Derrick Procell has been grooving the Chicago Music scene for over 30 years. We are very fortunate to have him leading the Stitely dance band “Chicago Groove Collective”. Check out our new Musician’s Spotlight showcasing his talents and what he’s up to outside of Stitely Entertainment.

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Where did your passion and drive for music come from? More specifically, blues?

According to my mother, I was literally whistling in the crib! I’ve always had music goin’ round my head as far back as I can remember. I used to sneak my transistor radio into bed and listen under the covers. I would sing along with my favorite songs and seemed to understand the relationship between the melodies and the harmonic structure of the songs.

I took piano lessons as a kid, so that helped to develop my ears. As I began playing in cover bands, I had to try to cover all sorts of styles, but I seemed to lean toward the singers that had a certain amount of soul in their voices. A lot of the British acts of the time…Rolling Stones, Animals, Yardbirds…were heavily influenced by American Blues artists. As I came into my own as a singer, I found that producers would hire me specifically because they wanted that soulful sound. In fact, early in my career as a studio singer, I showed up at a jingle session for one of Chicago’s top producers that I had never worked for before. Everyone ignored me as I sat on the couch watching the session happening. Finally, he came over and asked who I was. He, in a very flustered manner, told me that he had been expecting a black singer, based on my demo tape! I told him it was OK… more than a few folks had made that assumption.

 

Name a few of your musical influences.

Procol Harum, Eric Burden, Little Feat, Steely Dan, Warren Zevon, The Beatles, Jackson Browne, James Brown, Randy Newman, Ray Charles, Gregg Allman, Floyd Cramer, Johnny Cash, Elvis and pretty much anybody I listen to on any regular basis. They all play a role in the music that comes out of me.

 

Talk about your newest release and how did the idea for it get started?

I began writing songs with my lyricist partner, Grammy winner Terry Abrahamson, around 2011. We had met years earlier when I was a busy studio singer on the Chicago advertising scene. Terry had worked with a lot with Blues artists like Muddy Waters, George Thorogood, John Lee Hooker, etc. The song demos we were recording were getting a lot of acclaim for the production and for my vocals, so I decided to release a bunch of them, along with a few self-penned songs, in 2016 as a CD, WHY I CHOOSE TO SING THE BLUES. I hired a publicist…best decision I’ve ever made, next to marrying my wife…and the record was incredibly well reviewed and played internationally.

 

Tell us about the writing process for your songs and where your inspiration comes from-is any of it autobiographical or personal in nature?

Music has always come easier for me than lyrics. When I started working with Terry, I knew right away I had found an amazing storyteller. We like to believe that we’ve hit upon the kind of chemistry that only the best songwriting teams have. I do still occasionally write one from my own lyrics, but I already have a backlog of the prolific Terry’s tunes! And we are finally starting to see some success with our songs being picked up by other artists and organizations. In addition to our Blues tunes, we are both inspired to write what we call our Artist Activist Series songs… tunes that focus on social and political subjects such as gay rights, PTSD, Immigracism…(our term), and freedom of speech.

 

Tell us a little bit about the musicians that are on the record.

The record is mostly me on vocals, keys and harmonica with a number of tracks utilizing drum and bass plug-ins. I did enlist a lot of guitar help from Bob Baglione, Alex Smith, Dave Steffen, and Zoey Witz. Real drums on some of the tracks provided by Jack Skalon. I also had the good fortune to have a few blues legends help out. Howlin’ Wolf’s sax player and band leader, Eddie Shaw, sang a duet with me on THE WOLF WILL HOWL AGAIN. Muddy Waters’ longtime guitarist, Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin, played some mean slide on EYES OF MISSISSIPPI. And Chicago harmonica legend, Billy Branch, wailed on BACK IN THE GAME.

 

Anything else you want to add regarding your new release or other things you are up to?

Hoping to get a little more of a presence and love in our hometown with my hot new original music band, Derrick Procell & the Redeemers. We do most of the music from the record as well and a bunch of soulful original tunes.

I’m also working on a new concept for a tribute show. It’s a little too early to crow about it, but it’s very exciting and will be a guaranteed crowd pleaser.

And, of course, I’m looking forward to bringing the party to life as the leader of Chicago Groove Collective this coming wedding season.

 

Interested in having Derrick Procell and Chicago Groove Collective perform at your wedding or event? Let us know! And keep up with Derrick Procell at his website to get his record or know when to catch him perform live in Chicago.

At Stitely Entertainment, music is our business and our lifeblood. Not only do we love using music to ramp up the energy at a wedding or other event, but we also love it in our lives. We had a chance to have a conversation with Jeff Stitely to talk about his knowledge of music and go in-depth about how he and the other Stitely musicians use musical nuances to create different feels for different moments. The key, to start, is a solid rhythm section. The following posts stems from our conversation about how different styles of music elicit different responses:

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In a live band, the rhythm section is the backbone. Whether you notice it or not, every band has a core rhythm section, often consisting of bass, keys, drums and guitar. Different styles of music also have different focuses and feels. In jazz, the quarter note is king. The main focus is the bass, playing a walking quarter note bass line. The drummer adds the ride cymbal, also focusing on that quarter note base. The bass and drums have to match up for the groove to come alive. Really, a jazz rhythm section is like a great conversation. You pick a theme, someone makes a statement, and everyone will respond accordingly, adding their own flair to the conversation. When there’s an openness to what’s being discussed and the conversation is flowing, there’s almost a pleasant hum that occurs. In the same way, a jazz rhythm section will flow and hum in a comfortable yet ever-evolving way. The nuances and variations on this key conversation are what make each tune special.

For dance music, that conversation looks totally different. While the rhythm section is still present and important, they definitely have a more scripted part. This is especially true when they are recreating music that’s been played before. For example, the bands that make up Stitely Entertainment are largely playing dance music that is recognizable to the general public. Because of this, they want to make sure they include every lick and detail that the audience is expecting when they hear that song. When playing older jazz tunes, getting a carbon copy isn’t as important—it’s the style and the essence that you want to extract and recreate. You can play variations on the original while still upholding the integrity of the genre and the song itself. But with dance music, you want to follow the song like it’s a map written out before you.

To successfully follow that map, each musician has an important role. They are each responsible for studying their specific part and recreating it to the best of their ability. The meticulous process of writing out an exact drumbeat or strumming pattern that the original artist used can be tedious, but necessary to recreate what the original artist produced. By writing everything out specifically, the musicians are respecting the artist’s original sound and work.

This process can be challenging with contemporary music because much of it is produced in the studio with layers and layers of synthesizers, keyboards, and strings. This can be very hard to replicate in a live setting, and the keyboard player often has the biggest responsibility: to try to recreate the sounds that all the synthesizers in the studio make, prioritizing the layers that are most important to the structure of the song, as well as what will meet the listeners expectations of the what the song is “supposed to sound like.”

Just as both traditional and contemporary styles are structured slightly differently, they also make you want to move differently as a listener. Motown, Classic Rock, Top 40 Pop, and Jazz are all distinctly different in terms of feel and general response from the audience. Knowing the difference in how and when to play all the styles is important, especially at events like weddings when each portion of the night demands a different feel. The differences really come down to the way that the rhythm section structures itself and how successfully them blend into that “conversation” we mentioned earlier.

In summation, music is an emotion, and that musical emotion is expressed differently for each person in the way they move on the dance floor. So whether or not you realize it when you’re cutting a rug on the dance floor, the rhythm section is playing a huge part in manipulating that raw emotion in a way that grooves with the rest of the atmosphere and creates a memorable and energy-filled space that you won’t want to leave.

 

If there ever was a wedding to recount and remember, this one takes the cake.

After having a secret wedding ceremony in the 1980s, Ann & Susan were finally able to legally tie the knot this past summer—and what a joyous occasion it was! The couple wanted their day to be focused on family and celebrating the many loved-ones in their lives. The music was also a really important factor in their entire day. From special music sung by their son during the ceremony, to a dance to “Happy” down the aisle, to a slew of musical memories made during the reception, their music really tied their whole day together.

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The ceremony took place on July 26, 2014 at the Hotel Allegro in Chicago. Their ceremony featured At Last by Etta James, A Thousand Years by Christina Perri, Your Song by Elton John and Happy by Pharrell. Their reception dancing was kicked off with Sweet Love by Anita Baker for their First Dance, and the dance floor was packed all night.

We had a chance to catch up with Ann & Susan and reflect on the planning process leading up to the big day, as well as to remember their favorite moments of the ceremony and reception. The following post is made up of notes from our phone conversation.

Ballard-WarnerCeremonyWhat kind of style or vibe did you want for your wedding? What role did music play in your vision?

Overall, Ann & Susan just wanted it to be a huge celebration and for everyone to have a good time during their ceremony and reception. They wanted their music choices to be enjoyable for everyone, but also wanted it to reflect their time together over the years. They chose music spanning from jazz and soul to contemporary. Since they were getting married later in life, they had a lot of memories to reflect on and to include in their celebration. They really wanted the music to set the tone for ceremony and reception, and truly believed that without music there would be no real wedding celebration feel—it was that integral.

Ballard-WarnerFamilyTreeWhy did you choose the Stitely Orchestra for your wedding?

Ann says that their confidence with Stitely really began after personal interview with Jeff. It was a lengthy one-on-one meeting to go over all the details of the day. Shortly after that, they made a decision to go with Stitely, and wedding planners at hotels in downtown Chicago confirmed that decision as they were looking for venues.

What was your favorite wedding memory?

Ann & Susan had plenty of memories to share from their big day, as did everyone I’ve spent with who was in attendance that day. It is fondly remembered as a day full of joy and love.

Susan & Ann’s first favorite memory one is the ceremony. It included Happy by Pharrell playing during the recessional, with their kids and family dancing down the aisle with them. It was a beautiful visual representation of the joy that they wanted to portray during their wedding, and the music really helped. A related memory is that people never stopped dancing during the reception—the dance floor was really never empty!

Another favorite memory was their son singing At Last during the ceremony and some Frank Sinatra and Jackie Wilson tunes with the band during the reception. That was really special, and Ann said it was so cool that Stitely made it happen for their son to sing with the band.

BAllard-WarnerDancing1Please share any stories or special significance behind your song selections for the special dances.

Happy by Pharrell was one that Ann & Susan wanted to integrate early on. It was really the inspiration for the heartfelt atmosphere we wanted to create. Having it played during the ceremony was very special and reflected them as a couple well—people still talk about it all the time!

Ann also said that having Stitely work with them prior to the wedding and helping their kids get songs and ideas together was a dream. She says “we couldn’t have made our vision of intertwining the music with our friends, family and guests come true if they hadn’t worked with us in the months and weeks leading up to our day. Without all those elements it really wouldn’t have been the dream day that it ended up being!”

Thanks again to Ann & Susan for being such a joy!

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This week’s Stitely Vendor Spotlight features another one of our favorite planners to work with in Chicago–LOLA Event Productions! These women go above and beyond the call of duty for every event that we’ve worked on with them. We had a chance to catch up with Lori Stevenson, a founder of LOLA to see what she has to say about her beginnings in the industry and tips for couples choosing their vendors.

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Lori Stevenson

How did you get started in event planning?

I have been in the wedding business since college – my degree is in fashion design, and I paid my way through school designing and making wedding gowns. Brides are just in my blood! I started LOLA in 2006 recognizing a gap for a planner that can also act as a design liaison as well as dig into the logistics of planning a wedding or event.

There are 4 of us so our journey is a collaboration that clients really get to take advantage of. While they have a single consultant they are working with, they have the ideas and expertise of the entire group and our diverse backgrounds in design, catering, logistics, etc.

What part of your job do you find the most satisfying and the most challenging?

Working with brides is incredibly rewarding – you get to be with people on their best day. How many people get hugs from clients on a weekly basis? It feeds my soul! Most of my challenges just come in work/life balance. I am lucky to have a VERY understanding husband as this job is really 24/7.

What is the key to a successful event?

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The LOLA Pros

A great guest experience. Yes, a wedding is to a certain extent “all about the bride” but at the end of the day you want to make sure guests get the experience that a bride and groom are striving for from the band to the food, flow, decor and atmosphere.

What is the craziest event story you can share?

Whenever I say, “Well, now I have really seen everything” something even crazier is bound to happen! I feel like I need to knock wood if I am going to answer this one :-) Last year alone we had a “cheeky” grandmother (yep, she mooned the DJ), we had a streaker blow through cocktail hour chased by 5 of Chicago’s finest police officers, and we surprised a bride and groom with a flash mob (not all surprises are bad, but I can’t say I love any surprise on a wedding day!)

Hire your planner before you make ANY decisions. Not only can we help create a beautiful, cohesive and well-planned event, but we can help you tackle it all with aplomb so you can have a great time doing it. No stress needed!

If you were stuck on a desert island which three albums would you want with you?

I always tell clients not to judge me based on my musical acumen! It’s petty awful in a tween-pop sort of way. My husband is ashamed of my iPod selection.
I think I would have to stick with classics, even though there are so many good contemporary artists out there spanning pop and indie like The National and Bruno Mars (seriously, can you STOP singing Uptown Funk?! Absolutely NOT!):
-Hot August Night – Yes I am die-hard Neil Diamond fan since childhood – I blame my mother!
-Tom Petty’s Greatest Hits – for when you need to sing along to something (and for the record, my husband is NOT ashamed of this pick)
-Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits or ABBA Gold – for when I just need to ‘dance it off’ – it really never gets old.

For more information and to connect directly with Lori and the other ladies at LOLA, check out their website here!

During wedding season 2014 we were able to work with a ton of talented vendors–Robb Davidson Photography being one of our favorites. His high energy and big personality are palpable through his photos, and we were ecstatic to get the chance to contact him and ask a few questions about his experience as a wedding photographer. Check out our conversation below and his super-rad website here.

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How and why did you get started in the photography business?

I got started in photography when I was a junior at Judson College/university. I actually had to replace a point and shoot camera, and so with my “go big or go home” mentality, I bought an SLR camera. Cause that takes better pictures, right? Yeah no it doesn’t when you don’t know anything, but really I wanted to learn about it more. I started practicing on friends, posting online…and the college saw that. We didn’t really have any photography programs, so I was the only “in house” resource. They asked me to start covering events, save money for lenses…etc…and shot my first wedding for a friend. HOOKED instantly. I kept booking more, got more organized, grew into a nice small business. I WAS originally gonna just shoot on the weekends and have some 9-5 job during the week. Ha, never could make the interviews cause I was shooting the whole time. Sooooo, I decided to stop bothering with it and do it full time. All the while working full time at Wheaton Sport Center and had a great client base start from there. What an amazing place.

What are some of the main services you offer and how do they set you apart from other competitors?

I shoot people. With my canon. Main ordeal for me is weddings of course, but also looooove any kind of family shoot, headshot, corporate event, pranks needing documentation….whatever. Love people. Creating a place where people can be themselves within SECONDS is key. Otherwise you’re just stuck putting people in a pose that may not be who they are. So the sooner I can get people relaxed and their goofy selves, the better the shots I can get. You can only do so much with your photography side if the subject isn’t their natural self. :)

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What key qualities should couples look for when choosing a photographer?

When it comes to weddings, or anything lifestyle related…both sides of the camera is important. I think personalities have to gel at least a little bit. Otherwise, you won’t be on the same page, things won’t go as smooth, or just get straight up weird. Like, not awesome weird. Lame weird.

What part of your job do you find the most satisfying and the most challenging?

I’m glad this is paired because it’s usually the case…finding obstacles that you have to overcome become the most satisfying at the end of the day. How to make indoor locations for a wedding look real pretty when it’s pouring outside, we only have ten minutes to shoot EVERYTHING and make it seem like this is the way it SHOULD be, someone in the bridal party has a cast and you gotta creatively tuck that sucker away.

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What is the craziest event story you can share?

Gosh, ones that I’m actually allowed to share? Haha, well I would say that it’s just crazy how it all happened. March of 2013 I was at the gym when I got a call from a buddy of mine. Basically let me know that he was a guest at a wedding that didn’t have a photographer, bride was 20-30 minutes from walking down the aisle. I BOLTED out of the gym, threw on a suit, and met her before that going down the aisle to introduce myself. I said I was a full time professional wedding photographer, ready to shoot the rest of the night and figure out details later. Great night, awesome people, so glad I was able to help. I guess they never heard from their original photographer….hope they’re okay? Still crazy.

Why do you love photographing in the Chicago area?

There’s something so homey and family oriented in the midwest that I can’t get enough of. I guess an awesome hybrid of homey white picket fence, and the get after it mentality. Everyone loves incorporating family traditions, their relationship history, or just something to make it so unique for the shoot. Really doesn’t feel like there’s “competition” or anything like it, so I teach people anything and everything I may know…cause there’s so much awesomeness to go around! They really don’t suck out here.

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Lexi Schumacher & Josh Herz were married on September 27, 2014 at the historic Drake Hotel in Chicago. Throughout the entire planning process, it was evident that this couple would embody the class and sophistication that come with having an event at the Drake. Their attention to detail was on thing that made their event such a success!

Their day started with Piano, Violins & Drums for their Ceremony. Lexi and Josh decided to add an extra special twist to their processional song “Canon in D” by adding the drums, evoking the “Royal Wedding” version of the song that caught their attention. What a special and regal start to the day!

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Their ceremony also included the Love Theme from St. Elmo’s Fire, What A Wonderful World andCity of Blinding Light by U2, all played instrumentally.

This combination was personal and unique to the couple while still maintain a semi-traditional and formal feel that the venue calls for.

After a cocktail hour featuring Sinatra, Michael Buble and Beatles tunes on solo piano it was time for the party to begin! The couple was introduced into the room to a recording of Happy Together by the Turtles and went straight into their First Dance, Glory of Love by Peter Cetera.

After the first dance and introduction a started Drake tradition took place of a Champagne Parade! Servers in black tie parade out with champagne for the guests and wedding party to prepare for all the toasts.

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The band has a special song they play during that time and it is such a fun tradition.

We had a chance to catch up with the bride a few months after the big day and ask her to reflect on some of her favorite moments. Check out our conversation below!The rest of the night featured more music from the Stitely Orchestra that highlighted the couples personality, with Good Life by OneRepublic for cake cutting and  I Loved Her First and A Song For My Son for the special family dances. this party also featured a rocking Hora dance and ended with the classic Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey.

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What kind of style or vibe did you want for your wedding?

Sophisticated, chic and formal.

What role did music play in your vision?

A huge role. We ideally wanted everyone out of their chairs the entire night and a full dance floor, which we absolutely achieved!

Why did you choose the Stitely Orchestra for your wedding?

Came highly recommended by a coworker of mine, Heidi Lauerman and her husband Alex.

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What kind of music or which artists do you and your partner enjoy?

We wanted several genres to suit ours as well as our guests’ taste  i.e. Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Guns n Roses to Katy Perry.

What was your favorite wedding memory?

The Horah of course!

Please share any stories or special significance behind your song selections for the special dances.

Really no significance, just loved the songs :) We loved the added bonus of Jeff playing the drums during the ceremony music. Very unique and cool!

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In this week’s installment of Stitely Vendor Spotlights, we had a chance to catch up with Lindsay Parrott of Parrott Party Productions. Not only is she a planner that we often work with, but was also a recent client of ours! Her December wedding was a show-stopper to say the least. Read below to hear about what she does and her tips for couples looking for a planner.

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[Photo by Jai Girard]

How and why did you get started in the wedding planning business?

P3 was started in 2011 after Lindsay wanted to move away from only doing birthdays and corporate events. Our first wedding (partnered with I DO!) was in Napa, California at Auberge Du Soleil and was featured in Town & Country’s Spring 2011 issue.

What are some of the main services you offer and how do they set you apart from other competitors?

Our main service is Event Design! We take great pride in being able to transform any room and love seeing the face of a stunned bride, groom and guests! We love planning and being able to see all of the small details fall in place. The biggest thing that sets us apart from our competition is our pricing! We set realistic planning and design prices in order to allow more couples to enjoy the awesomeness of using a planner!

What are some things couples should consider when creating a design/style for their wedding?

When creating your design scheme/theme always remember, “less is more and more is in the details”! You don’t need the biggest centerpieces or a complex lighting plan to have a beautiful event. Find examples of what you like, get the images priced out, and go from there. Scale down in places where you don’t feel as strongly and go big in the places that mean the most.

How do you go about interpreting a couple’s vision and designing a unique look or style for an event?

I always ask couples to bring in as many images, fabrics and examples of their design style. We then go over their favorite images and what about them makes them their favorite. I learn about their favorite colors, vacations spots and the things they enjoy doing together. All of this information helps me go back and create a Design Board that communicates the couples’ uniqueness and their wedding vision.

What key qualities should couples look for when choosing a planner?

When looking for a Wedding or Event Planner and/or Designer, you should always pick someone who you feel comfortable with. Find a planner who has a great communication mode. If you prefer text, make sure your planner offers that as an option and their rules and response times. If you prefer to only be contacted at a certain time, make sure your planner understands. Notice how quickly the planners you reach out to when searching, the ones who respond instantly-should move to the top of your list immediately. Whether it was their Production Assistant, Secretary or Intern, it means someone will always be readily available to answer your questions. There should also ALWAYS be an emergency number provided to you by your planner, whether it be their personal cell phone or direct line in. Sometimes there are questions you will need answers to immediately, your planner should be available to those types of questions always.

What part of your job do you find the most satisfying and the most challenging?

I love planning events that have 400-600+ guests! Our favorite part being able to see so many peoples’ reaction to the décor, lighting, floral and entertainment is exhilarating. We always work with such amazing vendors, we never worry that feedback will be anything other than amazing but it’s always lovely to be reminded.

The not so stellar part of planning Weddings and Events would have to be “crushing dreams” as we call it. We can do anything and everything when it comes to planning and designing BUT we cannot make your budget bigger! Our vendors extend enormous discounts and sometimes will throw an item in there every once in a while, but it is always difficult to tell couples’ they cannot have a 12 piece band, 5 course meal and open bar throughout their entire wedding and only hope to spend $15,000.00. We make magic happen, not miracles!

What is the craziest event story you can share?

We had an outdoor event last summer. The venue was a gorgeous house in the backyard. The house itself was beautiful; the backyard was lush and had beautiful landscaping. The only thing I saw as being a huge problem was the guest-count and of course, the weather! The day of the wedding was beautiful, great weather and all vendors arrived more than early! Set up went superb and the couple was on time with pictures. Minutes before the event starts—DOWNPOUR. The ceremony had to be moved inside, and the reception had to be delayed about an hour while appetizers were passed inside. That is not the craziest part…while the ceremony was going on, the P3 Staff and Catering crew were in the tent outside, standing on the dance floor so it would not wash it away. We had to make bridge-like walkways for the guests to get from the house to the tent without sinking into the ground and help the caterers set up the food stations. It was beyond stressful but at the end of the night, the owner of the house had nothing but nice things to say and the newlywed couple were over the moon.

As a recent bride, how has your own wedding experience change the way you plan for others?

As a recent bride I wanted to simplify the planning and designing process even more! We recently upgraded our A La Carte Menu to include more offerings from our Luminous Suite. We also have added Event Design Suites, for clients only seeking Event Design assistance. I think being a bride has made me more sensitive to the fact that my clients have lives and other things to worry about and do. Yes, their wedding is important and they understand that but life gets in the way. I want to be able to take the reins as much as allowed, allowing the couple time to enjoy their engagement.

For more information about Parrott Party Productions, check out her website here, or on Facebook here.

This year we had the pleasure of working with Paper Antler Photography at a wedding in Madison, WI. After getting a peek at the photos from the event, they quickly became some of our favorites of the season. The way they captured the moments of the party conveyed more than just the events that occurred, but also the emotion and energy that represented the couple and our band very well. We had a chance to correspond with Jonny, one of the photographers at Paper Antler, about how he and Michelle got started in the business and what they love about photographing weddings. Check out their answers below, and I would also recommend checking out their stellar website here.

Paper Antler How and why did you get started in the photography  business?

I (Jonny) studied philosophy and photography in college.  Right after graduating, I started creating a portfolio and shadowing photographers in Minneapolis while Michelle – with her natural eye for space and design – started assisting me on my solo assignments.  That was back in 2007.  We knew that we loved working together so we set out to find a career that a.) valued creativity and artistry, b.) would have intrinsic meaning, and c.) allow us to have some flexibility in our schedule as neither of us are 9-5 people.  Once we had enough weddings and other gigs booked, we quit our jobs and set out full steam ahead as photographers.

 What are some of the main services you offer and how do  they set you apart from other competitors?

Our wheelhouse is photographing weddings and have traveled all over the country and some of the globe to do so.  We want to be the best photographers we can be and thus we keep our focus on photography and don’t offer many services otherwise.  The fact that we are a husband + wife duo does allow us to be in two places at once at a wedding, and because we have worked together and now have been married for almost seven years, we can communicate with hand signals and facial expressions, much like the secret service but not as fancy.

What key qualities should couples look for when choosing a photographer?paper antler fun - 0018

Couples should choose a creative, artistic photographer for sure, but more importantly a photographer that makes them feel comfortable and who is also a nice person.  It doesn’t do much good to have a technically great photographer who man-handles your bridal party and is rude to your Uncle Jim.  When photographing weddings, you need to be ultra patient at times, and there’s really no room for ego.

What part of your job do you find the most satisfying and the most challenging?

One of the most satisfying parts of photographing a wedding is that as the photographer, you are giving the couple a tangible artifact and vestige of one of the most important and celebratory days of their life.  At that point, it becomes about something way bigger than photography and those photographs now serve as reminders for the rest of your lives and also for your family now and in the future.

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The most challenging part of our job is keeping up with correspondence and editing photos, though it’s hard to complain.  Also, it can be a little obnoxious when dozens of people with iPads cut in front of us at weddings to take a photo that we set up.

What is the craziest event story you can share?

A wedding that we photographed last year featured none other than Ric Flair (wwf world champion) as a surprise guest for the groom.  He walked the bride down the aisle and the expression on the groom’s face was priceless.  We later got a picture with Ric Flair, with Michelle and myself flexing.  That one made the scrapbook.

Where in the world do you enjoy photographing the most?

We’ve photographed weddings from Carmel Valley, CA to the Lakes District in England, and honestly there is so much beauty every place we’ve been to photograph a wedding.  A place like California offers a few more options than the Chicago suburbs but so much about wedding photography is finding beauty regardless of the location.

 

 

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When many people think about karaoke, there are usually a few things that come to mind. For some it’s a fun night out at a bar with friends, gladly making a fool of yourself. For others it’s disco balls, flashing lights and the cheesy bouncing balls that hops from word to word on a screen, accompanied by computerized melodies of your mom’s favorite songs. These were my ideas about karaoke before I started working at Stitely Entertainment and learned how cool karaoke can be when accompanied with a live band.

So, how does it work? To successfully channel your inner rock star via live band karaoke there are a few things one should know. First, even people who are a little on the shyer side can fully participate in this activity. To make people feel more comfortable we provide sunglasses, boas, hats and fun costumes to break the ice a bit and bring them out of their shell—so don’t let stage fright keep you from participating!

Secondly, we have a huge selection of songs just waiting to be chosen. Not only do we play the top pop hits of today, but you can also choose from classic rock, Motown, classic standards, country, indie music—anything that floats your boat, we’ve got it covered. Although we don’t have the fun bouncing ball to keep you in time, we do provide the lyrics on stage, as well as a top-notch professional band to keep you on track. The singers adjust to your comfort level—if you’re feeling confident they let you lead the way adding background and harmonies, or if you’re a little more nervous they help you start each line on time. Either way, having professional singer backing you up and joining in on the fun is an experience unique to Live Band Karaoke.

Finally, there are even options to sit in on percussion instruments, or even guitar if you’re really talented!

At what kind of events does live band karaoke work the best?

We’ve found that LBK works well for any group that wants to be interactive and have a great time showing off their talent and having a moment being a rock star. Corporate events—where people are gathered to have a good time and bond as coworkers—are a great example. We’ve have companies split guests into teams and have them perform together. This breaks the ice and creates great camaraderie!

LBK also works well at bar and bat mitzvahs, especially if the boy or girl is into singing and music. We’ve even done LBK at a wedding! A couple that met singing karaoke decided they wanted to incorporate it into their celebration, so a karaoke wedding was born. The bride and groom sang 4 or 5 songs each and were really talented! Many of the guests regularly sang karaoke as well so it was a blast.

In the end, Live Band Karaoke is really a major step up from the regular karaoke with a machine. The quality of the backing music, the personalization that is available, and the energy that is created in the room when a live band is performing cannot be matched. When the lights are shining on you and all your friends are clapping and yelling and supporting you, it really is like being a rock star—it’s exhilarating!

For companies who want to do something extra special, we can also bring in a video team and project the performers onto a live screen in real time. Check out our star cam in action in the video below!

 

Stitely Orchestra's talented keyboardist, Chris White is headed to the Birch Creek Music Performance Center to teach lucky students at the Jazz Vocal Camp from August 10th-15th.  Birch Creek Music Performance Center on Wisconsin's beautiful Door County peninsula is a young musician's dream. Founded in 1976, Birch Creek is a unique summer music school that provides talented students (typically age 14-19) advanced training as well as the opportunity to perform publicly alongside some of the top music professionals around.  The camp offers four 2-week resident summer sessions in Symphony, Percussion & Steelpan, and Jazz. The student-faculty ratio is 2-to-1, ensuring that students receive attentive hands-on mentoring from top music educators and performers.

Chris obtained a B.A. in English from the University of Toronto and then decided to focus his studies entirely on music. In 1997 he attended Indiana University’s prestigious Jacobs School of Music and pursued his Masters degree in Jazz Studies, graduating with a Phi Kappa Lamda award (National Music Honors Society). Gaining valuable experience in Indianapolis, he performed with The Bloomington Symphony Orchestra, David Baker, Jamey Aebersold and Oliver Nelson, Jr.  He has studied piano with Luke Gillespie, Lynne Arriale, Joanne Brackeen, Barry Harris and Andy LaVerne.  In August 2000 Chris was invited to perform in the Steans Institute for Young Artists at Ravinia hosted by James Moody, Rufus Reid and David Baker. Currently he is an instructor of jazz piano and theory at Lake Forest College, North Park University and North Central College.  He is also a combo and theory instructor at Midwest Young Artists in Highwood, IL.  Chris has performed at The Jazz Showcase, Andy’s, The House of Blues, Navy Pier, The Peninsula Hotel, the Coq D’or at the Drake Hotel and many more.  In 2010 he completed his Doctoral of Musical Arts in Jazz Performance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.