Stu Hirsh and the Stu Hirsh Orchestra have been performing at private parties for over twenty years. They have provided the musical entertainment for over one thousand wedding ceremonies and wedding receptions.
Stu Hirsh prides himself in being aware, and attending to, the smallest details. He wants to make sure that your most special day progresses as smoothly and effortlessly as possible.
We have compiled a detailed guide to selecting music for your wedding. We will describe what we, at the Stu Hirsh Orchestra, do to provide the most appropriate music for a wedding client, but we will also take you through the many ins and outs, the “tricks of the trade,” of the wedding music business.

The following questions are frequently asked of us. The questions are divided into 5 sections.
We hope that you find this information, and our answers, useful:

Receiving Information About the Wedding Band

Email is a great way to ask questions. You receive your answers and you can read them at your convenience. But, sooner or later you will want to – and need to – speak with the band leader, orchestra leader, or ceremony musicians. By the way, the terms “orchestra” and “band” are almost always interchangeable. Neither term indicates the quality of the music that a particular group provides.

At this point, you know that the band is available for your date. What do you do now???

1) Who Am I Speaking With?

Are you speaking to the orchestra leader, an assistant, or the band’s salesperson? Weddings are very personal and singularly important events. If not right away, you should eventually be speaking with the orchestra leader. Yes, you can get basic information from an assistant or a salesperson, but you are not simply ordering printer ink from OfficeMax, you want to discuss the music for your wedding!

At the Stu Hirsh Orchestra, your email or phone call may be returned by a member of our staff, but you will speak with Stu right away.

2) Will I Get Personal Attention?

Personal attention is important. You want to speak with someone who will listen to you, as you describe your musical ideas for your wedding. If you can tolerate a cookie-cutter, assembly line approach to music – pick some music from Column A, then pick some from Column B, then pick a little more from Column C, put them together and there’s your wedding music – that’s OK. But we feel that a personal approach is better.

Stu Hirsh will always take as much time as necessary to discuss every musical aspect of your wedding. You will be asked to describe your musical likes, dislikes and your wedding music “wish list” for your ceremony, cocktail reception, dinner and dancing. You will then discuss the Stu Hirsh Orchestra’s services and how those services can best be utilized at your wedding.

3) How Can I Receive Information About the Orchestra?

All truly professional musical organizations should have some type of promotional material. The quality of those materials is often an indication of the professionalism of a musical group.

Remember that almost every band and orchestra will tell you that they are the – best, hottest, coolest, hippest, most exciting, most dynamic and the greatest performers in the city… or… in the state… or… in the country… or… in the world!!! In other words, watch out for hype and hyperbole.

We are happy to send you our promotional packet. The packet includes 2 demo CDs, video, photos, song list, press materials and testimonials. You can contact us by phone (847-914-0444), email (info@stuhirshorhcestra.com), or on our web site (www.stuhirshorchestra.com).

4) Can We Meet?

Any time, any place! But seriously, a band leader should always be available to personally meet with you, particularly if you are seriously considering hire that band. Whether it is at a residence, at an office, or at a Starbucks, you should feel comfortable in asking for, and in scheduling, a face to face meeting. It seems rather impersonal and insulting if a band leader says that he is too busy to meet with a potential client.

Stu will always meet with interested clients. This is really the best way to discuss all of your musical requirements, to answer your questions and to describe our music and services. And even when the orchestra performs out of town, Stu will travel to that destination, in order to meet with the client.

5) Can We See the Orchestra Perform?

Every musical group has a different policy when it comes to seeing a band perform live. It is always awkward to “audition” a band at someone else’s event. It is, after all, a private party. No matter how unobtrusive you are, you are “crashing” an event. Two others important things to remember – 1) these are not your guests and 2) you’re not hearing your wedding music. This particular client requested Big Band music and you want Motown and Disco. The guests, at the party you are observing, are not dancers. They prefer to sit at their tables, enjoy listening to the music, while engaging in conversation. A band leader, or more to the point, a good band leader, is performing for that particular client. The band leader is dealing with that client’s song requests, the response of that night’s guests and all the other variables that make each party unique.

We always want to respect the privacy of our clients. With that in mind, we try our best to dissuade potential clients from hearing us at a live performance. We hope that you are able to make your musical decision based upon our conversations, meetings, listening to our CDs, viewing our video, reviewing our song list, reading our promotional material and previous client references.

Who We Are

6) What Styles of Music Do You Play?

Bands should have their repertoire list available for your review. If a band quickly answers, “don’t worry, we play everything”….WORRY. It is absolutely impossible to play everything. Well, I guess a band could TRY to play every style, but that does not mean that they will sound good playing every style! Look for a band that plays the styles of music that you are interested in. This sounds obvious, but there are people who will hire a swing band and then request music from the 1980s. Ask the band about its musical strengths. What are the styles of music that the band thinks that it performs best?

The Stu Hirsh Orchestra maintains a huge repertoire. Our song list covers over 80 years of popular music. While our song list is very extensive, it is not our entire repertoire. If there are particular songs that you want to hear, please ask us about them. Our goal is to perform each style authentically and accurately. We want you to hear a sound that faithfully reproduces that particular era of music. Our repertoire includes standards, big band swing, Latin, rock and roll from the 1950s through 2004, waltzes, ethnic songs and specialty selections. Please review our Song List.

7) What Is the Band’s Performance Like?

Of course, you want great music. But the way in which the music is presented is very subjective and is completely a matter of personal taste. Do you want a performance that is conservative and understated, or do you want a Las Vegas show band? Are you looking for elegance, or a band whose performance looks like a rock concert? What you want to do is to select a band that reflects your personality.

The Stu Hirsh Orchestra performs with sophistication, fun, elegance and energy. Our vocalists and instrumentalists are always interacting with the guests. We are not only performing for you and your guests, but we are always performing directly to our audience. We never just go through the motions of making music. After all, we have a wonderful job – performing for people. And we want you and your guests to thoroughly enjoy the music. When it is appropriate, our vocalists will even leave the stage and perform on the dance floor, right along side you and your guests. We want you to share in the fun and energy that is found in the music. Please listen to us and see our video.

8) Who Are the Members of the Band?

Now, here is something to be aware of…………..

There are many bands that do not have regular personnel. A band leader may not want you to see the band, because he has no idea what musicians will be available for your wedding. The musicians you hear on a demo CD may be different form the musicians you saw on a video and a completely different group of musicians may be performing at your wedding!!! Make sure that you ask about the band members. Are they regulars? Are the singers on the demo CD the same singers who work with the band now? And, most importantly, will the singers (that you think sound great) still be with the band when your wedding day arrives?

Also, ask the band leader if he will personally be at your wedding! You don’t want to be surprised at the last minute and find out the band leader you expected to be at your wedding is sending a substitute, because the original band leader booked another job – believe us, it happens!

The answer to any of these questions should be a simple YES or NO. Any hesitation by the band leader is a pretty good indication that band members are not regulars and that the leader, for one reason or another, plays “fast and loose” with personnel – including himself.

The reason that we have photos and video of the band is because those individuals, in the photos and video, are the full-time and exclusive members of the Stu Hirsh Orchestra! Every member of the orchestra is a talented and accomplished music professional. Many members of the orchestra have been with us for more than ten years. And by working with the same talented group of performers, for so many years, we have been able to maintain the highest levels of professionalism and musicianship. About Us

9) What If a Band Member Is Unavailable for My Wedding?

Like any office, personnel changes may occur. Illness, extenuating circumstances, vacations, or even pregnancies can cause a temporary or permanent change in band members. In the unlikely event that a member of the Stu Hirsh Orchestra cannot be present at your wedding, a substitute, of the highest quality, will be used as a replacement.

10) What Does the Orchestra Wear?

Unless a client requests different attire, the men wear tuxedos, white shirts and black ties. The women dress in evening wear, either cocktail length or full length gowns.

11) Will the Orchestra Travel Out of Town?

Absolutely. The Stu Hirsh Orchestra has performed throughout the United States.

Check out our National Clientele.

Our Services

12) How Many Hours Does the Band Play?

The orchestra is hired based upon a minimum 3 hour time period. Of course, we will provide as much music as you require. There are many musical options available, that can include your ceremony, cocktail reception, dinner and dancing.

13) How Large Is the Orchestra?

When you discuss band size with leaders, you will get any number of answers. As an example, there are 5 and 6 piece bands that are only that size. They will tell you that their band is perfect for your wedding reception. The same holds true for any band that consists of a finite number of performers. Then, you will find bands that work with a minimum number of musicians – a core group – and can increase or decrease in size.

What you need to be aware of, is if the band leader is suggesting a size band that is appropriate for your reception, or is he simply trying to sell you his band. What is “appropriate” is very subjective and there are no definite rules to follow. If you are having 80 guests, your reception is probably in a room that will not accommodate a 12 piece band. But, if you have the budget and space, and if you want the sound of a 12 piece band, then hire that band.

Conversely, if you are having 300 guests and you are talking with a 6 piece band, they will say “you don’t need more musicians, we have a big enough sound”. Perhaps they are right and perhaps your budget only allows for a 6 piece band. In that situation, you hire the 6 piece band. Or, if your budget allows, you can consider looking at a larger band. A larger band will have a richer, fuller sound, hopefully more versatility and will more fully complement the size of your reception.

So, when you’re speaking with a band leader, listen very carefully and try to determine what he is attempting to accomplish. Is he just trying to make a sale, or is he describing to you the various musical options that are available and the pros and cons of those options?

The day and month of your wedding also play an important role in a band leader’s suggestions. A Saturday night wedding, in May or June, is very popular. Most bands that maintain a minimum number of musicians will strictly adhere to those minimums, when discussing “popular “dates. But, by having your wedding on a Saturday night in January, February, or March, or if you have an afternoon wedding, or a Sunday wedding, you will probably encounter much more flexibility on the part of the band leader.

The nucleus of the Stu Hirsh Orchestra is 10 pieces. This includes our 3 dynamic vocalists, trumpet, saxophone, trombone, keyboards (Stu Hirsh), guitar, bass and drums. By augmenting the band with additional horns, violins and percussion, the band can easily expand to 16 or 17 pieces. Depending on your musical requirements, the size of your wedding, the date and your budget, the band can also be reduced in size. Stu will openly and honestly speak with you about wedding music. He will describe our services and the two of you will decide if the orchestra is a good choice for your wedding. And if we are not the perfect match, he will offer suggestions as to whom or what may be a more appropriate option.

14) Can You Perform for Wedding Ceremonies?

Some orchestras and bands have the ability to play for wedding ceremonies, other bands are not as versatile. You will find that the most standard instrumentation for a ceremony is piano and flute. This usually employs the band’s keyboard player and the band’s saxophonist, who also plays flute. Drawing from the band’s personnel, you can also consider using solo trumpet, guitar or a vocal soloist (if one of the band’s vocalists can sing the appropriate music, in the appropriate style).

Many churches and synagogues have a musical director/organist who maintains a specific list of approved musicians, who can perform at that particular house of worship. Check with your priest, minister or rabbi before you hire musicians for your ceremony. Make sure you know what their policy is, in regards to musicians. Of course, if your ceremony is not at a church or synagogue, then this is not an issue.

If you choose to use musicians who are not members of your band or orchestra, then there are even a greater number of musical possibilities available. You can select from:

  • solo harp
  • solo organ
  • vocal soloist
  • classical guitar
  • violin and piano
  • piano trio (violin, flute and piano)
  • string trio (two violins and cello)
  • flute trio (flute, violin and cello)
  • string quartet (two violins, viola and cello)
  • flute quartet (flute, violin, viola and cello)
  • larger string and flute ensembles
  • woodwind and brass ensembles

Well, you get the idea. There are many, many musical possibilities.

The most professional band and orchestra leaders should be able to assist you with every aspect of your ceremony, not just the music. They should have the resources to provide you with the exact music that you want for your ceremony. And, they should be able to offer advice as to the order of the processional, placement of the bridal party during the ceremony and how to organize the recessional.

The styles of music performed at your ceremony can be as varied as your personal musical tastes. The basic music categories are:

  • Classical
  • Religious
  • Popular (standards and contemporary songs, music from the last 80 years)

Three categories offer an almost infinite number of musical selections to choose from! The music played at your ceremony is up to you. Your band leader or ceremony musicians should be able to offer you musical suggestions, play them live for you at client meetings, or direct you to recordings of the music. There are no rules to determine what musical styles work well with another. Hearing your selections, played in the sequence of the ceremony, is the best way to make that decision. The band leader can offer advice as to what songs and styles flow well together and in a logical order.

But the final choice is yours. Remember, it’s your wedding. In fact, we have been involved with ceremonies that have included steel drums and mariachi bands. If you want Beethoven and the Beatles, Vivaldi and Van Morrison, or Ave Maria following the Phantom of the Opera then, to quote Nike, JUST DO IT!!!

The Stu Hirsh Orchestra has performed at hundreds of weddings. If we do not directly perform at the ceremony, we have long standing relationships with musicians who specialize in ceremony music. Whether your ceremony is traditional or non-traditional, we have the expertise and experience to assist you with all aspects of your ceremony. We can assist in organizing your processional, the ceremony itself, the recessional and we can easily provide the musical ensemble that best reflects your wedding dreams.

15) Can the Band Provide Music at the Cocktail Reception?

The vast majority of bands should be able to provide music at your cocktail reception. There are several options available when you are considering cocktail music:

A first option is to ask the musicians playing at your ceremony to play at cocktails. Keep in mind that if you are having your wedding at a church or synagogue and your reception is at another location, the musicians have to finish playing at the ceremony (the recessional), pack up there instruments, travel to the reception venue, and then set-up once again. Therefore, your guests will arrive at the venue before the musicians and, at least initially, there will not be any music. If your ceremony is held at the same location as your reception, then the musicians can easily move to the cocktail area.

A second option is to have one type of music at your ceremony and another type of music at cocktails. As an example, you use at a string quartet at your ceremony and then have a jazz trio playing at cocktails. The jazz trio could be members of your band or they could be yet another separate group.

A third option is to have your orchestra provide the music for both the ceremony and cocktails. Your ceremony music could consist of piano and flute. Then, the pianist and flutist (along with saxophone) can play soft jazz, standards and show tunes for cocktails.

Since the ceremony musicians should be able to play a variety of musical styles, the music performed at cocktails can also be a combination of styles. You probably do not want religious selections at cocktails – there is something about drinking a martini while listening to hymns that just does not seem to work.

There are as many combinations of cocktail music groups as there are for a ceremony. You can use any of the ceremony music options listed in #14 and have them play at cocktails and you can also consider these small groups, playing jazz, standards and show tunes:

  • solo piano
  • solo guitar
  • strolling violinists
  • piano and sax
  • guitar and sax
  • piano, sax and bass
  • guitar, sax and bass
  • piano, violin, sax
  • piano, violin, sax and bass
  • piano, trumpet and bass
  • piano, trumpet, sax and bass

If the cocktail reception is in the same room as your dinner and the musicians are performing from the band’s stage, then you can also consider adding drums to the group. If cocktails are in a separate location from the dinner, then drums are not a good idea. It is much too time consuming to move the drum set from one location to another.

Ethic music and musicians are always a possibility. Bagpipers, sitar and koto players, an accordionist dressed as a gondolier and playing Italian melodies…never hesitate to be creative and use your imagination.

The Stu Hirsh Orchestra regularly performs for cocktails. Whether you are interested in classical, jazz, standards, or show tunes, we can provide you with the appropriate background music. We will always discuss the “musical mood” that you would like to establish and then recommend the best combinations of music and musicians to satisfy your musical requirements.

16) What About Dinner Music?

If dancing does not begin with the start of dinner, your approach to dinner music is much the same as it is when selecting cocktail music. But we would probably suggest staying away from having bagpipers perform throughout dinner – sometimes “less is more”!

17) When Should the Full Band Start Playing?

The first option is to have the full band begin playing as soon as the doors open for dinner. If cocktails and dinner are in the same room, then the band starts when your guests are invited to be seated for dinner. This option is very festive and creates a real “party” atmosphere. If you choose this option you would have your band playing up-beat, fun music. You should then strongly consider having your first dance as soon as you are introduced into the room (if you want to be introduced), or have your first dance very early on during dinner. The band then plays a combination of background music and dance music throughout dinner.

The next option is to have background music played as the doors open and guests are seated. The music can is be lively, but it won’t have the same impact as if it were the full band. You can then have the full band start at some point during (your decision) dinner.

The third option is to have background music throughout dinner and start the full band after desert.

You can also consider a fourth option which is to have part of the band start at dinner and have a combination of background and dance music throughout dinner. Let’s say you have a 10 piece band – 3 vocals, 2 horns, keyboard, guitar, bass and drums. You could have piano, bass and drums (the basic trio needed for dancing) playing, and add 1 horn, or 1 vocalist, or guitar to the trio. Four, five, or six pieces will not have the total versatility of the full band, but any of these smaller groups can definitely play danceable music. So, you can have a combination of background and dance music, without having the expense of the entire band performing during dinner.

18) Should I Have Continuous or Non-Continuous Music?

Continuous music makes the musical performance seamless. The music never stops, the band never takes a break and the party always maintains its momentum and energy level. Continuous music can be approached in a couple of ways:

One option to achieve continuous music is to employ a combination of dance and background music throughout the evening. The stage is never empty and you always have musicians performing.

A second option is literal continuous, where the full band stays on stage and plays, without a break.

There is an additional charge for continuous music. We would be happy to discuss continuous music with you and describe the various options, in greater detail.

19) Will the Band Learn New Music?

We learn special requests all of the time. In fact, many songs that are now in our repertoire were initially requests. This is particularly true of first dance selections. Many times a bride and groom have favorite songs that are not in our repertoire and we certainly want to make every effort to insure that the two of you can hear those “special” songs. All we ask is that you make us aware of requests with plenty of advance notice, so that we can prepare musical arrangements and rehearse those selections.

Technical Elements of the Reception

20) When Does the Band Set Up?

Ask your band what there set up schedule is. You probably do not want the band loading their equipment into your reception while you are in the room. It looks terrible and it is both disruptive and distracting to your guests. You certainly do not need to hear the band performing a “sound check” during dinner.

The vast majority of our equipment (sound system, microphones, music stands, etc.) is set up before you and your guests enter the room. In that way, the stage has a “finished” appearance and we are not interrupting your reception with the look and sounds of moving equipment. Most band members carry a minimal amount of equipment and they will arrive an hour before our start. And if the reception is in progress, the musicians all enter the room fully dressed in their formal wear.

21) Does the Band Have A Public Address System?

We provide a completely professional sound system. This system is used for our performance as well as for all announcements. A wireless microphone is always available for your use. It offers you and your guests the convenience of being able to make toasts and remarks from anywhere in the room.

22) How Does the Band Approach Volume Issues?

The orchestra has a full-time, professional sound engineer. His responsibility is to make sure that the orchestra’s sound level is balanced in the room. We are very sensitive to volume issues. We want the band to sound exciting and to perform with energy, but we also want you and your guests to be able to easily carry on conversations at the same time. During the evening, if you ever have a volume question, just ask us and we will make the proper adjustment.

23) Will the Band Leader Make Announcements?

If you want announcements to be made, make sure that your band leader is comfortable with acting as the MC – Master of Ceremonies.

Stu Hirsh regularly serves as Master of Ceremonies. Whether he is working with a wedding consultant or not, Stu almost always takes care of the announcing. Of course, you can also designate a friend or family member to fulfill those duties. Stu will take you through the list of items or activities that could be announced (introductions, grace, toasts, cake-cutting, etc.) and then you would tell him what things (if any) you actually want to have announced. He is happy to make as many or as few announcements as you would like. It is completely up to you. And by the way, the announcements are made in a very tasteful manner – not like a game show host asking your minister or rabbi to, “Come on down”!!!

Also, Stu always pays great attention to the details involved in the entire wedding, not just the music. He works closely with you, your photographer, videographer and caterer to make sure that when an announcement is made, everyone involved is ready. This sounds like a small detail, but it is one that is important. Before asking the Best Man to make a toast, Stu makes sure that the Best Man is in the room! Or, when it’s time for the cake cutting – is there a knife and plate at your wedding cake and is the photographer set to go, or does he need two more minutes to reload his camera? Little details, but if they are over looked those details can cause embarrassing and awkward moments.

24) Can Guests Sit -In With the Band?

If you would like to have a guest or relative perform with the band, then we are happy to have that person join us. We definitely will want to speak with that person, well in advance of the wedding, in order to make your “guest artist” as comfortable as possible, so that their performance will be as professional as possible.

25) Do You Take Breaks?

Every band has their own particular policy when it comes to breaks. Some bands take 10 minute breaks, other take 15 or 20 minute breaks. Just make sure you know what your band’s breaks are like. Breaks that are too long can destroy a party.

The Stu Hirsh Orchestra will typically take one 10-minute break per hour, during a standard three hour performance. These breaks are not necessarily strictly timed. We try our best to schedule the breaks at logical points in the evening. Breaks can occur during toasts, or when a course is served. If the band begins after dinner, then we will usually play 50 minutes and then take a 10 minute break, within each hour. We also provide a CD player and CDs, so that music can be played on our breaks.

26) Does the Band Expect to Eat?

Staff meals for the orchestra are rarely expected. But, if you are generous enough to invite us to dine, it is always appreciated. The only situation in which we do request staff meals is when certain members of the orchestra are performing for a significantly long amount of time, beyond the band’s standard three hour performance.

27) What Is the Band’s Policy on Drinking Alcohol?

Alcohol is great, when consumed in moderation, but NEVER at work. We are very strict about this one. No alcohol is consumed by any member of the band, at any time, during a wedding. Some bands apparently think that a wedding reception is an opportunity for the musicians to “party” with the guests. Your wedding is our place of work. And our “office” is not the place for alcohol.

Contracts & Hiring

28) How Quickly Should I Hire My Musicians?

The sooner you hire your music the better. Following the Easter and Passover holidays, we have found that April, May and June are extremely busy, along with September through December. July and August are next in popularity, followed by January, February and March (weather concerns are always an issue – at least for Chicago). Saturday nights are the most popular times for a wedding and there are only so many Saturdays. If your wedding is not scheduled for a Saturday night, you increase the possibility of the band being available. So, the best thing to do is contact us at (847) 914-0444 and ask about our availability.

29) Will You Hold My Date?

If you are seriously interested in hiring the band, but need some time to make your final decision, we will offer you the “right of first refusal”. Essentially, this means is that, if we receive another inquiry for your wedding date, we will call you and give you first choice for our services. In the event that you are unable to give us a definite answer at that time, we will then make ourselves available to any other interested party, on a “first come first serve” basis.

30) Do I Get a Contract?

Contracts are critical when you are hiring any and all services for your wedding. Make sure that the band’s contract includes the following information:

  • The name of the band (sounds obvious, but you do not want any surprises).
  • The number of performers you are hiring.
  • The name of the band leader.
  • The correct date and location of your wedding.
  • The specific hours of employment.
  • The contract price and deposit information.
  • All the terms regarding cancellation, substitution and refund policies.
  • Payment terms.
  • Overtime rates.
  • All other contractual arrangements that have been discussed (meals for the band, rental of a piano, intermission/break times, etc.)

The Stu Hirsh Orchestra issues a standard musical services contract that includes all of the pertinent information and terms that apply to the band’s performance. If a performance involves many items that are uniquely specific to that particular event, then addendums to the contract can also be included. We want our client to be completely at ease with the contract and we want the contract to be as clear, detailed and as to the point as possible.

31) What About a Deposit?

A deposit of one-quarter (25%) the total contract price is due with return of the signed contract.

32) What Are the Payment Terms?

The balance is due the day of your wedding. You can pay with a personal check, business check, money order, or cashiers check.

33) What About Overtime?

We are always available to play beyond the originally contracted times. Overtime is based on ½ hour increments. As we approach the end of the band’s playing time, Stu will discuss overtime with you. Is the dance floor packed and are you having a great time? And, do you want to extend the band so that the fun continues? It is a budget question that only you can answer. Overtime really does not have to be decided upon until the last fifteen or twenty minutes of the contracted playing time.

34) What Is the Band’s Cancellation Policy?

Once a contract has been executed, it can only be cancelled with the mutual written consent of both parties. But, there can sometimes be extenuating circumstances and if you need or want to cancel our services, we will discuss it with you.