By Mary Malik | Photo by McKinley Wiley
“My father played the piano and had a band when I was growing up,” Petrone says. “I started piano very young, formed a band in the early ’90s, and I never looked back. We entertain at every kind of event there is, but corporate events call for a unique approach.”
According to Petrone, flexibility is the key to success for any band entertaining a corporate crowd. The events bring together not only a variety of musical tastes but also people of varied ages who don’t often mingle or even know each other socially. This calls for a band with personality, and one willing to engage the crowd and truly entertain as opposed to simply providing background music.
“Personalizing an event to meet the client’s particular needs is where any corporate event band must excel,” Petrone says. “Bands work together with an event planner to help create something truly unique. We do every type of music there is, and if we don’t know it already, we will learn it. This openness to something new and willingness to go outside the norm is necessary for the success of these events.”
And talk about going the extra mile. The Mike Petrone Band has done everything from a Studio 54-themed event, complete with costume changes and dance moves, to a karaoke show in which the guests become the entertainment.
“In 2015 we did more corporate work than we had ever done before,” Petrone says. “Holiday celebrations, clambakes, retirement parties, and several themed events kept us busy. One performance for the Boys and Girls Club event was done in collaboration with a group of children who performed with us.”
Petrone knows that getting the crowd to engage is a great way to get people to have fun and interact with each other. “This is always a goal for a corporate event,” Petrone says. “Companies often want the guests to participate in the event and get to know each other better. The guests’ good time and positive experience is a reflection on the host organization.”
Petrone sees the band as a facilitator of that positive experience, which is why he says that versatility in a band is so important. For a 100th anniversary party for the Cleveland Playhouse, actors performed vignettes throughout the venue, and the food, music, and entire decor expressed a certain theme. The event became not just a party but also an experience for the guests. The band must be able to adapt to the theme to help create that experience.
“The crowd was immersed in the event as soon as they walked in the door,” Petrone says. “Everything seen, heard, even tasted revolved around the theme. That’s what corporate events are doing now. So, in turn, the band has to be flexible and adjust the music accordingly.
“For private events like weddings, the band will get a list of songs to include and then will usually fill in with similar music,” Petrone says. “For a corporate event, there may be an entirely different request. One fundraiser had a Paris cafe theme and requested French inspired music throughout the evening. Finding an accordion player in Cleveland with knowledge of French music isn’t easy.”
Petrone knows that the addition of a live band can help a company to convey its message to the group in a fun, interactive, and engaging format. His band has even set up an iPad with the words scrolling so guests can sing along right up on stage.
“Live music changes an event,” Petrone says. “As soon as someone starts singing on stage, the party becomes something different, something memorable.”
For more information: mikepetrone.com
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