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The Central City Orchestra

The Central City Orchestra

Is Redefining What It Means To Be A Party Band For Hire

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“I’ve never had a product that I didn’t market, that wasn’t something I sold,” says Amy Banks, co-founder of the 10 piece party band the Central City Orchestra, when asked how she and business partner Katie Robinette approach their unique musical endeavor. The Central City Orchestra isn’t as much a band for hire as it is a party for hire; their focus is on delivering not just the perfect performance, but also the perfect atmosphere for any kind of social gathering. “Our objective is: do music that people of all ages love, and do it so well in a seamless fashion that supports your special event,” Banks says, laying out the ensemble’s mission statement, “Whether it’s a corporate event or a wedding reception, from start to finish, our band is basically there to tie up the scene.”

Banks and Robinette assembled the Central City Orchestra out of both a passion for live music and a shared knowledge of how the wedding and special event industry operates. “When Katie and I decided to do this,” Banks explains, “we had a very specific idea in mind based on both of our histories. I’ve been in the wedding scene in Philadelphia for seven years, and she has been in the wedding scene in a couple of the Midwest markets, so we worked for bands that are corporate wedding bands… that’s our main job.” Stressing the band’s professionalism and dedication to providing an experience, Robinette adds: “One of the big things is we want to make sure we cater to our clients’ needs and what they love. Creating those memories for them is what we do best.”

When asked about how the Central City Orchestra built it’s massive list of material – the band has a list of over 150 songs that clients can choose from for their events – Robinette shared some of the questions that she and Banks ask before adding new songs to their ever-expanding list: “Is this an effective new piece to utilize? Is this piece going to stand the test of time for the next 3 or 4 years, or longer? Is this worth taking our time to learn this particular song to actually add to our permanent repertoire? We take that into consideration. We want to make sure that the things we do have on our playlist are heavy hitters for a long time.”

Banks elaborates: “It’s kind of our job to recall all of the top dance hits through the decades. And that’s not very hard to do. You hear “Footloose”… and the next thing you know, you remember what you were doing back in the ‘80s, and it’s this big ball of fun. So it’s our job to kind of help cull those memories.”

“I call myself an ‘ultra-communicator’” Robinette says with a laugh, describing how she manages to organize the schedules of 10 working musicians for rehearsals and performances. When considering musicians for the Central City Orchestra, Banks and Robinette had a specific attitude in mind for the type of members that they’d be able to work with. “We wanted to make sure that the people that we hired understood: this isn’t necessarily about what you want to do, it’s not necessarily a creative thing,” says Robinette, “so if that’s your sole passion, it might not be the best project for you. We are very lucky to be working with a group of musicians that do understand that in this stage of the game.”

The Central City Orchestra’s business model depends on delivering a professional performance, but that doesn’t mean the band isn’t capable of creating some fun surprises on stage. “It does take a little bit of the dedication that a garage band would take,” Banks notes. “We do like to have kind of a structure because we’ve learned that when you put together a party, there’s an ebb and flow, and you need to create that ebb and flow,” says Banks, “But sometimes in the middle of your created ebb and flow, it ain’t happening. Next thing, you look out and you realize that the 50+ people were the ones who were dancing, and as soon as you started playing… more current stuff, they went and sat down. So, it’s like, we gotta go back to catering to that age group,” or whatever the case may be.” Highlighting how important the ability to change gears is, Banks adds, “Well, that’s your setlist, but we’re doing this now, and we’re doing it in eight bars.”

Robinette describes the ability to think on your feet as an invaluable trait to playing with the Central City Orchestra: “One of the big things that we wanted to convey to the guys is that a lot of the times when we go in to do these events they are not scripted. You have to be comfortable as a musician to have to switch things up on a dime. You have to be comfortable with change because there’s a lot of change at an event that we do. Obviously, we’re catering to a client, we’re catering to what’s happening in a moment. So it’s really important for them to be understanding of the fact that things might change, and they might change quickly.”

“We’re hands-on, and we have full responsibility for what we’re doing,” Banks says of how she and Robinette approach working with people both in and outside of the band, “we definitely are the first line to our clients and our musicians, and we care about all of them.” Commenting on what sets the Central City orchestra apart from other special event performers, Banks elaborates, “We want, obviously, we want a thriving business, but we also want an opportunity for musicians to get paid. That’s really important to us, and certainly I think it figures into the bigger picture. We want our musicians to be happy and to want to do what we’re doing. We love to do what we’re doing. And one we can help that happen is by making sure they’re taken care of. Same with the clients.” 

As for what’s on the horizon for the Central City Orchestra, Robinette and Banks are confident and hopeful for the future. “We’re still growing at this point,” Robinette says, “I think we both had a projection in mind of where we’d like to be.” The kinship between the Central City Orchestra’s founders is clear in how Banks and Robinette talk about each other and their partnership, and their passion for their work is undeniable. “Katie works full time on this endeavor, and has done a lot of work to close those contracts,” Banks says, shining a spotlight on her partner’s dedication. “We’re beyond our target, our initial financial projections. So, I guess we’re doing something right. And people like it. That’s always a good feeling.”

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