Frequently Asked Questions

Want to know more about Shades of Blue?  We have some frequently asked questions & answers listed here for your review.

  • OK, is it an "orchestra" or a "big band?"

Well, both labels apply.  We have always been known as The Shades of Blue Orchestra or just Shades of Blue.  An "orchestra" is defined as "a company of performers on various musical instruments, including especially stringed, brass, and percussion instruments, for playing concert music..."   Often groups such as ours are called orchestras.  Consider the Brian Setzer Orchestra, an outstanding swingin' Big Band currently touring the nation.  As well, "Big Band" is currently the label applied to music groups that offer instrumentation and sound re-creation of the 30's & 40's Big Bands.

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  • How long has Shades of Blue been together as a Big Band ensemble?

The Shades of Blue Orchestra was formed in 1976, and has been performing throughout the area since that time.

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  • As a Big Band, how "big" is Shades of Blue?

There are 21 musicians that make up Shades of Blue.   The Orchestra has 5 saxophones, 5 trumpets, 4 trombones, guitar, piano, bass, and drums -- for a total of 18.  We have a conductor and 2 vocalists (when available) -- that brings the total to 21.  We also have two outstanding sound engineers that work with the band.

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  • With all of those instruments, isn't the band pretty loud?

The Big Band is largely an acoustic ensemble.   As such, you have tremendous control over the volume level -- from loud, brassy passages to the sweetest of soft passages.  That's what makes a Big Band so exciting and musically interesting.  The guitar, piano, and bass are the only instruments that are constantly amplified.  The wind instruments are occasionally amplified for solos and this depends on our performance location.  Otherwise, the PA system is used for vocals and announcing.  We have played affairs where dinner was being served and guests were seated as close as 8 feet from the bandstand.  With a "laid-back" song selection and liberal use of mutes by the brass sections, we offered a very tasteful presentation of background music.  When it came time to deliver kickin' Big Band music, we were right there.  That's the versatility of a Big Band!

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  • What kind of space is needed to accommodate the Orchestra?

Generally, we can set-up comfortably in an area 24 feet wide by 16 feet deep.  You often find that smaller, amplified combos need this much space to accommodate their sound system and other electronic equipment.  As a largely acoustic ensemble, we are able to seat more musicians in a given area than a group with significant amounts of electronic equipment.

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  • What other logistical concerns do you have?

Our needs are relatively simple.  In the bandstand area, we request access to two 20 amp circuits for our equipment and music stand lights.  We ask that you or the facility hosting your event provide 14 chairs for the band's use.  That's about it.  As far as equipment delivery and set-up go, we typically scout (in advance) any location where we have not previously played.  We look for the best location to park and unload, and for the best route to move equipment to the bandstand area.  Our aim is to be as discrete as possible as we arrive and set-up.  The best locations for us are those that have short distances between arrival door and bandstand, and where the bandstand is located away from areas where guests first gather upon arrival (such as a cocktail reception area).

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  • If we cannot accommodate the Big Band, do you perform as a smaller group?

The Shades of Blue Orchestra is billed as a Big Band and performs as such.  Our music is arranged for full Big Band and is best served with a full complement of instruments and musicians.  On occasion, we provide a small combo and/or pianist to play limited portions of an event such as a social hour, cocktail reception, or dinner set.  These offerings are a lead-in to a performance by the full Big Band as the event progresses.

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  • What type of attire does the Orchestra wear?

For most events we are dressed in black tuxes with white shirts and black bow ties.  This "uniform" provides a classic and fitting complement to any up-scale event -- especially an affair that offers musical entertainment by a Big Band orchestra.  We are able to "dress down" as well for less formal events or those that offer a leisure theme.  Our goal is to provide a professional appearance to complement a professional delivery of musical entertainment.

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  • What types of music does the Orchestra play?

We have a very diverse repertoire with music styles from the 30's to the 90's.  What's important is that all of the music we perform is in a dance band or stage band style.  That means that all of the selections, regardless of music style, are arranged for full brass, sax, and rhythm sections --   just like you'd expect from a Big Band.  We play swing, rock, standard ballads, popular ballads, latin, retro, waltzes, polkas, and miscellaneous selections.   Of course, swing is the thing when it comes to a Big Band.  And the resurgence of swing has brought people of all generations onto the dance floor.  Yet we are able to play energetic 50's Rock & Roll, 60's Motown selections, rock and ballads from the 70's & 80's, high-energy 90's swing tunes, and for those who like ballroom dancing, some great latin tunes, waltzes, and polkas.  We enjoy a mixed crowd and are prepared with a diverse repertoire.  As such, it is rare that anyone departs from a Shades of Blue performance saying they did not hear something they liked.

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We do our best to respond to special song requests for events.  We have numerous sources for published music for Big Band ensemble.   But 'published' is the key word.  If we are not able to find a published arrangement, we can sometimes assemble our own arrangement.  There may be a charge for a custom arrangement provided by the Orchestra.  Please let us know what you're looking for and we'll do our best to meet your needs.

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  • I have a relative (or friend) that will be at my event and I would like them to sing with the band.  Is that possible?

First, we would hope that the person has some singing ability.  And to be properly prepared for your event, we would request that the individual provide his or her preferred musical arrangement and have a rehearsal session with the group.  Our commitment to you is to deliver the highest professional standards in musical entertainment.  For any special entertainment arrangements we strive to be properly prepared and rehearsed.

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  • How far do you travel to perform?

Over the last two decades, we have performed at many venues in the Mid-Atlantic area.  Our geographic "range" thus far has been as far north as south central Pennsylvania, as far east as the Eastern shore of Maryland, as far south as Northern Virginia, and as far west as Western Maryland.  We welcome opportunities to perform beyond these geographic boundaries.

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  • How much does the Orchestra cost?

Our contract fees vary and are determined by several factors including date of event, location of event, duration of event, date of contract, and special entertainment arrangements.  You will find that the Orchestra is very affordable.  Please call or e-mail us for further information.

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  • What are the payment terms?

We require a 30% non-refundable deposit along with a signed contractual agreement.  The balance is due in full upon conclusion of the performance.  Payment may be made by check or cash.  Up-front payment for special entertainment arrangements (for example, music arrangements) may be required.

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  • Can you hold a date for us while we decide?

Unfortunately, no.  Holding a date means that we must assign that date to our musicians in order to have them committed and available for that event.  Therefore, we must have a signed contract and a deposit in order to reserve a date.

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  • How far in advance should we book your band?

It is not unusual for us to have bookings up to a year in advance.  It is advisable to book the band as early as possible to insure that the band of your choice is available for your event.


For further information or inquiry, please send e-mail directly to SBOmail[at]shades-of-blue[period]com --  (Please convert to standard email address link.)


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