Starry Night Blue - Tie Gala
The Wish Ball is Make-A-Wish Central & Western North Carolina’s signature blue-tie gala at which we celebrate the life-changing impact of a wish. This year, Make-A-Wish supporters will have the ability to support the Wish Ball in-person at The Westin in Charlotte. The fundraiser ball was sponsored by Make-A-Wish Foundation where the night was themed A Wish Upon A Star, Starry Night. The night included silent and live auctions, a raffle and wine pull, inspiring stories from local wish families, a seated dinner and dancing, and then opportunity to make life-changing wishes possible.
The attire for the night was a blue-tie gala in which guests were encouraged to wear Make-A-Wish blue in some fashion, whether through a tie, gown or accessories. The Starry night theme by Van Gogh was a special part of the night in which guests were able to see the colors of the backdrop paintings around the room projected on big screens. Some of the paintings were set as video which transitioned throughout the night and made for a fun interactive experience.
We programmed two violinists, a cellist, and harpist playing throughout the dinner which made for a beautiful combination for this Charlotte fundraising event.
Make-A-Wish Ball Timeline
2:30pm - We arrived at the Westin Charlotte and found parking in the parking garage. We then took the elevator to the second floor to find Vinny and his team from Split Second Sound setting up for the event. The ballroom was already decorated with silent auction items, a photo booth, and blue lighting with a starry night theme. We headed back to the car to unload the car for more equipment. Then, we went to find the main stage which was hidden behind a curtain so that a big reveal could occur later in the night to reveal the musicians. After unpacking the remainder of our instruments, April rosined her bow, plugged into the sound system, put her shoulder rest on, and went onstage for a sound check.
3:00pm - After our sound check, we set up our monitor and played a few songs with Vinny and Steve on drums. We ran through our opening songs to make sure they were thoroughly prepared to kick off the Make-A-Wish Foundation dance party.
3:15pm - Casey, Karl, and Amber then arrived to play the violin, cello, and harp. We decided to find our individual stages in the main ballroom to solidify our placements throughout the room. At first, we were concerned that the harp wouldn't fit on one of the stages, however we made the tight fit work and it ended up being a beautiful placement. The harp weighs about 70 pounds, so we had two of our musicians lift the harp from the floor with one person steadying the harp from the top and the other steadying the instrument from the bottom. Harps are heavy instruments so making sure that the instrument was equally supported was essential for a careful and safe lift. Thankfully, the harp made it successfully to its spot along with a small stool and a music stand! After getting the harp well positioned, all of our musicians climbed onto our individual stages which each stood about 30 feet apart. We started playing together which at first was a rough start because of the distance between us, but the sound team helped to test the monitors so that we were about to hear each other play. With the sound team having tested out the monitors to adjust the levels of sound for each individual musician, we had the ability to hear one another although we were far apart.
3:30pm - Dress rehearsal began and the speaking portion of the night was rehearsed. We then waited while the practice occurred and shortly after, changed into our formal attire for the night.
4:00pm - Our second round of soundcheck begins and we played "Do You Want To Build a Snowman" (Disney's Frozen), "A Whole New World" (Disney's Aladdin), and a few others.
4:30pm - The schedule slightly changed which resulted in a few less songs being played than originally requested. We chose our favorites and cut some songs from out set list to make it the correct length.
5:00pm - Sound check is finished. We then go backstage to the green room to eat pizza and Chick-fil-A for dinner and to relax before our performance. Over dinner, we looked over our iPads so that we could continue to meticulously mark repeats and stopping points. With no visuals and no communication accessible once our performance begins, we needed to ensure that any changes that needed to be made happened before we started playing. Typically, we make a lot of changes on stage based on reading the room and the reactions from listeners. We shorted some of our songs so that we were able to play a lot of variety to keep things interesting.
5:30pm - We discussed and rehearsed entrances. One instrument has to be designated in each song to start it alone and set the rhythm. Typically we would all begin together on a cue, but since we can’t see each other, one person has to start each song.
6:00pm - Finished makeup and final prep work. We made sure that our bags and water bottles were out of sight and gone from the performance site to be well hidden from the audience's view.
6:30pm - At this point in the night, we went back stage and were getting ready to go. We talked through all of our songs and all stated our order out loud one more time to make sure we all had the same order as the rest of the group. It would be disastrous if one of us had a song out of order since there’s no communication once beginning.
7:30pm - It’s go time and doors open! First song: "Do You Want To Build a Snowman". The Harp begins while one of the violin joins with two other strings joining in. From this point, it’s magical. Guests filter in through the doors into the starry-night themed ballroom. The lights are dim and the blue up lights illuminate the space. Amplified strings make the room sound like a full orchestra throughout the space. The strings continue and play "Viva la Vida", "Let it Go", "A Whole New World", "Fireflies", "Rolling in the Deep", and more. Finally, the strings stop as soon as they get the cue that the presentation is starting.
8:15pm - We’re finished! We carefully get off the stages in our ball gowns and help lift the harp off the stage to get it back in its protected case. We roll it out to where it can be loaded and packed up the rest of our gear.
8:30pm - Our cellist heads out and the rest of the musicians hang out in the green room to have a snack. April changes clothes and gets ready to go on-stage with DJ Vinny and drummer Steve.
9:00pm - Electric violinist, drummer, and DJ go backstage and get plugged in and set. It’s tough to sound check anything while the presentation is going on, but we sound checked hours ago, so everything was still set up the same way! The violin plugs in and we wait a few short minutes listening to the presentation while we're all behind the curtain (the curtain is going to drop later for the big reveal). As the presentation is wrapping up, Vinny brings in background music, dancers appear and the room's excitement and volume builds. The curtain proceeds to drop and the violin and drum begin simultaneously. Everyone cheers! Such a fun evening!! We play non-stop for about 2 hours for such a fun dance party. The heroes of the evening are celebrated, and the atmosphere is in an uproar of excitement. Over $1 million was raised for Make a Wish Foundation that night.
11:15pm - The music ends and clean-up begins. We put our instruments away., organize cables, and pack up to leave an eventful evening.
12:00pm - We make it home! There was so much adrenaline to go to sleep after such a fun night, and we loved playing every second.
Our goal was to play high energy requested music with elevated excitement. We chose to incorporate more fast than slow Disney ballads to keep the guests upbeat and lively. Although we had limited line of sight amongst musicians, our preparation, sound checks, and dress rehearsal helped to create a successful performance. We also wanted the gaps between songs to be as minimal as possible so as soon as one song was finished, at least one instrument would immediately be starting the next song. Set one included Disney music where we wore white and silver attire with the guys wearing white bow ties and the girls wearing white/silver dresses. Some of the songs in our first set list included, "You've Got a Friend in Me", "Kiss the Girl" (The Little Mermaid), and "SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS" (Mary Poppins). Our second set list included more modern pop music where we all wore black attire with the guys changing to black bow ties and the ladies wearing black dresses. Set list number two included "Rolling in the Deep" (Adele), "Just the Way You Are" (Bruno Mars), "Best Day of My Life", and "Sweet Caroline" just to name a few.
Overall, we had so much fun playing at the Make-A-Wish Foundation Gala in Charlotte! It was great to see everyone come together for such a great night in support of a beautiful cause. We loved incorporating live music throughout the night and we can't wait for the next one!
April is a professional violinist and the music coordinator for Dean's Duets.