Official Opinions: 5 months of planning for 1 big night

Stitely Entertainment loves to put on a grand show for its clients. Each event we produce creates new, exciting challenges to expand our experience and another occasion to wow our customers. So when event-planning organization, PRA, contacted President Jeff Stitely in May with the opportunity to work on a collaborative event for a large corporate client, he enthusiastically accepted. Although the event was not until September, planning began immediately. PRA wanted to create an energetic, upbeat experience for the client’s sales representatives and they chose the Chicago Field Museum as the magnificent backdrop for this evening. Now all they needed was the perfect musical entertainment to set the mood.

After months of mutual brainstorming, Jeff, PRA, and the client settled on a plan that entailed 2 grand entrances to greet the 5000+ sales representatives, as well as 3 musically distinct bands to create a night of musical brilliance. As guests arrived at the East entrance, PRA envisioned a line of saxophonists greeting the reps. Jeff took this idea and turned it into reality. He called Aaron McEvers, an accomplished musician in Stitely’s band, Chicago Groove Collective, for assistance. Through his numerous ties to the professional musician community, Aaron gathered an ensemble of ten of Chicago’s finest tenor, alto, soprano and baritone saxophonists to serenade the incoming guests. This set the perfect atmosphere for the speakeasy-style jazz lounge that would be set up inside the East Main Hall.

You'll be amazed at how the Museum was transformed...

To contrast the smooth sax sounds at the East entrance, PRA asked Jeff to plan a grand spectacle at the South entrance, something that could enhance the visual impact of the already impressive Stanley Field Hall.  After a number of creative ideas, Jeff proposed the Lincoln Park High School‘s drum line and flag team. With PRA’s approval, Jeff contacted his friend Lise Gilly, the Performing Arts Department Chair, to assemble the high school musicians and flag performers for the night.  Given Jeff’s history as a Jazz Mentor at the school, they were delighted to be a part of the special evening.

With plans for the entrances decided, it was time to focus on the musical entertainment inside. Jeff recommended Stitely’s band 312 Chicago, led by guitar-vocalist Nicholas Barron, to perform on the main stage. In addition to its normal, fantastic roster, the band would also feature amazing guest vocalists to perform a variety of musical styles.  Yvonne Gage would begin the night with a Motown/R&B set, followed by Shirley King (yep, that’s B.B King’s daughter) singing the Blues, and recording artist Suzanne Palmer to belt out classic rock hits. The goal was to keep the guests dancing all night long and this dynamic lineup would accomplish just that.

PRA wanted each of the two additional stages to create its own distinct, yet relaxed atmosphere to act as an escape from the exuberant energy of the Main Hall. Several ideas and a lot of discussion later, a decision was made: an acoustic jazz quintet, featuring sultry jazz singer Stephanie Browning, would play on the stage in the East Main Hall. The landscape mural in Rice Hall, near the Mammals of Asia exhibit, would provide the perfect backdrop for a country and western band, the other unique ensemble chosen for the event. Since all of the exhibits were going to be open, these locations ensured musical coverage for all of the guests to enjoy.

Prior to the event, Jeff, along with Stitely stage managers, Peggy Latko and Eric Sweigard, attended several walk-throughs at the museum with representatives from the vendors also working on the event, including PRA, FROST Chicago, Botanicals, Food For Thought and Roz Stuttley, the Field Museum’s Meetings and Special Events Account Manager. At that time everyone had the opportunity to contribute and finalize the details to ensure a successful evening. After months of planning, brainstorming and hard work, the day of the event finally came… check back on Friday to see how it all turned out!


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Delivering a mind-blowing musical performance at an event is an art and planning it is a science. Stitely Entertainment has mastered both by planning and executing thousands of events.

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