Wedding Music Chat with Andy Kushner, Thursday, March 13, at 11 AM

Host: Andy Kushner

Editor’s Note: Washingtonian Online moderators and hosts retain editorial control over chats and choose the most relevant questions; hosts can decline to answer questions.

At age 15, Andy Kushner was already leading bands at pro soccer games in Tampa Stadium. He studied management and music at Boston University, then spent 16 years in business before starting the dance band Sound Connection. Today he leads Sound Connection and two other local bands, Sound Nation and Marquise.

Sound Connection’s ten musicians, singers, and dancers do it all (even Donald Trump's New Year's Eve parties!), but they love weddings. The band was featured on a wedding-planning segment of TBS’s Movie and a Makeover, and Brides magazine called on Andy to help do a wedding at Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World that was aired on Entertainment Tonight and the Food Network.

I hope I got to most of your questions and gave some useful information.  I really enjoyed this chat and wish everyone a great wedding!

Andy Kushner 

Arlington, VA
How far in advance does your band get booked for weddings? I am getting married in October and The Knot says I should already have my music booked but I definitely don't yet! Should I do it ASAP?
October is a very popular month for weddings in the DC area so i recommend beginning your search asap.  The more popular bands can get booked as much as 18 months ahead of time though I'm seeing more and more bookings just 6-8 months out.
washington, dc
suggestions for a fun song to walk down the aisle to? i hate hate hate the wedding march
Hmmm, that's a good question.  I've seen it all...you can really use anything you'd like.  For example, the chorus of Beyonce's Crazy In Love though I would have it played instrumentally.  Your friends will recognize the song and get a kick out of it though it won't be over the top if it's instrumental.
Evanston, IL
I'm a big fan of Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana. Is it tacky to have music that I personally enjoy that won't be a crowd pleaser? I want to hear "Nobody's Perfect" but I'm not sure that Grandma Jean will really appreciate it.
I think it's thoughtful that you're thinking of what your guests will like however I believe it's still important for you to have some music that you really love regardless of it's popularity or lack of.  If you hit the dance floor, when it comes on, trust me...everyone will take your lead and follow.  It's all about the spirit of celebration and having fun.  I'll never forget a moment at my own wedding...I insisted that they not play the Hokey Pokey however the band leader came up to me and asked if they could do it and to trust them.  They did a rap version of it and everyone loved it.  I have to admit that I thought it was a real fun moment.
Boston, MA
For my 2009 August wedding, we're hiring a band (my fiance and I have so far only agreed on no cheesy DJ and chocolate cake). I would really like everyone at my reception to appreciate the music played. I've been to my share of weddings and I know how, after some drinks, the younger crowd tends to hit the dance floor and the older people take it as their cue to leave. I'd like both old and young generations to be able to enjoy themselves and dance all evening. Any suggestions about how to accommodate all my guests?
A good band leader will know how to pace the party and perform material that gets everyone involved.  I'll watch the crowd and be sure to play a ballad that will bring everyone back to the floor if necessary.  Let your band leader know the range of material you'd like performed throughout the evening and trust them to know when to play each particular song.
Bethesda, MD
I've heard that I should audition my band. What does that exactly mean? Do I sit there and make them play for me, or have them send me a tape, or what?
There are a variety of ways to check out a band.  Some of the best are to ask your party planner or venue contact for recommendations.  Other vendors, such as photographers and videographers, are also good sources because they work with bands every weekend.  Check out the band's DVD and if you're on the fence ask if they have a showcase or a job coming up that would be appropriate for you to come to.  If they allow you to stop by, dress appropriately and be as discreet as possible.  However, you still run the risk of showing up when things are slow.  So, I suggest stopping by in the last hour or two of their job.
Washington, DC
My cousin hired a DJ for her wedding and he ended up being terrible! What can I do to make sure the DJ I hire is a good one?
Ask if you can talk to some references and ask pointed questions that address your issues and concerns about how the DJ ran their party.  As I mentioned earlier, you can also ask your other vendors and venue contacts if they are familiar with a particular DJ and how they entertain a party.
Arlington, VA
We're doing a morning wedding with a brunch reception. So we're thinking the music should be more low key. Do you think a jazz band would be appropriate?
It really depends on the type of party you want to have.  Daytime weddings are sometimes more challenging in terms of getting people to feel like dancing.  However, if you and your family and close friends hit the floor...believe me, everyone will follow.  Otherwise, a jazz band would be a great idea!  You can also ask them if they can play some popular songs instrumentally so that more of the crowd can recognize the songs.
washington, dc
what are the top five most requested songs at weddings?
It actually varies from wedding to wedding however a number of "old school" songs keep coming up, including September, Hot Hot Hot, Living On A Prayer, Good Times and YMCA.  Brides seem to either hate or love YMCA however the typical crowd still run to the floor when it comes on.  Some more current songs are Party Like A Rock Star, Hey Ya, Crazy In Love and even tunes like Gold Digger.
arlington, va
do you often see couples skip the father-daughter, mother-son dances? we're thinking of not doing them, but i wanted to know if they are skipped often and what you think the guests will think.
This can be an emotional issue and I recommend you go with what your heart tells you.  This is your party and you need to be comfortable.  If that means not having these dances then that's okay.  Don't concern yourself with what others will think.  Most people won't even notice.
Arlington, VA
What ends up being the real difference between a band and a DJ, other than money? How does it change the atmosphere? The guests' reactions?
Good question.  Actually, there are DJ's who are more expensive than a lot of bands. A live band can be more exciting though there are talented DJ's out there who can really rev up a crowd.  Perhaps there's a space issue in which case a DJ will certainly take up less.  If you want mostly current material a DJ might be more appropriate since there are very few bands that perform a large quantity of current top 40.  Think about the kind of songs you want to have played and whether or not a band is going to be able to do them justice.  Some people really want to hear the actual record version though it's also fun and exciting to hear a good band's take on it.  I guess I haven't given a definite answer but hopefully some questions to consider that will lead you to a clear conclusion. 
Washington DC
We're DJing ourselves with an iPod. How much music should we have ready to play? The reception starts at 6, and our friends and family aren't huge dancers, but they're not wallflowers either.
I suggest creating two different playlists.  One that is made up only of background music to play during the meal and another that is just made up of danceable songs.  Have at least 90 minutes of background music and two or three hours of dance music just to be safe.
Reston, VA
My fiance is Jewish and wants a klezmer band to play at our wedding. He is willing to compromise though. My grandmother threatened to walk out of the wedding if she had to "listen to that stuff all night" (she's a pretty old-fashioned Catholic). And my grandfather keeps singing "Hava Nagila" to make fun of me. He's 90. So a klezmer band is out. BUT...are bands like yours able to mix in a traditional Jewish wedding song or two? I'd like my man and his relatives to feel welcome, but I don't want my grandmother to go crazy. What are your recommendations?
Your family get-togethers must be a lot of fun!  Most experienced wedding bands know how to sing and perform a good Hora Medley though you should ask.  If not, you can ask them to play a CD that you provide when you want a hora though it's best if the band can perform it themselves.  If you have the budget available, you can hire a Klezmer band and a typical variety dance band.  The key is to determine what kind of overall party you and your fiance want and choose the band accordingly.
Washington, DC
In your opinion, what are the most popular "first dance" songs?
We used to get the same requests over and over like I Will Always Love You or Let's Stay Together for example.  However, it's amazing how we rarely play the same first dance anymore!  Pour a couple glasses of wine and listen to a bunch of slow songs with your fiance and see what grabs your attention.
Washington, DC
Do you ever have a problem with an intoxicated guest or some other party-goer grabbing the microphone from you and taking over the stage? If so, how do you handle it?
I've seen it all and yes, your example has happened.  My bass player is kind of a big guy so we'll have him walk over and glare at the "intoxicated" guest otherwise I'll "accidentally" hit him with my trumpet.  Okay, I'm kidding...Actually, I have no problem going over and gently taking it back and asking him to leave the stage.  I've never had any bad reaction.
Rockville MD
My daughters getting marred in July--can you suggest a father daugher dance --especially when I cant dance
Don't worry about how you dance.  This is a great opportunity to share a very special moment with your daughter that you're likely to remember forever.  Pick a song whose message means something to you.  Checking out the lyric is important.  Some songs to consider are It's A Wonderful World, My Girl, Sunshine Of My Life and The Way You Look Tonight.
Potomac,MD
The band I'm thinking of hiring is asking for several breaks during the evening which I think will interupt the flow --what is normal?
This definitely raises a red flag about the band.  A good band leader will know understand that the priority is the flow of the party and not their breaks.  My bands usually take two breaks...one during the entre when they won't be missed and a shorter one during dessert.  Another option is to hire the band to keep one or two musicians on stage however any break should be timed according to what works best with the timeline.