Hi and welcome to the FritzPro Music, Inc. blog! My name is Trish and I’m the President of the company. I will be using this space to tell stories of the events I’ve done, provide advice on selecting music, and to answer your questions about our services or your event. Even if you don’t choose us, I think that it’s important to be a savvy consumer and hopefully the information contained here will help you find quality professionals who will do a wonderful job for you.

Creative Financing

As we all know, there has been a decided downturn in the economy, which has affected the way we all spend our money.  If you’re like me, that means not spending any money at all!  Unfortunately, you have to spend money if you want to have a beautiful wedding, but you don’t have to overspend.  I had a bride a few weeks ago who had planned the wedding of her dreams last year, and it was a large elaborate affair with all the trimmings.  As money started drying up, she and her groom became very stressed about the fact that what they had planned was no longer financially feasible and went about downsizing the event.  The problem they ran into was that it was only a couple of months before the wedding and a lot of the vendors (myself included) were unable to accomodate fee-free cancellations.  They did cancel the vendors who were happy to cancel and then shifted the rest of us around so that they could get maximum bang for the buck.

 We were originally scheduled to play their wedding ceremony and cocktail reception, and would be followed by a DJ for the rest of the evening.  They decided to cancel the DJ (who was happy to cancel as he was a friend of the family and was doing it mainly as a favor) and have no music for the very short, intimate ceremony on the beach with our jazz trio providing entertainment for cocktails and the main reception.  They had shrunk the guest list so that it included only family and very close friends so they felt that the smaller, more intimate entertainment would be fine, and it was. 

 At the end of the day they were able to share their wonderful occasion with those who mattered most to them in a beautiful location (the Sheraton Oceanfront in Virginia Beach) with great food and top-quality entertainment.  It was a truly memorable occasion for them and when they look back I think that they’ll have absolutely no regrets about doing as they did.

The bottom line is that if you have the budget for a “Platinum Wedding”, by all means, go for it!  But if you’re like the rest of us who have to watch where our dollars go, don’t think that you can’t have a beautiful, perfect wedding day on a budget.  Think about what is most important to you and spend your money there, and then perhaps scale down your expectations for the rest.  Maybe you’ll have a jazz trio rather than a band, or smaller florals, or even use the tableware and linens provided by the venue.  They’re not as customized or as fancy as those you might rent but they get the job done and generally look fine (or in the case of a lot of the venues where I play, downright stunning!).

A year ago, I threw a retirement party for my husband, who was finishing a 22 year career with the Air Force band and we had great live music, a ton of food, a tasty and attractive cake and beautiful table decor (which I designed and made myself from materials bought at deep discounts on the internet) for 40 people in a country club for under $2000.00.  I do realize that this was a bit smaller than the average wedding and probably a bit more informal (although the food consisted of crab cakes and a variety of other substantial items) but it is possible to have a gorgeous, personal event without breaking the bank.

Just remember that it’s a celebration and not a Broadway production.  Keep your budget in mind and know that even if you aren’t able to afford centerpieces at $1,500 each or get a $10,000 wedding band, or even feed your guests filet mignon and lobster topped off by a piece of $2000 wedding cake, your friends and family will have a great time and will be happy that they got the chance to share in your special day.

It’s Wedding Season!

Well, wedding season is upon us here at FritzPro Music and we’re very excited!  We played our first wedding of the year last weekend at First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach and it could not have been a more beautiful day.  There were severe thunderstorms forecast but they just didn’t materialize and what we had was a breezy, sunny day with the temperature in the mid-70’s, and no humidity.  It was heaven!  The wedding party even wore cool sunglasses for the perfect beach wedding effect!

One word of caution about having a wedding at this location:  It is beautiful and perfect, but it also entails a very long walk from the parking lot (several hundred yards over a boardwalk and then another hundred yards or so from the end of the boardwalk to a location far enough away from the end to not impede other beach visitors’ access).  Be sure to let your vendors know about this.  We were prepared for the boardwalk push, but not for the added haul of all of our equipment through deep sand.  It was physically exhausting just to get set up (and I’m in good shape!).  Also, be aware that there is no power available so any sound reinforcement has to be provided via a battery-powered system (something we have but a lot of groups don’t). 

I would not recommend going with a group with no sound reinforcement at this or any other open beach location because it’s always breezy and the sound will just be carried away.  The sound was perfect in the area where the guests were gathered, but the starting point for the bridal party was far enough away that I had to use hand signals to let the planner know when we were beginning each segment of the processional.  It was a mildly humorous situation, but fortunately the planner and I both saw it as such and found a solution to the hearing problem with a smile on our faces.  The processional went off without a hitch, the bridal party was beautiful, the bride radiant and the groom handsome, and they even got to hear their favorite Grateful Dead tune during the processional! 

All in all, it was a very auspicious start to the year, and we couldn’t be more pleased!  We have lots more weddings to come, and I’ll be sharing our experiences here so that you can laugh and cry tears of joy right along with my brides and grooms, and when it’s your turn, I’ll share your highlights as well!

Happy Wedding Season!

What the heck is a “Bridezilla”?

It seems that the whole wedding world is abuzz with the term “bridezilla”.  Heck, they even have a television series devoted to it!  Everyone loves to see girls behaving badly I guess.  I’ll admit that I have watched the show on occasion and I have come to a conclusion about bridezillas: their main problem is that they are overwhelmed by the list of things to do and the stress of planning a wedding and in large part, they are trying to do everything themselves.  Sure, there are some people who just can’t be satisfied no matter what anyone around them does, but we’ll assume for the sake of this post (and also for the sake of plain honesty) that most women who are dubbed “bridezilla” are not these people. 

In the 10 years or so that I have been in the wedding business, I have worked with over 300 brides and not a bridezilla among them!  I have worked with some who had major problems with their other vendors and those vendors had a tendency to dub them bridezillas but they were lovely to me.  Why do you think that is?  Is it because I’m just the greatest person on the planet?  No, I’m just a person like anyone else.  Is it that the other vendors were bad people?  In general, no, although I have worked with some who should seriously consider a career change…

So, what was the magic formula I used to keep everyone calm?  Simple information.  That’s right, information.  The first thing I do is recognize (and embrace) the fact that all of my brides are amateurs at planning large scale events and they are nearly all overwhelmed by the scope and ever-escalating cost of the endeavor.  The first thing I do is that I listen to them.  One more time… listen to them!  I let them tell me anything they want to tell me whether it has to do with music or not and then I figure out a way to help them in any way that I can. 

I do spend a lot of time going over music choices and group instrumentation but I also help them in other ways by asking about their other needs.  “Do you have all the vendors you need?  Can I recommend a coordinator, photographer, florist, or caterer to you?”  My membership in ISES (The International Special Events Society) has allowed me to meet and work with all of the top events professionals in this area and I am always happy to make recommendations if it will lessen my bride’s burden.  Many brides are just happy to talk with someone who can help them make a plan so that the task seems less daunting.  Also, if I can alleviate some of their big fears they become ready to tackle new things like choosing musicians.

I also tell them that my other assistance comes free of charge and without any sort of expectation that my recommendations will lead to a job for me.  I only want a bride to hire us if we are exactly what she wants.  I have been known to tell a bride when I feel that we can’t provide what she wants and will generally try to make recommendations for other musical groups or avenues to pursue that will be a better fit.  That is a rare thing but happens in cases where we are either totally booked already or when she wants a type of music that we don’t play (like sitar for an Indian wedding, for example). 

At the end of many conversations that start out a little panicked and curt, I can feel the bride relaxing over the telephone (or see her if we are meeting in person) and the tone changes to friendly and eager to move forward.  I think that in many cases all brides need is someone (anyone) who knows what to do saying to her “It’s all going to work out, don’t worry so much about little things that won’t matter to you in the end, and feel free to call me if you need to”.  After that, she feels more in control and Bridezilla disappears on the wind.

What is my advice to you?  Don’t panic and keep in mind several important things:                                                                                                                                                    1. It’s a family celebration, not a Broadway Production.  Don’t worry about the possibility of some little thing going wrong (like whether or not your 3 year old niece goes down the aisle on cue.  Sometimes the unexpected occurrences make for the best memories!)                                                                                                                                    2. Make a budget and stick to it.  Try not to get carried away by the little extras that are nice but that will blow your budget out of the water.                                                                                                                                                   3. If you are on a tight budget, make a list of the things that are most important to you and work your way down the list.  In other words, if music is very important to you, be willing to spend a little more on that and maybe get smaller table arrangements or decide not to have the ice luge and martini bar.                                                                                                                                                        4. Don’t let anyone talk you into anything you don’t really want.  You’ll be unhappy and you’ll spend money on things that are unimportant to you.                                                                                                                                                      5. If all else fails, GET HELP!  Either hire a professional coordinator (you can hire them for everything from full service where they take care of all the details to “day of” where they just make sure the last minute details are done and take care of everything on your wedding day), or get a trusted friend or family member to help you.  Your wedding is important to be sure, but if you are totally overwhelmed in the months preceding it, you won’t enjoy the fruits of all your hard work!  And let’s face it; the Bridezillas do have one thing right:  It is truly all about you!

The lost art of customer service

Many people today don’t even know the meaning of customer service.  It’s not our fault; it’s just that we have been so long exposed to non-customer service being passed off as the real deal that we don’t know that we’re not getting it anymore.  Let’s face it: if I have a problem with a product or service and need some assistance from the company, I don’t like having to spend 30 minutes wandering endlessly through the maze of voice-prompted menus to find that an actual person doesn’t exist and my problem doesn’t fit neatly into one of their pre-programmed compartments.  I don’t know one person who doesn’t hate that, yet we all accept it.  I guess to a certain extent we must because so many companies are offering that and no alternatives.

Sometimes, however, we do still have a choice, especially when we are dealing with smaller companies (and some larger) in the service and hospitality industries.  One thing that you know is that weddings are expensive, even small ones.  Wedding services are also expensive.  The price that I charge for my music comes with a guarantee of great customer service and I don’t think you should settle for anything less when dealing with any of your vendors.

What does great customer service mean to me?  What it means in its most basic form is that I either answer the telephone when you call or if I’m out of the office, return your call as soon as possible.  The same goes for e-mail.  I try not to let anything lie around for more than 24 hours if at all possible.  Beyond that, however, is a whole lot more.  When I am on the telephone with you, I never, EVER put you on hold to take another call.  The new caller will be directed to leave a voice message and my telephone tells me that there are messages as soon as I’m finished with you.  I know that I’m not 25 years old and that a lot of technology has sprung up since I was younger but I do like technology and am eager to embrace it when it serves me.  I don’t serve it.  Let me say that again: I don’t serve technology.  I serve people.  There’s a very important message there I think. 

So, back to the phone call…  When I am speaking with you, you are my only priority.  I don’t sort my mail or doodle about other projects, I listen to you, take notes, and make suggestions when asked.  I give you as much time as you need to get the answers that you need to feel comfortable about decisions being made and money being spent.  I am always happy to hear from you, even if it’s often.  If I don’t have time to talk, I will let my voice mail answer and then call you back the moment I am free.  In other words, I’ll never answer the phone and say “I can’t talk now”.  I hate that and I think that it’s rude for a business to treat clients in this way.

I am also always happy to make recommendations for other vendors, even if you should decide not to hire us.  I know that planning a wedding is often overwhelming and if I can help sort through some of the confusion for you, it’s my pleasure to do so.

Having said all of these wonderful things about how I take care of my customers I will also admit that I’m not perfect.  I do make mistakes from time to time and I miss calling a client back once in awhile.  I try not to make a practice of it, but in the event that things happen (for example, I got the flu recently and work just piled up while I was feverish and it has taken several weeks to get caught up) the first thing that I do is own up to it.  I am apologetic and humble, and grateful to my clients for having the patience to wait.  It’s the very least I can do and it doesn’t cost me anything to do it.  It seems that more often than not people who make mistakes spend a lot of time and energy looking for someone to blame for their mistakes and the fact is that most folks are very understanding if only we are honest and humble about being human. 

There are also instances where, for whatever reason, a client isn’t happy with the way things are going.  I would like to think that everything is always perfect but we all know that sometimes things just don’t go according to plan.  I’ll give you an example:  A couple of years ago, I was hired by a corporate client to provide very elegant classical music for a welcome reception for a high-level corporate retreat.  I spoke with the client several times and was assured that classical was what they wanted, and they hired me to play flute with my guitarist.  The night of the event came and we began to play.  After about 15 minutes, the CEO of this rather large corporation sauntered over and said, “You know, your music is beautiful and I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but good lord, this is boring!  Don’t you have anything… you know, livelier?”  I knew what he meant because classical music is elegant, beautiful and a wonderful backdrop for lots of types of events but what he really wanted was something a little more fun.  My first thought was, and I said it to him: “How can we fix it for you?”  I wasn’t offended and I wasn’t angry because this man wasn’t the person who decided on the music and even if he was, he obviously had a different idea from me of what classical music was.  I said to him that I had another instrument in the car and could play some Frank Sinatra jazz with vocals to boot and he was ecstatic!  We re-grouped and began to play and he sauntered back over and said, “Now this is great!”  Problem solved.  No drama, no tears and no discomfort to the client.

The moral of this entry is that providing good customer service is like the old definition of good manners:  It’s all about making people feel comfortable.  Don’t try to impress them, don’t belittle them, and don’t blame them even if they’re a little bit in the wrong.  In the end it doesn’t matter that you’re right or better or whatever.  It matters that the client feels comfortable.

So many times I talk to brides who say that they called a vendor who never called back.  Personally I feel that even if I’m booked, I owe the courtesy of a quick telephone call to say that I’m booked and to perhaps recommend someone else to call.  It takes 5 minutes and leaves the caller with a good opinion about my business and moreover, it makes her feel important.  Don’t do business with people who don’t value you and those businesses will either learn better customer service or get out of the way for businesses who already understand the value of it.


The weather and your outdoor wedding

Yesterday morning I went outside and discovered much to my dismay that it was sleeting…at the end of March!  Since the last couple of weeks have been warm and sunny, this turn took me by surprise and immediately made me think of a comfy chair, a warm fire and naturally, a big mug of hot chocolate.  I also started thinking about outdoor weddings and the weather surprises that can ruin them.  There are many absolutely stunning outdoor venues in Hampton Roads from the Norfolk Botanical Gardens to the lawns at Kingsmill, the Williamsburg Lodge or The Founders Inn, and what’s more beautiful than a garden wedding in the spring, or summer, or fall?  We are so fortunate to have such a long season of great outdoor weather that many brides and grooms see the garden wedding as a natural choice.

I agree that if you are not planning a church wedding, the garden wedding is right up there as a perfect choice for your ceremony.  After all, the natural beauty of the surroundings provide the perfect decor, so you don’t have to do anything but put out some chairs and show up!  There are some things to think about, however, when planning an outdoor wedding.

Always have a backup plan, and don’t be afraid to use it.  I have known many couples who had a backup site in case of inclement weather, but when push came to shove they really, really didn’t want to use it and everyone suffered for it.  I know that the weather is often very different during the site visit from what it will be on the wedding day so try to envision the actuality when planning rather than the fantasy.  For example, a site visit is made in February for an August wedding.  The landscape is somewhat barren and the temperature is cold, but your guide from the site says, “Imagine it in the summer: flowers in bloom, warm breezes and bluebirds singing in the trees!”.  So you do, and it’s perfect so that’s it.  The reality is more likely that it will be an inferno with humidity approaching 100%, no breeze and some birds wheezing from exhaustion off in the distance!  Even with that reality in mind, a lot of couples say to themselves, “Yes, it’ll be hot, but it’s only for 20 minutes.”  Wrong again.  Your guests must be out there sweltering in the heat for at least 10-15 minutes before that while you are finishing preparations in lovely air conditioning.  And even before that, the musicians are generally there at least an hour before to set up, and will more than likely be in formal wear, which is designed for its elegant looks, not its comfort in the sun.  Please keep all of these people’s health and well-being in mind when making your plans.

The best solution for this dilema is to provide shade, either in the form of a grove of trees or a tent.  There are a number of really fine rental companies in our area (Distinctive Event Rentals and Williamsburg Event Rentals being 2 of my favorites) who can put just about any area under a tent.  Sure, it’s an extra expense but it really should be considered a necessity for any summertime outdoor event.  Also, when considering tent size, don’t forget the musicians!  I have been at so many weddings where the guests were comfortably seated under a tent but the musicians were left outside.  When questioned, my clients have said, “Well, we would have had to get a bigger tent and we figured that it was only for 20 minutes so we decided that you could last that long outside”. 

Another consideration for the musicians is their instruments.  On average, especially if there are stringed instruments involved, there will be $20,000 or more worth of very sensitive equipment being used and these instruments cannot be exposed to direct sunlight on hot days for long periods of time; they would be ruined.  In my contracts I have a clause stating that we reserve the right not to play if it is over 90 degrees and there is no cover from the sun.  That isn’t there because we just don’t feel like being hot; it’s there to protect our equipment and our health so please don’t be offended if your musicians ask you about cover.

The same logic applies to cold.  Last spring I played a wedding where it snowed in May!  The event was moved indoors but the bride still wanted to “Just run outside and do the ceremony really quickly” even though the temperature was around 35 degrees.  The answer from us was no because our instruments would be ruined and even if they weren’t, the sound would be atrocious!  We would have been unable to provide the beautiful music that they paid for through no fault of our own.  The guests actually applauded when they heard that the ceremony would not be moved outside!

So, in closing this rather long entry: Go ahead and plan your perfect garden wedding.  More often than not things work out beautifully.  Just think realistically about weather patterns in Virginia and also be emotionally prepared to move inside if the situation warrants it.  Remember that in the end, it’s not where you have your ceremony that is important but rather who is with you to share it!

Let’s talk about booze.

One of the most common habits of musicians who play mainly receptions is that they feel they must be allowed access to the alcohol in order to perform.  A lot of brides and grooms I have spoken with don’t even know that they should ask the question about whether or not the band will be drinking while working.  Furthermore, they don’t realize that they can forbid it.  

Most of the wedding bands do think that booze and good performance mix.  Some don’t abuse the privilege but many do.  This is a remnant of the “good old days” when musicians played for food and drinks, but no real money.  Now it’s not uncommon to pay thousands of dollars for a good wedding band and the rules should change.

 I will be a very unpopular person for writing this but I feel that if a vendor is to provide truly professional service, alcohol (and drugs, for sure) should be off limits.  I look at it this way: if I were a bank teller, nurse, corporate executive, or a person in any other career field, I would be in serious trouble if I were to drink throughout my workday.  The same should hold true for entertainers because let’s face it; no one concentrates at the highest level while under the influence of anything.  I do play receptions and I am willing to guarantee the sobriety of all of my players in writing if necessary.  When looking at other bands, you may very well have to make a choice between letting them drink or not having them play but that’s up to you.  If all clients demand professionalism from the vendors they hire then the standard will change and everyone will benefit.

Good Players vs. Professional Wedding Musicians

You may not realize it but there’s more to playing a wedding than just performing beautiful music.  It’s a common misconception that is shared not only by most brides and grooms but also by a large number of professionals in the music community who think that playing weddings is an easy way to pick up some extra cash.  While you can find musicians who will do an adequate job for you, there’s nothing like having true wedding professionals at your ceremony.

 A true wedding professional takes the time to meet with you and understand your vision for your wedding.  This pro will also help you customize your ceremony music so that it is truly meaningful for you and your family.  She will be available during your entire planning process to answer questions, make suggestions, or simply make you feel at ease about your ceremony. 

During the week before the wedding, your ideal pro will consult with your wedding planner or mistress of ceremonies to work out all logisitical details for the ceremony including clear communication for the beginning of the processional.  The beginning of the processional is the critical moment in any wedding because if the musicians begin at the right time, the rest of the processional proceeds automatically and perfectly.  In the case of a mistress of ceremonies, your pro will take the time to talk through the ceremony and answer any questions this person has so that she can be relaxed and confident when sending you and your bridal party down the aisle. 

On the wedding day, your pro will meet with the planner or mistress of ceremonies to make sure that nothing has changed and also that there are no last minute questions.  I have gone so far as to go to where the bridal party was waiting and coordinate directly with the mistress of ceremonies just prior to the processional to ensure that she feels comfortable.

 Your ideal music professional will also have the ceremony music organized in such a way as to minimize delays between selections so that the different elements of the bridal party may proceed smoothly down the aisle.

 The music for a wedding ceremony is the soundtrack for your day, and like a movie soundtrack, it should coordinate precisely with the action unfolding in the scene.  That kind of precision requires the group leader to be aware every second not only of the music being played (concentration is key in music performance), but also of the progress of the group coming down the aisle.  The goal is to time the end of the music to match the arrival of the last member of each group perfectly so that the last person neither proceeds down the aisle to silence nor waits a long time for the musicians to finish what they’re doing. 

If you hire a true wedding professional for your ceremony music, you can be sure of her attention to every minute detail of your day so that you have a perfect stress-free ceremony!

Personalize Your Ceremony Music

I’ve been gone for awhile I know, but I’m back and will be posting regularly from now on.  One quick note: I am still learning how to use this blog, so the “great events” page will be unchanged for the time being.  I will include those stories here for now and as I get more familiar with how everything works, I can post over there as well.

 What I want to talk about today is your actual wedding music selection.  A lot of brides tell me that they don’t like the “traditional” music and want to select their own but aren’t sure if that’s allowed.  I’ll tell you this: at this time in history, unless you are having your ceremony in a church where there are restrictions on the type of music played (many do have restrictions and these must be honored) you can have whatever music you like in order for your ceremony to have meaning for you and your families. 

 When I got married 22 years ago (now I’m dating myself!) I wanted to have some unique music in my ceremony and although it was all classical and “traditional” in nature, it wasn’t the Bridal Chorus (which everyone had at that time).  My husband-to-be headed up a saxophone quartet that played the prelude and processional so we had some very lovely selections for that.  We had the church’s organist play the recessional and I told her that she could play any piece of music that she wanted except for the Wedding March (Mendelssohn).  It’s not that it’s not a lovely piece but everyone had it played and I just wanted something different.  Well, we said our “I do’s” and as we turned to leave, guess what?  Mendelssohn’s Wedding March!  Afterwards I asked her what she didn’t understand about my instructions and she said “Nothing, but you’re young and you don’t know, so I just played what you were supposed to have.”

Thank goodness those days are gone!  I encourage all of my brides and grooms and their families to choose music that will make the ceremony special and memorable to them whether it’s very traditional music like Pachelbel’s Canon or Champagne Supernova by Oasis!  I have played numerous combinations of songs, all to the delight of my clients, so don’t ever be afraid to ask for something special for your ceremony.  If your music coordinator is unwilling to accomodate you, it’s time to move on and find one who will.  It’s your day and you should have it your way!

Hello world!

Welcome to our blog! 

I hope that you will find a lot of useful information here that will help you during your search for the perfect music for your event.  I will use this section to talk about general topics and to answer any questions you may have.  If there’s something you’d like to know, ask and I will do my very best to help you in any way that I can. 

The article found on the”How to Choose Music” page serves as an overview of the music choosing process to help you get started. 

 I ask that you be a little bit patient as we’re still working on the FAQ page but hope to have that up and available in the next couple of days.

Before you go, be sure to check out the “Great Event Stories” where I will share heartwarming stories of love, informational stories of things to consider and funny stories of disaster averted!  I truly love playing for events of all kinds and particularly weddings and I hope to share that joy with you with every post.

Have a great day and visit often!