Monday, January 25, 2010

The Wonderful World of Interactive Gigs

I started the New Year off performing for Edie’s 70th birthday party. What a blast. Her husband, Jack, invited me to play for the birthday dinner at a popular Chinese restaurant in old town Folsom, California. Jack made all the musical selections with me beforehand, and he asked many questions about the tunes. I just thought he was interested, but he made a game of it at the birthday party.

Once everyone was seated, Jack announced to all guests the instructions to the game: They would hear one tune played on the harp that was the love song from the movie “Ghost”, and another tune that was made popular in the movie “Ordinary People”. As soon as someone hears the song, they need to raise their hand and shout out the answer. That person would get a prize (a free sandwich coupon at a local eatery).

Not only did the guests become attentive to the music between their courses of egg rolls and chow mien, it struck up all kinds of conversations about music. And Edie, the guest of honor, was having a great time, as everyone sang “Happy Birthday” accompanied by me on the harp.

My next gig this year was performing for a corporate dinner party at the lovely Edgewood Country Club here at Lake Tahoe. A meeting planner booked me for the performance, and she didn’t know the age group that would be attending the party. So I brought along a wide assortment of sheet music, just in case guests would have requests. Turns out they began requesting music from the moment I began playing Sting’s “Field’s of Gold” and the Beatle’s “I Will”.

In the middle of the festivities, the host announced me by name and said I’d be playing something unusual on the harp for everyone. I selected “Stairway to Heaven”, which was met with “Woot! Woot!” from the crowd. Then, they held up their cell phones, lighters, and candle centerpieces to show their appreciation. I received a big round of applause, quite unexpectedly.

When a gig becomes interactive, it’s great fun for the musicians and the guests. It’s the reason to have live music at an event—getting the guests involved in music that is organically created at any moment.

Tips for Brides, Event Planners, And Anyone Hiring Performers

Invent ways to have your guests interact with the musician. You could include a musical guessing game, allow your guests to throw out requests to willing musicians, do live karaoke with your musicians, pair up songs to announce different events at your party, and more. The music can become the party game or centerpiece of your event, and people will long remember the music afterwards.

Tips for Musicians

Extend your repertoire. Be willing to take requests, accompany others, or simply show off a tune that people won’t expect. Learn to read the crowd by their age ranges and trust your instincts to play what you know they’ll enjoy. It’s a lot of fun to be flexible and surprise your audience.

I have a friend who leads a string quartet, and to this day, one of the most surprisingly popular tunes his ensemble plays is the theme from the Flintstone’s cartoon. Blows the socks off of anyone who may think they are a stuffy string quartet. And I can’t tell you how many people crave hearing “Stairway to Heaven”, “Free Bird” and perhaps a Nirvana or Metallica tune on the Celtic harp. You become a popular commodity when you can think outside the box and provide some unexpected entertainment for your guests. Word gets around about your abilities and you’ll get more bookings.

Have a wonderful New Year and make sure to check out more tips for musicians in my book “The Musician’s Guide to Brides” (which also contains great marketing ideas for all gigs) available wherever Hal Leonard Books are sold: music and bookstores, and through online retailers including, , and of course, at my website at
I’m looking forward to reading your stories, comments, and feedback.

Anne :-)

Anne Roos
Celtic Harp Music by Anne Roos

(And contact me at for personal consultation and mentoring—Make a living while gigging)

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