You've decided that having live music at your special event is the perfect finishing touch, but now what? How do you go from a great idea to a great performance?

Here are some points to keep in mind and help you with your search:

What kind of music would you like to hear?
Does classical music suit the occasion better than jazz? Different groups perform different types of music.

Where will the musicians be playing?
Will they be playing indoors, in a small room, or a large room? Will they be outdoors? The space that needs to be filled with music and whether or not sound amplification is available are factors in choosing a group that can be heard well. For example, brass groups tend to produce more sound than wind groups, who in turn produce more sound than strings.

What should I consider for outdoor concerts?
String instruments cannot be exposed to direct sunlight because it can melt the delicate varnish on the instruments. Nobody wants to play (or listen) in the rain, and temperature extremes either way aren't good for musicians or their instruments, especially the cold.

What should I consider for indoor concerts?
Adequate space to set up and perform where they won't be bumped into by other people (be aware that larger instruments require more space), comfortable seating (straight-backed chairs without arms) and sufficient lighting (as if you were reading a book with very small print for a long period of time).

What's your budget?
Musicians are professionals and must be paid for their services. Most performers set their own rates and these rates depend on factors such as time requirements and out-of-town travel costs. A good rule of thumb is to expect between $75 and $100 per hour per musician. Musicians are very punctual and expect to start and finish at the times for which you booked them. They may have accepted another engagement following yours. If your event goes overtime, feel free to ask the musicians if they can accommodate you, but be prepared to increase their fee accordingly. For example, if you want to hire a quartet for two hours, prepare to be quoted $600 - $800. Again, it all depends on the particulars of your occasion and the musicians you are talking with.

How quickly can I hire musicians?
It depends on the time of year. From May to October musicians are heavily booked for weddings and receptions; December is a high demand month for holiday parties and events. At those times of the year, 10-12 weeks advance booking is advisable. During the "off peak" months, 4-6 weeks lead-time is usually sufficient. That said, even if you find yourself in a short notice situation, it doesn't hurt to call and ask if a group is available.

Do musicians have any special requirements?
Yes, and this varies from group to group. Musicians do take short breaks from time to time, typically about 10 minutes every hour, since playing an instrument is hard work, but those can easily be coordinated at appropriate times.

Who should I call?
For information about Ensembles, which include Niagara Symphony musicians, please contact Chelsea Dominguez-Smith at the NSO office at 905-687-4993 ext. 226.

If you are looking for a specialized group (eg. bagpipes, dance band, etc.) please contact the Niagara Region Musicians' Association at 905-357-4642. They have an extensive network of musicians who can also meet your needs.