If you’ve ever planned a wedding, fundraiser or corporate event, you know how important it is to have great music. There’s nothing worse than an empty dance floor in the middle of your event space. Fortunately, the nationally known, Evanston-based Ken Arlen Orchestra knows how to get people dancing.
Ken Arlen, who has led the group since 1990, says the feedback he hears is always about how the band far exceeded their client’s expectations. And now, the Ken Arlen Orchestra is continuing to do so by expanding into the Ken Arlen Evolution Orchestra.
“We’ve always been an innovator in our field and implemented new ideas, new technologies, new repertoire, new concepts to create a unique experience for our clients,” Arlen says.
This newest generation of the band features the best of what the Ken Arlen Orchestra offered in addition to several new performers. The band includes six world-class vocalists; Sirens, Arlen Music Production’s rock violins group; a horns and rhythm section; and “Probably the most exciting drummer I’ve heard, not just in Chicago but anywhere,” Arlen says. “He’s a phenomenon of nature.”
The group also features two bandleaders: Arlen and Caitlin Simone, who herself has become one of the city’s most popular bandleaders. Promoting Simone will now give Arlen time to explore the international market, a natural next step for a band that has already garnered great success around the U.S. The Evolution Orchestra just returned from Las Vegas after performing at the Bellagio Hotel’s New Year’s Eve party. This was the 10th year the group had been invited to perform at the party and their production included 75 dancers, aerialists, wardrobe changes and a light show. It was an impressive display for the 2,000 in attendance.
The Ken Arlen Orchestra has also performed at a presidential inaugural ball, gubernatorial inaugurations and a number of philanthropic events for groups like Lurie Children’s Hospital, UNICEF, Catholic Charities and Connections for the Homeless. Arlen’s most rewarding experience, however, came during a small show at Albany Care.
“I just brought in four musicians. We we were playing jazz and there was a guy really getting into it, dancing around. I was watching him the whole time and just enjoying his reaction to the music,” Arlen says. “So, at the end of our performance, I went over to him and handed him a couple of our CDs and someone who worked there came over and said, ‘Everyone here is in a state of shock.’ I go, ‘Why?’ ‘Because that patient has been in a catatonic state for about over a year. Doesn’t talk. Doesn’t move. The reaction he had to your music, we’ve never seen that from him before.’”
For fans who have already heard the Ken Arlen Orchestra, Arlen says, “When they hear this new evolution, they’re just gonna go, ‘Wow.’ Their jaws are going to hit the ground.” And whether you enjoy all genres of music or prefer just one, this band will make sure you hear exactly what you want.
“What I love about my job is we get to play everything. We can go from a Michael Bublé tune to an Iggy Azalea tune to a Sinatra tune to a Motown tune,” Arlen says. “My goal is, if you close your eyes, you are hearing that artist.”
The Evolution band is now available for special events and will do around 90-100 performances over the course of the year.
“[I want to] continue to produce music at the highest possible level for our clients, to create experiences that far surpass their expectations, to create a culture within the company where we respect and appreciate our musicians and their talent and their contribution, and to do that on the highest level consistently.”