A horse and carriage, a bagpiper and two drummers parading down the road would certainly turn the head of any passerby on Highway 28 in Lake Tahoe. But to Jeff Leep, it was simply all in a day’s work.
The groom in this Indian wedding wanted to arrive at the ceremony in style. He and his best man rode in a horse-drawn carriage, with a fleet of limos trailing behind them while, ahead of them, a marching bagpiper, snare drummer and bass drummer led the procession in festive fashion. The musicians were carefully selected and procured for this grandest of grand entrances.
It’s a role Jeff Leep relishes as booking agent for a wide variety of entertainment through his Reno/Tahoe-based company, Leep Entertainment. “I love making a party great!” enthuses Jeff, who also happens to be a band leader and a versatile musician who plays the saxophone and flute.
Jeff calls himself the “Rosetta Stone” of musical entertainment, because, according to him, he decodes the potentially overwhelming and confusing world of musical entertainment to unacquainted brides and grooms. In turn, after procuring the right musician, DJ or performer for the couple, he helps the entertainers understand the couple’s needs from a buyer’s standpoint. “I can interpret the needs of both sides and create a great deal, a win-win situation for everybody,” he said.
Jeff’s mother was an opera singer, so he started out in the classical music world as a bassoon player for the Reno Philharmonic. In his mid-twenties, he branched out to jazz and rock ’n’ roll, performing in a variety of bands.
It was during that time that he discovered he had an aptitude for business. “I saw other band leaders making all kinds of mistakes in these little bar bands, in dealing with the owners and whatnot,” Jeff recalls. “And so I then decided to become a band leader and became successful at it.”
Eventually, in the early 1990s, Jeff opened a talent agency in Reno, booking his own band, other bands, DJs, and a variety of talent, such as classical pianists, caricature artists and strolling magicians.
Today, Leep Entertainment provides musical entertainment to corporate events, high-end social parties, traveling shows with big-name performers, Broadway touring shows… and, of course, weddings.
Their weddings run the gamut from three-hour nuptials in mother’s backyard to seven-hour celebrations at major hotels, but each event is unique, Jeff explains. “We don’t just use a formula and stamp out the same type of wedding every time. We make it unusual, different and customized to the brides and grooms’ needs. The bride generally will have an idea in her mind. And we help her be able to create that vision as best we can within her budget.”
Selecting the best possible entertainment for a wedding couple often requires fine tuning, and “I’m like a human resources director,” Jeff says. “Let’s say they want a piano player. Well, I’ve got ten different piano players that I can bring in. Do they want classical, do they want Broadway, do they want jazz, do they want rock ’n’ roll, do they want somebody who could sing? You know, all those things that buyers have never thought about before.”
Regardless of the choices his couples make, Jeff is very confident with the entertainment he provides, whether it be his own band or somebody else. “I only hire the very best people, the very best DJs, the very best musicians. I trust them like solid gold that they’re going to take care of the brides and grooms,” he says.
That’s certainly music to a wedding couple’s ears.
Jeff Leep’s Top Tips for the Nearly-Weds Planning Their Big Day
- Invest in entertainment.
After procuring big-ticket items like the venue and the food and beverage, couples would do well to budget for music, Jeff believes. “The music is going to set the flavor. It’s one of the things people are going to remember most about the wedding,” he says.
The pièce de résistance is when guests come up to the bride and say, “’You know, we had a great time tonight. The food was great. But where did you get that DJ or where did you get that band? They were outstanding!’ It makes everybody feel good, and the bride’s getting compliments from her own guests,” Jeff remarks. “That’s what everybody remembers, the entertainment.”
- Consider the ages of your guests.
Selecting music for all age groups—a little bit of Sinatra, Dean Martin or the Glen Miller Orchestra for the grandparents, selections from the ‘60s, ‘70s or ‘80s for the parents, as well as the songs favored by the bride and groom and their friends—can go a long way toward guest satisfaction, he said.
“In my opinion, the best weddings have music that allows each age group to have at least something that they can relate to,” Jeff observes. “When you’re planning your music, don’t forget people that are older and younger than you are.”
- Have a solid emcee.
A master of ceremonies is essential to keep the guests informed and help with the flow of the event, according to Jeff.
“The power of the microphone is incredibly important because you want to let the guests know what’s going on in the reception and cocktail hour. You have to have an effective and concise person at the microphone. An effective and great master of ceremonies will talk and make simple announcements, usually one or two sentences.”
These announcements, for instance, could include the arrival of the wedding couple to the dance floor or when the buffet line will open. Good DJ’s will not only supply the musical entertainment, but will be able to skillfully emcee the reception as well.
- Hire a professional.
Jeff recommends investing in a seasoned professional if your budget allows, versus having that “friend from college” deejay your wedding for free. The advantages to hiring a professional are many, beginning with experience, skill and the ability to read a crowd.
Jeff explains that before the wedding, when consulting with a DJ or band, the wedding couple should provide a “must playlist” and a “no playlist.” The “must playlist” will detail all the special songs the couple wants to hear, but the “no playlist” will consist of forbidden songs.
YMCA, according to Jeff, is a classic example of a song that can pop up on either playlist. “For some people, if you don’t play YMCA, they’re going to be mad. And for other people: ‘if you play YMCA, we’re going to have to choke you,’” he chuckled.
“But then in the middle, there is this gray area. And this gray area is where the DJ or band needs to be able to use their judgement,” he continued. “A great DJ or a great band leader like we have at Leep Entertainment will be able to what they call ‘read the crowd.’
“It means they’re looking out. They don’t know (ahead of time) what kind of guests you’re going to have. Sometimes it’s all one type of people and one age group. Usually, it’s a variety of people. Sometimes, it’s people from other countries. Or half the audience is Italian. This might alter the songs outside of the ‘must playlist’ and ‘no playlist,’ the songs that the DJ has discretion to be able to choose, that they think is best. You’re going to trust the DJ to make the proper selections at the proper moment. That’s reading the crowd.”
The professionalism will also extend to conduct and appearance, such as adhering to a no-alcohol policy while working or making sure to dress in keeping with the style of the wedding, whether it be a formal affair or a luau.
Last but not least, all musicians, DJ’s and performers should be properly licensed and insured, which is a requirement of many venues.
These are all standards that Jeff Leep holds for himself as well as the professionals that Leep Entertainment supplies to its clients. Jeff remarks, “I have no worries, knowing that I’ve provided the very best talent to the brides and grooms for their wedding, and that makes me feel good at night.”
Photos courtesy of Pink Frog Marketing Solutions.