Loving People Through Live Music

I started playing for weddings long before I established Effesenden Music.  One of the first weddings I played was as a young high school student at the beautiful Willamette Valley vineyards near Salem, Oregon.  It was very windy and the little metal folding music stand I was using blew over during the prelude– music went everywhere!  Then for the recessional, the guests had been given these wax paper envelopes which contained freeze dried butterflies which were supposed to, when opened, spring to life and flutter gently out of their slumber, surrounding the happy couple with beautiful, brightly covered wings.  Instead, these butterflies were like Snow White without the kiss.  The envelopes were opened. . . .nothing happened.  When guests tried to dislodge them, they just dropped stone dead to the ground.  Talk about not a good way to start things off… but then, as my husband and I well know, sometimes the epic fails end up being the best stories that we are still laughing about years later.

While still in college, I was asked to play in a string quartet for weddings. We would ride around in this windowless white van that sort of had the serial killer vibe– there weren’t even seats in the back, just musicians rolling around with the rest of the gear from one wedding to the next.  Sometimes the other violinist was super drunk but he still managed to play really well in tune.  I don’t know how!  Sometimes we would have three weddings in one day– luckily traffic wasn’t as bad back then as it is now in the metro area!  Everyone has their crazy college stories and many of my fellow musicians went on to have incredible careers but I knew that when I started Effesenden Music, I really wanted to do things differently.  I wanted to place my focus on relationships, kindness, enthusiasm, quality and attention to detail.

Here are eight of my favorite wedding memories as the owner of Effesenden Music.

  1.  Performing for a wedding reception with violin, guitar and cello, the groom’s 90 year old grandfather came up to say hello.  He then proceeded to pull a harmonica out of the pocket of his plaid suit coat and asked if he might join in for a set.
  2. Playing Canon in D for that critical moment of the bride’s procession at a gorgeous outdoor venue in Clackamas.  Suddenly, A spider dropped from my hair and began repelling down towards my violin.  I HATE bugs but I kept playing.  I am self controlled when I need to be!
  3. The night my guitarist, Nate and I had played for the ceremony live but stayed to provide DJ services for the reception at the Abernethy Center in Oregon City.  As we were starting to pack up our gear, amidst the black coiled sound cables, was a black coiled LIVE snake.  SO glad I didn’t pick it up and bring it home.
  4. I’ve played violin since age three but a few years ago, I learned to play the Ukulele for a wedding that needed it.  Because of this, I was able to help a young boy tune his ukulele to perform a special piece for his dad, the groom.  I am not a great ukulele player by any means but it was great to be able to have the skills to help out.  That same night, on my way to the venue I accidentally took a route that put me in the path of the infamous Portland naked bike ride.  GPS doesn’t warn about things like that!
  5.  When our string quartet performed for a stunning wedding ceremony and reception in Maui, Hawaii, we discovered that a number of the guests were professional hockey players.  I’ve never seen a hockey game in my life but our Canadian born cellist was absolutely beside himself.
  6. Playing solo violin for a wedding ceremony at a private home in Sellwood.   The catch was that none of the guests knew they were coming to a wedding–they though their friends were just throwing a party!  I love seeing community in action.
  7. When I broke my pinkie toe on my music stand- I never forgot about the tipping metal stand of my teenage years and bought a super heavy stand that would withstand gale force winds, however, my fellow musicians and I nicknamed it the “Stand of Death.”  Why?  Because every time I would use it, there would be an injury.
  8. The ongoing opportunity to work with so many awesome musicians who I love and admire.  The daily challenge of taking a song that maybe was never meant for strings and finding a way to create an arrangement that makes my clients smile.


Live Music for Outdoor Weddings: How to Plan for Oregon’s Unpredictable Weather

So far this year, our outdoor wedding musical adventures in beautiful Oregon have included a thunder and hail storm, soft sneaky rain that kept appearing and disappearing prior to the ceremony—just toying with us, 90 degree heat and 54 degree temps with periodic downpours intermixed.  There were also a few of those amazing Oregon summer days that we try to keep secret from the rest of the country so we can maintain our reputation for being a rainy, flannel wearing kind of place.

We at Effesenden Music LOVE your unique venue ideas.  We are all for bringing beautiful musical atmosphere to match your gorgeous outdoor venue and with just a little forethought, you can ensure that your music will be great no matter what Mother Nature decides to present on the big day.

Here I was in mid May, rocking my black winter scarf and down vest.  During the prelude and ceremony, it kept raining on and off so we were under shelter but then the sun came out and created the most beautiful natural lighting so we were able to setup al fresco for the cocktail hour.

Effesenden Performing at Bridal Veil Lakes
Photo Credit: Caressa Rogers Photography

If rain is not a concern, setting the musicians up under the shade of a tree is usually totally adequate to keep instruments safe and music sounding awesome.  If you’re dealing with a drizzly forecast or epic summer heat, here are some tips on how to ensure that your music will not be negatively impacted by the elements.

What’s the big deal about violins in the rain?

Okay Lindsey Stirling, seems able to play her violin in a pirate costume surrounded by Bellagio-like fountains and Cirq du Soleil worthy dancers… but take a close look at that fiddle:  my soon to be blissfully wedded friends, it is a specially made electric violin.  Now if you’re interested in this type of musical performance at your wedding, let’s chat.  I really like the guy with the harpoon. . . but assuming you’re thinking of more like professional musicians dressed in classy black and performing beautiful music for you and your guest to enjoy for prelude, processional and cocktail hour please read on about how to make music possible outdoors even in um…challenging weather.

What happens to a violin or cello if it gets wet?

Kennedy Violins has a wonderful blog post you can check out to get the full details.  In a nutshell, wood is porous and if the wood of an instrument absorbs water, it can expand causing major damage like warping and cracking.  (Shudder.  This is R rated stuff for a string player to even think about!)… and to put it simply, thousands of dollars of damage or possibly irreparable damage can be caused to instruments that are often hundreds of years old.  You don’t want that bad juju happening at your wedding!

Okay but it’s sunny!  Not a cloud in the sky— so I’m good right?

Unfortunately direct sunshine and heat can do serious damage as well if temperatures are hot.  Remember the whole porous thing… if the wood gets direct sunlight and high temperatures, it can shrink those pores and again cause cracking, warping and discoloration.  All this stuff that costs a lot of money and a lot of worry to repair.

This is not about high maintenance vendors trying to ruin your day, but rather that we really really want to play for you and make it awesome and share all the music we’ve prepared just for you.

Okay but lets say you are an evil person who does not care about other people’s prized musical instruments… why does it still matter to you?

Because when instruments get exposed to weather extremes, they go out of tune.  They sound bad.  They sound like this guy:

SO What to do?

If we’re talking rain, and you are not planning to tent the ceremony area for your guests, consider renting or purchasing a 10×10 open-sided canopy tent and setting up your musicians to the side or behind the guests. The music will still sound great. The tent won’t inhibit the view or pictures if positioned behind and your musicians can concentrate on beautifully performing all of those songs you carefully selected.

Here’s a video of our String Trio and Guitarist performing on a 90 degree+ day at the Resort at the Mountain in Welches.  The elegance of the acoustic instruments and more importantly, the gorgeous sounds they create more than make up for a little infrastructure amidst the natural beauty.

What type of tent should I get?

This tent  pictured below from Costco sells for just $149.50 and would be totally adequate for providing shelter for your live music if needed. Ask around too… often there is someone on your guest list who already owns one and would be happy to help out!

Sample Canopy Tent for Musicians

You should plan on having a tent for the musicians even if your backup rain plan involves moving to an indoor area. Why? Because many times, if you’re just seeing a little bit of drizzle, you’re going to want to go ahead with your original plan.  Your guests can snuggle under umbrellas or pull out a jacket but the musicians are then left with the problem of not having a way to protect their instruments from that precipitation.

A word of caution, many people think of possibly using a circular bistro umbrella (such as the one pictured below).  They look really classy but the problem is that they do not provide enough shelter for more than maybe a soloist.  The central base takes up the most sheltered area of the umbrella.  What’s worse is that I have personally seen them catch wind and tip over on more than one occasion, especially for Gorge weddings:  there’s a reason that Kite Boarding and Wind Surfing are so popular around here!  This is not only a liability for the musicians but for your guests as well!

Patio Umbrella


Closing Thoughts

Most Oregonians really pride themselves on being creative and undaunted by crazy weather.  When we accept the responsibility and privilege of providing the live music for your wedding, we want to absolutely ensure that things go as smoothly as possible.  By taking just a few precautionary steps, you can relax in the confidence that live music is possible just about anywhere you can imagine getting married in this beautiful state!

Ceremony Ideas for Strings (Part II)


Today we’re digging deeper into ideas for wedding ceremony music repertoire. Songs sampled and explored include A Thousand Years by Christina Perri, The Kiss from the movie Last of the Mohicans and Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. Movie themes and popular music can make wonderful choices if you’re looking for something a little less on the traditional side.

Effesenden String Quartet in Hawaii Featured in Martha Stewart Weddings!

Photo by Rachel Thurston (www.rachelthurston.com)

Effesenden string players travel all over the West Coast (and beyond!) to perform for weddings, concerts and events.  Last summer our string quartet traveled to Hawaii to perform for a breathtaking wedding at the Haiku Mill on the island of Maui.  We were thrilled to learn that the wedding is currently featured on Martha Stewart Weddings.  

The music we prepared was a fun mix of contemporary and classical music.  We wrote six new arrangements of songs meaningful to Caitlin & Loren ranging from AC/DC to Bach along with selections from our current repertoire.  Because we love to empower our brides and grooms to have music that is meaningful to them, we include special requests in every reservation.  This means that we also have an ever expanding repertoire list~ future couples benefit from the musical selections of our previous clients.  You can check out our complete current repertoire here.

You might think that the idea of a string quartet traveling to perform for a wedding is a bit unusual but musicians travel all the time to perform, audition and attend festivals.  Since so few other wedding ensembles focus on customized music the way we do, our music is in demand beyond the confines of our Pacific Northwest home.

We’ll leave you today with a live recording from Caitlin & Loren’s wedding: I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night by KISS.  This was performed during the couple’s chic cocktail hour.  We were sheltered from the tropical rains that happened to show up that day by a HUGE mango tree.

Capturing the Ears of the Father of the Bride at Council Crest Park

Happy New Year!  Boy, 2012 was probably the most awesome year since I started Effesenden Music over 10 years ago.  I’m so glad to be 10 years in and still loving what I do!  There are several reasons why this continues to be a dream job– 1.  I get the opportunity to learn and arrange so much fun music.  Our clients are always introducing us to music that is meaningful to them. . . it’s like the modern mix tape!  2.  I collaborate with a wonderful team of musicians.  We feed off one another’s energy and creativity and I am thankful to have found folks who are not only exceptionally talented and creative but also able to handle the precision and pressure involved with timing music for a wedding.  3.  I love people and it’s so special to play a small role in making their dream wedding celebration come to life.

I’m excited to post this song from a wedding celebration held at Council Crest Park last July.  We were just doing one more song during the cocktail hour and as luck would have it, the father of the bride was standing close by.  We had no idea that this piece was so meaningful to him.  These are the kind of things you can’t plan but you want to be ready to just seize the opportunity when it arrives!

Here, There and Everywhere

For some stunning photos of this couple’s wedding, check out photographer Jessica Hill’s blog entry:

Effesenden Music Performs at Council Crest
Effesenden Music Performs at Council Crest Park, Portland Oregon– Photo Credit: Jessica Hill Photography

Jessica Hill Photography Blog


Performing in Coram Deo Ensemble

I recently returned from a tour in Germany with the International New Classical group Coram Deo Ensemble.  This video was taken at a gorgeous cathedral in Füssen, Germany.   It was a lot of fun and one of the gentlemen helping us with the production on the tour (lights, sound etc.) runs an event company in Southern Bavaria.  Whereas most weddings Effesenden Music provides music for in the Pacific Northwest are situated outside on a beautiful vineyard or garden, Dirk told me that getting married in a church is the thing to do in Southern Germany.  One funny fact is that in spite of all the outdoor weddings I’ve played for in the Pacific Northwest–even some where it poured down rain, I have never been as cold as I was playing in this beautiful Catholic cathedral!


We will be touring Oregon, Washington and Vancouver B.C. in the coming 6 weeks.  I am looking forward greatly to playing with these wonderful musicians again.  You can read more about Coram Deo Ensemble on our Facebook page.


Effesenden Acoustic Pop Music Live Wedding Recessional

Recording studios have a lot of tricks to make things sound amazing.  That’s a big perk when you’re recording a CD for people to enjoy at home but if you want to know what our acoustic trio would ACTUALLY sound like at your wedding, here’s a sample form last weekend’s wedding–recorded on our little mp3 recorder that is just a raw microphone–no bells or whistles like autotune, reverb etc…just good clean fun on violin, cello and guitar!

This is our cover of Coldplay’s Life in Technicolor– a song that our bride, Maggie requested and we arranged specifically for her ceremony.

Live Acoustic Wedding Recessional– Life in Technicolor

Ceremony in the sky: Hotel Elliott

The Hotel Elliott is an amazing place!  A boutique hotel that features early 20th Century elegance combined with contemporary amenities—from cedar-lined closets to heated stone floors in each bath—yes, HEATED stone floors people… glory!  But before I digress too much, this is a wedding blog so I’ll get back to the music!  On the rooftop of this 5-story building is where the action takes place.  Imagine getting married with 360 degrees of beautiful scenery surrounding you—not least of which is the majestic Astoria-Megler bridge.

HotelElliottViolin     Nate&DaveHotelElliott

Weddings at Hotel Elliott are so quintessentially Oregon:  breathtaking outdoor scenery against stylish and unique architecture.  The glass panels prevent guests from feeling like they’re in a wind tunnel—this is helpful of course for us musical folks’ sheet music too!  Effesenden Music has performed as a duo and as a trio on the rooftop of Hotel Elliott.  The acoustic ensembles fit the best in my opinion.  We’ve typically provided additional music for receptions as well—sometimes adding additional instruments and vocals.

The photos above are from the August, 2009 wedding of Ashley & Bobby McWhirter.  Ashley was really great to work with—and she and Bobby seemed so happy on their special day.  The McWhirters are getting to enjoy reliving the memories too since their wedding was recently written about in the Daily Astorian.  You can check out photos and read the full article here.

Regarding Effesenden Music, pleased bride Ashley says: 

“To this day, I am still hearing compliments from our wedding guests on your music!…Thank you again for everything and I am so glad you were able to come to Astoria!”
—Ashley McWhirter.

Thanks for having us Ashley & Bobby!  We always love playing in Astoria!

Studio Violin & Piano Recital—November 1st, 2009

I am so blessed as an artist and a human being to have these out of body moments when I look down on my life and think “Really?  I get to do this?  How cool!”  Sunday the 1st of November was one such day.  Friend and colleague Tasha hosted our joint studio recital in her beautiful home.  We had a wonderful turnout of well prepared students.  Some of them were even joined by musically inclined parents—how beautiful when music can become not only a form of expression, a study in language for a child… but also a parent child bonding experience!  I look forward immensely to our next recital in May.

Violin and Cello and VivaldiDueling Fiddles

A beautiful dress to go with beautiful music

  Tasha is a great piano teacher—the kids were not only playing but some sang along with their performance.  These photos were taken by Yvonne Kazmierowicz, an amazing mother of four who I admire greatly for a myriad of reasons, one of them being her photography skills.

The Tradition Returns: Acoustic Christmas is Coming!


Back for it’s sixth season, we are delighted to present three concerts this year!

Wednesday, December 2nd:  7:00 PM  Newberg Friends Church
307 South College Street  Newberg, OR 97132

Thursday, December 17th:  7:00 PM  Sydney’s Cafe with guest artist Dave Iula
NW 15th & Thurman Portland, OR 97209 503.241.4313

Tuesday, December 22nd:  Holladay Park Retirement Community
Portland, Oregon (semi-private event) 
If you are interested in attending, please call 503.860.7688

For your enjoyment, here is a live recording of Midnight on the Water from 2007.  Grab yourself a cup of cocoa (with marshmallows please) and enjoy!

Midnight on the Water Live