The American Heart Association hosted back-to-back weekends of the American Heart Association Ball in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the Charlotte Convention Center, and in Hickory, North Carolina, at The Crossing at Hollar Mill. This black tie gala was not only elegant and fancy with the glitz and glam movie-like atmosphere, but also provided epic music for its guests. The color themes for both nights were red, black, and gold Hollywood with sparkling silver details.
"The American Heart Association has been fighting heart disease and stroke disease while striving the save and improve lives daily. The American Heart Association's mission is to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. The American Heart Association states, 'Our size and scope let us have real impact. The AHA has invested more than $4.8 billion in research, making us the largest not-for-profit funding source for cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease research next to the federal government.'"
Our setlists included movie themes to create a red carpet ambience and included some of the following: "Kiss the Girl (Disney's The Little Mermaid", "Avenger's Theme", "My Heart Will Go On (Titanic), "Theme from Jurassic Park", "Concerning Hobbits", and many more well-known arrangements. Throughout the first set, we played calm and classic music. We then played set two which was comprised of upbeat and exciting pop music with tons of energy. While dinner was happening, the music became more mellow as people settled in and talked amongst themselves.
The Greater Charlotte Ball at the Nascar Hall of Fame Crown Ballroom was played by our Charlotte string quartet of two violins, a viola, and a cello, whereas the Heart of Catawba Valley Heart Ball was played by our string trio. The trio of two violins and a cello at The Crossing at Hollar Milll was played on-stage and illuminated the room. What an elegant event!
Our musician team prepared and prepped for both events by talking through the songs as a group while also discussing the order of events so that during the performance, we had a clear vision of our finalized instrumentation. While we were conducting sound check, we vocalized any individual and group needs and concerns to be had which significantly helped us all to hear each other throughout the American Heart Association Ball galas. The necessary adjustments worked seamlessly to be able to amplify the sound throughout the ballroom spaces so that regardless of where people were standing throughout the room with the loud chatter of noise, they were able to hear us play. With our team's collaboration, focus to detail, and teamwork leading up to both events and on the day of, the galas went on without a hitch.... and were so much fun... and raised lots of money for charity!
The American Heart Association fundraiser gala was a must-attend event made possible by the American Heart Association and through the collaboration of phenomenal vendors that made this stunning event come together. The Hollywood theme was the perfect way to kick off the night of fun, entertainment, and fundraising for a cause that is near and dear to our hearts.
There are a few details to consider when deciding which wedding venue to pick for your wedding day. Weather options, a picturesque event space, guest capacity, and location are a few of the main factors that should be taken into account and will help you find the best location for your wedding. If you're looking for an indoor / outdoor wedding venue in Highlands, North Carolina, with gorgeous weather backup plans, large event spaces to house your family and guests, and a beautiful garden backdrop, Old Edwards Inn in Highlands, North Carolina, may be your dream wedding venue!
Old Edwards is a gorgeous wedding venue for couples to enjoy an elegant indoor and outdoor space for their rehearsal dinner and the day of their wedding in Highlands, North Carolina. Old Edwards Inn creates a luxurious and relaxing spa like atmosphere with a variety of options on property to have a small intimate or a large extravagant wedding. There are no shortage of possibilities!
Highlands, NC, is home to Old Edwards Events, and it is also one of the most magical and picturesque towns we have ever encountered. It truly feels like a fairy tale.
Old Edwards Inn highlights their venue space in Highlands, North Carolina, by creating wedding moments that:
"Celebrate your wedding surrounded by the beauty and serenity of the Blue Ridge Mountains, at Old Edwards. Rustic-inspired settings, elegant outdoor spaces, and fashionable venues for rehearsal dinners and brunches set the perfect stage in the midst of Highlands, NC. Menus made of farm-to-table cuisine from our culinary team highlight seasonal, locally sourced ingredients, crafted to complement your theme and vision. Prep for the day in our wedding spa and salon, with pampering treatments for you and your attendants, including hair and makeup, manicures, pedicures, and facials. Our beautiful grounds, along the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, make for a flawless backdrop for the start of your journey together."
Old Edwards Inn in is located in Highlands, North Carolina at an elevation of 4,118 sea level and is one of the coolest towns in the southern portion of the United States during the summer. The average temperature in Highlands, North Carolina is 78 degrees in July and has 90 inches of rain annually.
The Orchard House is one of the buildings on the property of the Farm at Old Edwards, built in 2019, that can seat 60 guests for a seated dinner. It is surrounded by luscious greenery and flowers that make this setting a perfect spot for outdoor wedding photography. We loved how this sweet couple integrated bright colors into their wedding details to contrast the white and green of the landscape and garden surroundings.
Our violin and cello duet played at Jennifer and Clay's wedding last July featuring "Come Thou Fount", "Canon in D", "A Thousand Years", "10,000 Reasons", "Butterfly Waltz", "Over the Rainbow", "What a Wonderful World", "Simple Gifts", and "Perfect." Jennifer and Clay had around 150 guests on their wedding day, and we loved being able to see the joy that filled the room as the newlyweds walked down the aisle.
Jennifer and Clay's wedding colors of blues and pinks were complemented by lively florals and the sweet couple's incredible vendor team to bring their wedding dreams to life. Old Edwards' backdrop with pops of color through greenery and decorative wedding details made for a picture perfect day in Highlands, NC. What a memorable day to be a part of at Old Edwards Inn. Congrats to Jennifer and Clay!
Vendor team who brought this together:
Photography: SOMEPLACE WILD
Planner, Designer, & Stationery: Beckon Events
Floral Designer: Kara Nash Designs
Beauty: Latia Curtis Fine Art Beauty
Venue, Catering, & Bar: Old Edwards Events
Cake: Lush Cakery
Musicians: Deans' Duets
Entertainment: The Life Atlantic
Cinematographer: Fine Art Wedding Videographer
Rentals: Professional Party Rentals, Industry Event Rentals, Optrics
Dress Boutique: White on Daniel Island
Calligraphy: Jackie I Wedding Calligraphy
The day of your wedding is such an exciting time, but worrying about whether your wedding vendors will work well together on your wedding day shouldn't have to be at the forefront of your mind. Some clients have even expressed worries about their vendors even showing up on their wedding day! These wedding day worries are the last items on a couple's list of things to do on such a special day. We at Deans' Duets have taken into account a wide variety of "What Ifs" to ensure that your wedding day runs as smoothly as possible. From planning and set up to the rehearsal and breakdown, we work alongside your vendor team to provide elegant music for your cocktail hour and wedding ceremony. Not only do we work with your vendors such as your coordinator, DJ, and officiant to make sure we align with your wedding timeline and vision, but we also make arrangements in advance to attend your wedding as prepared as possible.
Planning For Your Wedding Day
We continuously work with clients to formulate a personalized set list of music that highlights their interests, favorite songs, and overall atmosphere that they are wanting to create. In order to stay organized and make the planning process as easy as possible, our clients fill out a planning form to compile all of their music selections. Four to six weeks before their wedding, we use this to make a program. We then send the program to the couple for their approval which we continue to edit until the program is just right. Once we receive final approval, our setlist is ready to go. Working with couples to choose the music that will be played on their wedding day creates some of the most rewarding moments. Next, we make a set list of all of the sheet music and download the list to our iPad, after which, it will be sent out to our musician team to begin rehearsing.
Day Of Coordination
We arrive at every event at least one hour before music begins so that we can set up, rehearse, and speak to vendors. For example, if a wedding is at 5:00pm, we begin prelude at 4:30, which means a 3:30 arrival. We are usually a little earlier, but at least an hour in advance. We feel it’s vitally important to play together right before your event so that we provide the most cohesive ensemble possible and so that we have time for a thorough sound check when using sound equipment. After arriving at the wedding venue, our musicians receive an in-depth outline of all of the boxes to check when they arrive and all pertinent information for your wedding day.
Collaborating with our couple's vendor team is one of the ways we are client centered. While working hand in hand with other vendors, we are able to work towards a common goal of making your wedding day vision a reality. On our planning form, we ask for names of your vendors, and if you fill in those areas, we'll email them to check in before wedding day!
We collaborate with DJs at weddings by sometimes mic’ing the instruments and coordinating segments of the ceremony that are being handed back and forth from DJ to ceremony musicians. If a DJ is providing a microphone for an officiant, we pause our warm-up while they do their sound check. Before the ceremony begins, we also collaborate with the DJs about the order of the ceremony and any parts we might overlap (ie. unity candle, communion music, etc.).
We also collaborate with coordinators by first and foremost bringing him/her a copy of the program just in case they need it. We discuss how the run-through went during the rehearsal the night before and whether there are any last-minute changes to the program. Some of the most common questions that we ask include, "Are all grandparents present as planned? Are the flower girls and ring bearers cooperating and still planning to walk down the aisle? If there are dogs in the ceremony, are they all set and what’s the plan for that part? Is the officiant walking down the aisle? Is the officiant making any sort of announcement at the beginning to silence cell phones?" We also confirm the order of the processionals to make sure the correct songs are played according to the order of individuals walking down the aisle. The order in a traditional wedding usually proceeds as such: grandparents, parents, officiant, groom, groomsmen, bridesmaids, flower girls, ring bearers...... but this varies a lot from wedding to wedding.
During each song change, we ask the coordinator to give us a cue. The first cue occurs when we need to end the prelude and start the first processional and then another cue for each processional after that. We also work hard to play the most recognizable parts of each song so that you get a complete picture of the song even though the real song might be 5 minutes long, but we only get 1 minute to play the song. Our musicians will play the intro, a verse, and a chorus, but will sometimes shorten the verse if needed to ensure that the chorus is played. The chorus is typically the most important part and the segment that couples most want to hear. We spend a lot of time reworking our arrangements to make them sound like “the end” even though it’s not actually the end of the song. Finally, we discuss the move to cocktail hour with the coordinator. Do we need a golf cart to move? How far is it? Are there chairs already set up there? If we’re playing a reception, we also discuss first dances, timing, entrances of the couple and the bridal party.
Another vendor that we like to collaborate with is the officiant. We like to ask the officiant the following: “What are the last words you’ll say before we begin the recessional?” Should we start as soon as they kiss? Or will there be a presentation of the couple? Sometimes there’s even a blessing or a prayer, so asking this question is very important to avoid awkward pauses. If we are running a sound check, we we'll have much more contact with the officiant because of sound checking the microphone that they would use.
We don’t have much collaboration with vendors like florists or cake bakers, but we often see them setting up or delivering, and it’s fun to say hello to people we work with often but don’t actually see in person. When our portion of the wedding is finished, we try to pack up discreetly, and we often slip out without anyone knowing. We don’t make a habit of going up to introduce ourselves to the clients because it’s their day, and they hired us to do a service. We do, however, enjoy following up with an email to congratulate the couple and thank them for having us at their wedding. We get to know clients well throughout the planning process, so it’s always special to see their wedding day happen so beautifully.
Vendor Collaboration Examples
Charlotte Country Club Wedding
Last year in May, we played a Charlotte Country Club wedding where there was a vast amount of collaboration with numerous vendors. We even had a vendor team meeting in person about a month before the wedding. Sol Fusion was the band for the reception, and they collaborated with our musicians to hand music back and forth during the ceremony. The coordinators at the Charlotte Country Club along with the band and the ceremony musicians did a lot of planning beforehand to make sure everything went seamlessly the day of the wedding.
Banner Elk Wedding
I remember one wedding in Banner Elk, NC, where the directions about the location for loading in a harp were very ambiguous, and to make it more complicated, it was raining. Ultimately we were most concerned about getting lost and losing valuable time. Oftentimes, cell service is limited and the connection fails in the Banner Elk area. We DM’d Hallmark Cakes, and she gave us a detailed description of how she had loaded in the cake that morning, and even told us about a secret entrance gate that made it even easier to load a harp!! So even though we didn’t see her that day, her help made our day go smoothly.
At a recent wedding in Highlands, it was snowing and 8 degrees! Only one of us had brought rain boots, so we unloaded the car with the rain boots and everyone else went inside to set up so that they didn’t have to walk in the snow in their heels or dress shoes.
Charlotte, NC Corporate Event
Another time we played at a corporate event and we worked with Split Second Sound. They brought Panthers jerseys for all of us to wear since we didn't have any!
Vanlandingham Estate Wedding
At this wedding at Vanlandingham Estate, it started raining. Thankfully everyone pitched in, started moving things, and protected the instruments and iPads from the rain! Jackie Fogartie Events was a rock star. She was soaked and still working and making sure the ground wasn’t flooded for when the guests arrived. The VanLandingham Staff and Best Impressions Caterers Staff all worked until things were dry enough for guests to walk into the tent, and the wedding proceeded without a hitch!
Another wedding that also comes to mind is a Biltmore wedding we played in October and couldn’t find some of our equipment at the end of the event because it was so dark. Mary Bell Events found it, saved it for us, and we met her the next day to get it back!
Behind The Scenes
There are behind the scenes moments that we take care of that often clients don't even know about. We make sure that all the small details are accounted for so that the couple doesn't have to. There’s almost always something that needs to be resolved on wedding day, but if you’ve hired great vendors, it’s going to be solved before you are even aware. At the end of the day, we want our couples to enjoy their beautiful wedding day and know that their amazing vendor team came through on every element of their day.
Hi! I'm April Dean McConnell, and my sister Megan and I are co-founders of Deans' Duets. We started playing the violin at a very young age through the Suzuki method. Our Nana (grandmother) saw an advertisement for Suzuki violin lessons on the cable advertising channel which sparked our interest and was the beginning of us playing instruments. Although there were no musicians in our family before us, we quickly learned to love the art of music. Both Megan and I started violin lessons at the age of three, and at the age of nine I also became interested in playing the piano. Fast-forward a few years and by the age of 13, I was playing for my first wedding. We charged $25 each! That first spark and love of weddings carried through to today and it's still such an honor to be a part of so many couples' wedding days.
The Beginning as Professional Musicians
We played several weddings for friends as young teenagers. I started working at Dairy Queen and then won a contracted seat as a second violinist in the Western Piedmont Symphony when I was 16. Weddings and symphony were my first experiences of music being a job. Our grandfather had the idea to call ourselves “Deans’ Duets” and said we should make some business cards and start doing that on weekends instead of working at Dairy Queen. After starting my symphony job and booking a few weddings, I quit Dairy Queen. haha. We ended up distributing business cards to local alteration and dress shops, and sure enough, people started to hire us for their weddings!
At first start, we never worked with professional wedding coordinators, and most weddings took place in churches. I can remember one wedding where the couple requested Yankee Doodle - ha! By the age of 16 & 18, we were playing at least 1-2 weddings a month. We gradually started developing a song list and figured out ways to make our performance one that couples would seek out for their wedding day music.
Learning & Growth
I later received my bachelor's degree in violin performance from Wake Forest University, in Winston Salem, NC. While at Wake Forest, I was concertmaster of the University Symphony and also performed as a violinist with the Western Piedmont Symphony in Hickory, Salisbury Symphony, and Winston-Salem Symphony. While we both were in college, we played in orchestras, but didn't playing many weddings during that point in our lives. After I graduated from college, I took a year off and started teaching private lessons at Lenoir Rhyne University in Hickory, NC. Once the year ended, I began grad school for clinical mental health counseling at Appalachian State University in Boone. When I moved to Boone, NC I started playing weddings in Boone again on Saturdays just for fun and to earn some extra money. I continued teaching private lessons one to two days a week in Hickory at LRU. I graduated from ASU with my master's in clinical mental health counseling and started a counseling job in Charlotte, NC to be near to my fiancé (now husband) Jeremiah, who also lived in Charlotte. After moving to Charlotte, I drove back to Boone almost every weekend to play weddings in Boone.
Expanding Our Team
Once Megan moved out of the area, I started playing with Madilyn Schmidt who was one of my advanced students. We played together for about three years. Then when she graduated from high school and went to college, I met Donna at a Salisbury Symphony Concert where we were stand partners. We then met Jackie Barnes, who was a fantastic violinist and had also just graduated from ASU. At that point, we had three wonderful violinists in Charlotte as part of our team, and I started to wonder if it would be smart to book two weddings on a given Saturday. While I couldn't be at two weddings at once, it made me nervous sending musicians out to weddings without me being on-site personally. We tried booking two weddings at a time on busy weekends and realized it was successful as long as we worked with great reliable players.
New Instrument Variety
In 2014, a bride asked if we could play with guitar which we had never done before, but we were excited to expand our horizons. Up until then, we had only offered the violin and piano, until we met Paul Bowman. He came to Charlotte, and we jammed for a few hours, and ultimately decided that offering the guitar at weddings was a great idea! It was such a fun ensemble! Deans' Duets really started to come to life in 2016 when we started booking three to four weddings on busy weekends, and in 2018, when we hosted our Duke Mansion training. You could truly see the business beginning to boom as we began integrating more instruments. As more clients asked if we could play specific instruments, we added more instruments to our portfolio. We would figure out what the clients were looking for on their wedding day, find a musician who excelled in playing their instrument, and develop it. Even our song list and our styles have all developed from client requests!
Our mom came to weddings with us for the first 3-4 years of us playing when we were teenagers, and since there were never professional coordinators, she would stand at the back and hold up these large cue cards for us. We had a "G" for grandmothers, "M" for mothers. "BP" for bridal party, and "B" for bride. Megan and I would get frustrated at each other at times when playing at weddings, as siblings do, and we would make faces at each other while we were playing. We would forget we were up in front of so many people. Our mom told us after we had caused a scene that the next time she saw us make a face, she would take all of our money from that wedding. We never made a face again. We saved our arguing for after the wedding :)
In the beginning of Deans' Duets, we played a wedding show where NOT ONE PERSON showed up. It was so poorly advertised that not even one bride or groom came. It was horrible, especially because so much preparation yielded no results. There were a few experiences like that, but we learned so much. There were a lot of things to learn in those beginning years. But by the time we were 30, we had 15 years of experience and really had a good understanding of wedding music and the industry in general.
Deans Duets Weddings
Deans Duets performs at events throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia by providing solos, duos, trios, and quartets for weddings, cocktail hours, private events, receptions, parties, church services, funerals, memorial services, fundraisers, and more. We collaborate with violinists, pianists, guitarists, harpists, and cellists. Our travels take us most often to Charlotte,, Greensboro, and Asheville, as well as Durham. We also have locations in Hickory, Raleigh, Greenville, SC, Columbia, SC, and Charleston, SC, in addition to destination wedding travels, which have taken us to Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Georgia, and Florida. We are excited to see what the future holds for Deans' Duets!
-April Dean McConnell
April is a professional violinist and the music coordinator for Dean's Duets.