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Hiring a student for ceremony music...opinions

Okay this is the third board I've posted this on...just want to make sure Im on the right board! Lol has anyone hired a college student or are going to for ceremony music?
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Re: Hiring a student for ceremony music...opinions

  • edited December 2011
    I'm not, because when I was in college I used to play in string quartets in weddings for spare cash, and I was never fully satisfied with any of my own performances.  (I'm a perfectionist when it comes to these things, though, FWIW.)  That said, I had a lot of friends who did solo performances for weddings (typically singers and flute players) and they never seemed to have that problem.

    Here are the typical pros and cons of hiring students:

    Pros: They're cheap, and usually pretty decent.  Most will have a pretty good repertiore of your standard wedding songs.

    Cons: If you want more than one or two songs that aren't in the standard repertiore, they may not be able to learn them in time.  For groups, at least, it's hard to get timing and acoustics down, because even if you invite them to the rehearsal (which you usually don't, because that doubles the cost right there), you rarely have time to do a complete run-through where they find out exactly how long the bride will take to walk down the aisle, where the best view of who's walking down the aisle is so that they have the right cues to switch between processional songs for the MOB/BMs/bride, etc.  Also, to be very frank, mistakes happen, especially if you've got a string quartet cramped into a tiny corner of a church and they can't really see each other.  Many of these problems are bigger problems with ensembles than with soloists, though.

    The other big con is that college ensembles usually aren't available during most of wedding season, because it corresponds with exams and summer vacation, where many students will be away from campus at internships or jobs, or just back home.  Not a problem if your wedding isn't between May and August, or in December or January.

    As a general note, make sure you hire through the college's music department so that the musicians will have been vetted by the faculty, or hire students with an established side business, or at least experience having done several weddings.

    College musicians are a GREAT way to hire musicians on a budget if having live music is important to you.  They won't be as flawless as a professional group, but they'll usually be pretty professional.  For me personally, having live music isn't as important as having flawless music, so I'm using recorded music and a DJ for my ceremony.  But like I said, your mileage may differ.
  • edited December 2011
    Hiring college musicians is a wonderful idea! Just make sure that you listen to the group before you hire them. Plus, you may even want to send an email to the Music Department chair so he/she can reccommend the best musicians for you. Happy planning!
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  • edited December 2011
    Thanks calliopeia for elaborate pros and cons, never thought of it like that...do you think Craigslist would be a good idea...or am I better off going through the college...should I hold 'auditions'
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  • edited December 2011
    I've been playing weddings since I was in high school. Being in university has nothing to do with the quality of music you will receive. I've heard some pretty god-awful "professional" wedding musicians.  

    Many of the best musicians I know are still in university and they are already in high demand in the professional world. 

    Make sure you hear the group you are thinking of hiring and meet with them to get a general impression of the service they will offer. And make sure to communicate any special requests well in advance. I had one bride request a special song the day before the wedding. We were able to accommodate her, but it meant extra rehearsal time and more money on her part. It will NOT take them a long time to learn the pieces, however. This is what we do all day, every day, and any musician worth their salt should be able to do quick-study. What DOES present a problem is when a bride requests something at the last minute, and all the musicians have to work with is a bad-quality youtube video. 

    I'm now going a bit off-topic, but it always makes me laugh/cringe when I hear about brides that get frustrated when their last-minute musical requests end up costing them more $$. If you were to ask your florist to make 5 extra centrepieces, they would charge you more. If you asked your caterer to prepare 10 extra meals they would charge you more... 

    Anyways, sorry for the rant. 
  • edited December 2011
    If you go through the college, you probably don't need to have auditions; if you go off craigslist, it's probably a good idea to audition, unless they're willing to give you references or something like that (some groups might have references ready, but a lot of them won't).  Another thing you can do is just ask for a recording; a lot of groups will have sample tracks available, or will be able to record you one.

    The problem is that auditions can cause the price to go up, just like rehearsals in the ceremony space.  You're going to be paying musicians roughly by the hour, and while some well-established groups might have package deals, the cheapest way to go is to just have them there for the ceremony.  Especially for an established group, they'll know all the songs very well, and can literally just show up for the ceremony and sound good.  If you make them all get together an extra time that they wouldn't have otherwise for an audition, or for a rehearsal in the ceremony space, they're likely to charge more- not necessarily double or anything, but more.

    Short answer- the more you're willing to pay, the better the musicians will be, and the more assurances you'll get that they're talented and professional.  If you want to go super-cheap, go through the college; if you want to take a little more time and money, you can go through people who you review yourself.

    ETA: Also, I agree with everything musicalcanadian said- the only thing I'd add is that colleges tend to have two types of wedding groups- established ones that are used to playing together, and then a lot of groups sort of created depending on the whims of given brides.  You have a big pool of students who are familiar with the wedding repertiore, and a bride calls up the music department and says "Hi, I want a string quartet," or "Hi, I want a string trio and a pianist," or whatever, and the students put together a group based on the needs of a given bride and based on who's free.  You're much better off going with the first as far as quality.
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