make all of this happen. We own three separate high-end sound systems. That enables us to setup a separate system in the ceremony, cocktail hour and reception areas and quickly move between them. Our sound systems are so easy to use that some of our couples have decided to play their own playlists (via an iPod, cell phone, tablet or laptop) through them for the reception and forgo the expense of a DJ. We provide wireless microphones as a courtesy and they regularly come in handy for officiants during ceremonies and announcements and speeches during receptions. If the venue warrants it, we provide a small stage and lighting as well. Although it’s a lot of equipment for us to lug around, it’s necessary since we aim to make our couples’ dealings with us as easy as possible. While we drive all over the Northeast for weddings, we’re also a fantastic option for those getting married abroad. We both love to travel and my bass folds into a much smaller case (think The Jetsons) that’s airline friendly.

Most couples recognize that we are a luxury source of entertainment but we do occasionally get couples who are surprised by what we charge. Perhaps they spoke to a harpist or violinist who quoted them a few hundred dollars to perform for their wedding. That’s similar to the difference in cost and quality of buying a wedding dress off the rack from David’s Bridal versus commissioning Carolina Herrera to create a couture gown. Both options technically get the job done but only the couture gown was created specifically  for the client and will astonish all who lay eyes on it. It requires an exceptional amount of effort, skill, creativity and time so naturally, there’s a higher cost. Our rates are not dramatically higher than the average musician’s but what we offer is infinitely more valuable. This is due to the unparalleled level of personalization we are known for. Ultimately, our ideal couple is not consumed with having the most economical wedding possible. Instead, they embrace imagining an incredible day celebrating their love and know we are the pen and paper they must use to compose their wedding’s soundtrack.

 

eL’s Loyal Manservant

iPhoneagraphy, Gotham and…Veend! (“wind” with a frozen German accent)

The clearest of skies and blinding sunlight tell a misleading tale. This was our first official photo shoot as a duo and it was quite an experience. Our photographer, Vitus Feldmann, was a German fellow who only takes photos with iPhones and iPads. On the other hand, my bass player is a part time techy so he isn’t the biggest fan of Apple products (he actually wants the new Blackberry!) because of how “locked down” they are. He also detests being photographed so it took several weeks of intense negotiations before he finally agreed to this project. The temperature on that lovely afternoon was supposed to be around forty degrees but the wind was in a particularly foul mood so it felt closer to the teens. I suspect I would have been warmer just wearing lotion rather than the stunning dress by Douglas Says… but Vitus said that “one must suffer to be beautiful” so I’ll try to keep my complaining to a minimum. Our videographer, Mike Larry Ward, was dressed far more appropriately and I can’t remember ever being so jealous of someone simply for having a warm hat, scarf and gloves. Sometimes, it’s the little things in life…

We chose Brooklyn Bridge Park as the location for the shoot because of the contrast between the autumn foliage, water and city skyline. The combination is both breathtaking and a perfect visual representation of our music. I must confess that because of Sadiki’s reservations with all things Apple (except pie), I had my doubts that an iPhone would be able to fully capture those moments. Fortunately, Vitus and his iPhone wasted no time putting me at ease. The camera accurately picked up every color and detail and even had no problem with the challenging lighting of sunset. And despite Sadiki’s aversion to being photographed, he turned out to be a natural and he’s obviously photogenic. His gift (and sometimes curse) for joking around about any and everything made the time pass quickly but it also taught everyone involved a very useful lesson. He didn’t care for the initial photos because he felt that our smiles were insincere so he decided to address the situation with childish pranks like teasing and pinching me. This led to a lot of laughter on his end and because laughter is so contagious, everyone joined him. At first, I tried not to but there were times when his antics were just too funny not to laugh at and as you can see, the results speak for themselves. Keep that in mind the next time telling someone to say “Cheese” before a picture isn’t doing the trick.

A few weeks before the shoot, a great friend of ours suggested that we learn the classic, Autumn in New York. When I first listened to the greats like Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald sing it, I honestly thought there was no way I could do it justice. Somewhere near the top of the “Things That Annoy eL” list is hearing or seeing someone try to remake a song or movie and having the new version end up worse than the original. Fortunately, my cowardice was spotted right away by “you know who” and the tune became a huge part of the photo shoot negotiations. For some time, I really struggled to learn the first verse and feared that learning the entire song would be impossible. Luckily, there was a sudden shift and I “got it”. The rest of the song became a….well I was going to say breeze but I’m going with “Veend!” in honor of our iPhoneographer, Vitus, and the wicked temperatures that day. We hope you enjoy our rendition of the song, the video of the photo shoot and of course, the pictures.

eL

Implications…

Here’s a little something for those of you who can’t sleep at night because you’re dying to hear some of our original music. We recently had the pleasure of performing as part of The Belletrix Exhibit at Raw Space NYC in Harlem. All of the artwork in this video was from the exhibit and it’s set to the first song from our debut album, “Effloresce”. Hopefully this will be enough to hold you over while we finish up our masterpiece…and we say that with much humility of course.

5 Things to Remember When Planning a Fund Raiser

Acute Inflections Event

Fundraising events are a popular form of raising money as well as awareness for certain causes or groups. Charity balls or dinners are also considered as social events, and many people can’t wait to receive their invites or e-vites.
If you’re planning a fundraiser or a non-profit event, you must remember that there’s a lot more riding on it than just good reviews. The success of the event assures your charity or group of funding for at least one more year. So plan your event carefully.

Here are a few pointers to help you along:

1. Have a Clear Goal or Purpose

Non profit events don’t always have to be just about raising money. Some events are used as a vehicle to introduce a new project, a personality (like an endorser or benefactor), or introduce the organization to the press and public. Having a clear goal sets the tone for the rest of the planning stages, and gives you a good idea of who to invite as well as where to hold the event.

If it’s a real fundraiser, however, the goal will be to set an amount that needs to be met.

2. Set Your Budget

Know how much you can spend by listing down all of the expenses. Thus should include the cost for invitations, the venue rental, catering, security, décor, food and entertainment. It is extremely important to stay within the budget you’ve set, otherwise you won’t be able to meet the target amount you’re trying to raise. Word of advice though: set aside a little extra money for unforeseen costs or additional charges.

3. Plan Your Guestlist Carefully

The key to a successful fundraiser is having the right mix of people in your event. Are you inviting businessmen? Artists? Parents? Young professionals? It’s up to you to decide who your target audience is, just be sure that these are the people you want to be associated with your project. If it’s a press launch, be sure to invite members of the press, including internet influencers.

4. Envision the Set Up

You can create a mock-up of the venue set up including seating arrangements, buffet set up, and where the stage will be. If there will be dancing involved, make sure that there’s enough space in the ballroom for it. Additionally, the band should be positioned strategically for everyone’s pleasure.

5. Entertainment

Fundraisers are more formal than any ordinary party, so it’s best to hire entertainers who are appropriate for the event. A rock band is definitely out of the question, but a lounge singer or pianist would be tasteful and elegant. For a more contemporary touch, you can hire a jazz duo and have them perform an eclectic selection of R&B songs, Top 40 hits, and some jazz classics.

Here’s a bonus tip: After the party, don’t forget to send thank you cards or an email to all your guests as well as the event volunteers. This is one way of keeping your donors happy, and willing to support you and your organization next year.

How to Have Fun Team Building Sessions During a Corporate Event

Corporate Team Building

Corporate events don’t have to be limited to cocktail parties or elaborate dinners. It can actually be an entire weekend away at a resort or a hotel where the employees can all mingle and interact. You can take advantage of this time to plan short but meaningful team building sessions. These breakout sessions can be done per department in order to focus the goals according to what they need more – communication, scheduling, sales etc.

Here are some things to remember when planning team building sessions:

1. Make It Fun

If it were a strategic planning session, it should have been at the boardroom. But since this activity will take place at a more relaxed atmosphere, it should also be laid back and relaxed. The breakout sessions can be in between rounds of sports or other activities for the day. Start with icebreakers so people will become relaxed.

2. Show Videos or Photos of Past Team Building Sessions

It’s always good for employees to see past team building sessions or corporate activities. The older ones will feel nostalgic and proud to have stayed for many years, while the newbies will have something to look forward to. More importantly, it shows how well the company looks after its employees.

3. Listen to the Common Folk

Team building sessions are a good way to listen to what the rank and file have to say. The managers and supervisors are always in control during meetings at the office, so make this a little different. Ask the employees to list down their suggestions for their department, and for the company. It can be about work, or about how the work environment can be improved. The suggestions can be anonymous, since some employees are hesitant to voice out their concerns. This little exercise gives management a chance to get a real pulse of what’s happening in their organization.

4. Use Technology

Spice things up a bit by using social media in the team building activity. You can use Instagram, Twitter, or FaceBook for games. You can also create a twitter hashtag for this corporate event and have everyone upload their photos during sessions and other activities.

5. Good Food and Great Music

Cap the day or weekend activity with a party. Make sure that it’s tasteful and well-planned because it is after all, a company function. For larger groups, hiring a live band or a DJ is a good idea. Make sure that the venue has enough space for dancing if that’s the kind of gathering you like to have. For smaller, more intimate and formal settings, a jazz duo with an eclectic repertoire just might be the thing you need.

Team building sessions are all about communication and building better rapport with your department, or the rest of the company. It allows the management to reconnect with the staff at a personal level while having a little fun and relaxation in the process.

Make cocktail events and corporate functions more memorable with the sultry vocals and upbeat tunes of Acute Inflections. Contact us at 800-610-0704 for booking information!