Armstrong Farms Westminster Preserve -Saxonburg PA

Category: Venue Reviews

A beautiful and a peaceful place to have a wedding, a paradise not far from Pittsburgh.  A wedding coordinator Amanda was very helpful when a violinist got lost on the way to this place. She was also very good and efficient at taking care of other details that musicians have requested. Amanda was the one to call the violinist a few days before the wedding ceremony, asking if anything special was needed for musicians. Exceptional service by her!


Lingrow Farm, Leechburg PA

Category: Venue Reviews

This place speaks a lot about the unique topography of Pittsburgh, the topic that the musicians discussed after arriving here. On the map (and according to directions), it seemed as this place was far away from Pittsburgh. In reality, it took each one of the quartet players less than an hour to get here.

It ended up being a very adventurous wedding for the musicians. It was raining all day long, with ominous clouds and thunderstorms. The wedding ceremony was planned to be held outside by the pond and the gazebo behind the main building. The bride was supposed to arrive at the site of the ceremony in a carriage. Until the very last minute we, the musicians, and the wedding coordinator had no idea if the weather was going to cooperate or not. Ten minutes prior to the ceremony it down poured.  It looked pretty much as if everything was going to be moved indoors. Last minute however, the bride made a decision to go for it, and to have the ceremony outdoors. How often, after all, do you get to ride in a carriage in a beautiful nature setting on your special day? During the procession of the carriage and the bride to the site of the ceremony, the musicians were playing “Bless the Broken Road” and the skies looked black with a misty rain falling.  Then the most awesome thing happened. As soon as the bride stepped off the carriage and started walking toward the groom – the sun came out instantly! It was pretty amazing to see! The sun was out just long enough to finish the wedding ceremony and as musicians were packing to leave – it started raining again.

The wedding coordinator was also an amazing person! She was on the phone with a bride several times prior to the ceremony, ready to do whatever needed to be done, whatever changes had to take place. She was very efficient, pleasant and had a positive attitude no matter what! It makes it so easy to work with people like her in the wedding business.

Lingrow Farm

On being a musician and a human

Quite often at different playing events musicians are asked questions such as “How did your group meet?”, “How long have musicians known each other?”, and other questions that will show people the relationships between the musicians. 

It is a somewhat interesting issue from a “get along” and “not get along” point of view. Whether or not the musicians in the same group get along with each other can greatly affect their performance level.  I have performed with groups that reflect both sides. 

Only this past summer a violist was needed to play at a wedding in Pittsburgh and I got the job. By any standards of professional classical musician, the music for the wedding ceremony was very easy.  The musicians played the famous “Canon in D”, “Wedding March”, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and other very standard wedding pieces. In my opinion, we sounded pretty bad and if I were the bride or the guests at this ceremony, I would have formed a very low opinion of the musicians. Why? Possibly because two of the four musicians in that string quartet (myself and a cellist) did not know the other two violin players. When we arrived at the site of the ceremony, the cellist and I have introduced ourself to each other. Upon our mutual attempts to introduce ourselves to the two violin players, we were met with somewhat cold attitude, both players barely said “hello” to us. In fact, one of the violinists did not make eye contact.  They continued to chat amongst themselves as best friends while the cellist and I tried to figure out where the negative attitude came from.  That set a very negative tone for the following an hour and a half of the wedding ceremony, during which even the easiest music just did not sound well. I don’t think it was only my opinion.

In most cases, after playing for such a long time, the guests will come up to us expressing their thanks and liking of our performance. It did not happen this time. Moreover, at the end of the job, even one of the violinists muttered “well, that was rough..” I am sure she did not even realize that her ignorance and unwelcome attitude towards the two “new” musicians played a major role in the outcome of the performance. 

Within the music groups that I organize in my business, we had a string quartet job outside of Pittsburgh, about an hour away.  The entire string quartet car pooled in the same car! We all talked and laughed on the way to the gig, talking about music, lives, children, politics, dogs…. We had to play somewhat challenging music that was arranged for our musicians on request: “Here Comes The Sun”, “Paperback Writer”, “If I fell in love with you”. These are not standard pieces for classical musicians, nor are they very difficult. However, they do require the musicians to pay a bit more attention while playing.  Our string quartet sounded fantastic that day! We could not leave afterwards – people crowded us and were asking questions about music, where we were from… I handed out close to twenty business cards. It was one of the best string quartet performances and everyone, especially the musicians knew it and felt it! 

These situations have proved to me again and again that as much as possible it is important upon forming a group to put together musicians that get along with each other.  

As a result, not only I try to put together musicians of the highest level technically, but also those that get along with each other which turns out to be a very important part of any performance.

United Methodist Church – Homer City, PA

Category: Venue Reviews

This place is a bit of a drive for musicians, about an hour and a half from Pittsburgh. The church has beautiful artwork on the inside, we played here on the Memorial Day weekend for a wedding ceremony. The families were very nice to us, but it seemed a bit odd that the person administering the ceremony never said a word to musicians, not even a hello..


Winter wedding adventure

Category: Music and Life

Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2015…

That will be a memorable date in our musicians’ history.  At 4:30 in the afternoon, the three of us, violinist, violist and a cellist were due to play at a wedding ceremony at Bella Sera, a place in the heart of Canonsburg, south of Pittsburgh.  Earlier in the day there were predictions of some snowfall with accumulations of 1-3 inches.  The three musicians were coming from different directions. On a good day, the farthest of us lives about 30 minutes from the above mentioned wedding venue. Now on a personal note….

I am not sure what forces of nature, or a”gut feeling” entered my brain, but I left my house at 2:10, which is way too early under normal circumstances.  As it turned out – it was barely enough to get there! At 2:15 there was a complete blizzard-like conditions, with zero visibility. In the following one hour-time, I have driven about a half a mile from my house. At one point, not being able to avoid going up the hill, I was stuck and only with the kindness of a couple of gentlemen who pushed my car from behind was I able to continue up a steep hill. At 3:30 I was still not even a half way to the wedding place. Meanwhile, I witnessed several accidents, a stuck bus and several blocked intersections where drivers simply gave up on driving due to zero visibility and others being stuck on hills. 

At that point I had to do what I have never done in my professional life as a musician.  I called the mother of the bride, and with an apology prepared her that there might not be any musicians playing at her daughter’s wedding.  She was very nice about it, obviously sad, told me to be careful and it was not worth risking my life… To deviate a bit from the story, this was one of those “easy booking”, where the client (mother of the bride) was amazingly well organized: she sent us printed lists of every piece that musicians are to play for the ceremony, as well as directions to the place from every possible corner of Pittsburgh, emergency numbers, and other materials that we usually have to extract from our clients, at times at a very last minute! I really did not want to disappoint her, so I kept on driving, average speed – 5-10 mph…  At 3:50 I called the other two musicians, one of whom was stuck on the local highway due to a blizzard. She decided to continue on.  The violinist arrived first with about ten minutes to spare. By the grace of God I made it there as well, with the last maneuver being my car sliding across the parking lot right in front of Bella Sera. Two minutes later the cellist showed up, frazzled but there!

From what the musicians heard, many of the guests for this wedding were on the shuttle bus from a local hotel… the bus didn’t make it in time for the beginning of the ceremony, arriving just as the newlywed couple finished the exchange of the vows.

At the end of the evening, we were profusely thanked by the parents of the bride, received one complement after another. It was truly a miracle that we made it there….

…and the “1-3 inches of snow” turned out to be at least 7 inches…

The musicians made it!

The musicians made it!

Yin and Yang of humanity

Category: Music and Life

One of the really neat things about being a freelance musician is that we get to meet and observe people in different settings, people with different moral and social standards, different levels of integrity and caring.  It is amazing how well musicians can be treated one day and how much ignorance can be poured on them during the next.  Here are some examples of yin and and yang of humanity…

…A phone call from a bride who was concerned about the walkway being icy in front of the place where she was getting married. She said the night before during the rehearsal dinner it was icy and she thought of musicians, who would be caring instruments, stands, music. She took her time on her wedding day (!) to call us with a warning about it! The other spectrum – brides who don’t know until the last minute where the musicians should park and don’t give us good directions to the locations.

… Some members of the audience who take a second to come up and thank us for the music, making small talk about the pieces that musicians have performed at their event. The other spectrum – very ignorant bunch that would bump into our instruments, spill their drinks on our bows, knock off our music stands – all without an apology or help in gathering the dropped music.

… Most often, after the cocktail hour (at weddings) classical musicians are replaced by DJ’s, a pretty regular wedding routine for music transfer.  Our groups have dealt with DJ’s who would unceremoniously kick our music cases with their feet to make room for their own equipment, even though we are still playing. Other DJ’s went out of their way to help us set up in such a way so that when we are done – it would be easy for our musicians to pack and the DJ’s to start, all the while having a light conversation with music jokes in between.

… Wedding coordinators: these are tough and very unpredictable creatures, existing only in two shades, black and white. They are  either on top of their game and know every details pertaining to the wedding ceremony, or they know absolutely nothing, some even were not aware that musicians were coming to play at the wedding ceremony.

…Waiters at cocktail hours, dinners and other “food-oriented” events. At some places musicians would be offered water, tea, even alcoholic beverages. At other places – after asking for a glass of water (on a 90 degree day, our string quartet was playing at an outdoor wedding ceremony), we overheard through the staff doors  “these musicians should bring their own darn water!”.

…Although we are acoustical instruments, violins, violas and cellos, our musicians still have to carry in instruments, music stands, big bulky music folders, jackets, purses, etc. Those that are observant – try to help and at least open doors for us. Some, however, very curiously will continue stare at us as we struggle to open the doors while thinking about not dropping the instruments and other gear. Ignorance can be a virtue for some!


No matter what event our musicians are playing yet, kids are always polite, always curious about our music, some even try dancing to classical music, some sit right in front of us and listen.  They can be running all around the place after the extra intake of a cake or sweets, but their “emergency brakes” work really well when they walk around us – they have an understanding that instruments are vulnerable and they slow down! They come up to us and ask questions about the instruments, we are humans to them, not just musicians. Thank God for kids!

South Hills Village Mall – Pittsburgh, PA

Category: Venue Reviews

Our musicians have performed here for several Christmas concerts, entertaining shoppers as they were getting ready for the holidays.  It was a wonderful, friendly atmosphere, and we even were able to find parking during the busy shopping season!


String quartet musicians at South Hills Village Mall- Pittsburgh, PA

For the holidays our musicians played at South Hills Village Mall this year, 2014.  It was a very nice setting, with a lot of people walking by, many were stopped and listed to us for the entire hour that we were playing Christmas music, even Santa Claus that was talking photos with kids waived to us!

South Hills Musicianssh2sh3sh4sh5sh6sh7



Sacred Heart Catholic Church – Braddock Hills, PA

Category: Venue Reviews

This church where our musicians performed for a winter wedding definitely deserves mentioning because of the wedding coordinator that we were working with.  Her name, appropriately so, is Hope.  She definitely gave the musicians hope that there are others out there in the wedding world like her.  She was very friendly, greeted the musicians  as if she knew us for years, set us up with chairs, making sure we were comfortable and fussing over us like a good grandmother would.  She knew every detail for the wedding ceremony, including the pieces that the musicians were going to play.  We had to have a last minute change in the music order and without any problem she found the bride, got back to us within a minute with an answer the musicians needed. Our musicians performed at hundreds of weddings over the years, and I must say – this was the most outstanding handling of the wedding ceremony by a coordinator!!!

Sacred Heart Church



Willow – Pittsburgh, PA

Category: Venue Reviews

A very cozy restaurant in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, where a duo of a violist and a cellist played for a small wedding ceremony.  Afterwards, we had some appetizers off a menu – wonderful food, although somewhat expensive


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