Michael Smolens Ensembles / Second Sight Music

Jazz Ensemble from Berkeley, CA - Will travel up to 500 miles
7
10 VERIFIED BOOKINGS
MEMBER SINCE 2011

$300 - $2500 per event
About
Veteran Bay Area musician Michael Smolens has the experience and artistry to make your event truly memorable. Whether alone at his piano or performing with one of his seven different ensembles, his music inspires. You may have heard him at a friend's wedding, a private event or corporate function, a sacred setting, in a radio interview, at a concert hall like Yoshi's Jazz House, or on one of his six critically acclaimed CD releases. As a composer/arranger for nearly five decades, Michael Smolens has frequently been commissioned to collaborate on or create new works for special occasions. Over the last 40 years, he has entertained the Picasso family, Lt. Governor Newsom, Cirque du Soleil, Hewlett-Packard, and many others.

So why is Michael Smolens the right choice for your event?  In a few words... unique, elegant, passionate. Performed by a flexible, friendly professional who has the uncanny ability to sense what a crowd needs and adapt within moments.  

"What I find most appealing about Michael Smolens is his ability to satisfy the clients who want both the classic and the unconventional, often within one event. This is especially tricky when it comes to ensemble performances.  It really boils down to the bandleader's ability to know his talent and pick the right players.  And the reports I get from my clients and event planners is that Michael consistently delivers. Whether it's a wedding needing both jazz and classical music, or a West-African trio using indigenous instruments, I know that I can trust Michael to create the right ambience."
Lance Freeman (President, has hired Michael since 1996)

Michael's repertoire spans hundreds of works, including different flavors of Jazz, Broadway, Latin, Pop, Classical, Sacred and International / World Music.  Michael can also specially arrange or compose a new piece for any event—from weddings and birthdays to ordinations and dedicatory works—as well as accompany guest artists.

Have you ever had a special idea or theme for music and needed someone to implement it brilliantly? Here are some examples of past clients who got it and more in our "HAVING IT ALL" travelogue:

Take 1) THE PERFECT SUITE OF WALTZES

During the early planning stage of their wedding a couple confessed to me, "We've always dreamt about how wonderful it would be to slow dance to a string of romantic waltzes at our reception.  We see a sultry jazz vocalist with a trio backing her up.  Could you do that for us?"

I replied, "No problem, I know just the right vocalist for you'" and then played them samples of her singing.

About 10 seconds into the track the couple looked at each other and said to me, "Perfect."

"Well, let's look at some possible songs for this project" and then I proceeded to play dozens of waltzes on my piano for them to consider. (I even re-interpreted many non-waltzes into a waltz feel to give more choices). After the couple decided on five of their favorite songs, I began to put this suite together.  I met with my vocalist to determine her ideal singing key for each song, scored them out for the band, and finally created instrumental segues between each song to create a seamless 20-minute suite.

Fast forward to their wedding.

Toward the end of the reception the couple gave us the cue that they wanted to dance to their special suite.  So with the lights low, we began to play and when I looked up, what I saw that we were playing just for them in what felt like their own 'private movie'.  I will always remember that moment...

Take 2) BIRTHDAY UNDER THE STARS

A friend called and said that one of their friends were looking for "something out-of-the-ordinary" for a family member's birthday.  "We have very diverse musical tastes—we'd like something jazz, pop, and international.  And we're having the party at the Chabot Space and Science Center. What do you have?"

With that challenge, I suggested they bring on a combination of three of my groups: a West-African fusion trio, a straight-ahead jazz trio, and an R&B quartet with a very soulful male singer. 

After I played them samples from each group, the family coordinator said, "Fabulous, you've hit all of the bases.  Do you play in all of them?"

I replied, "I love visiting different cultures by playing different instruments.  How about this: Why don't we bookend the whole event by starting and ending with the West-African group.  This way I could schedule the jazz trio during dinner, have a break during your video presentation, and then bring on the R&B quartet after that."  

"And finish with the West-African trio, right?" asked the coordinator.

"Yes, and I have an idea that will really spice-up your event.  I work with an award-wining close-up magician who charms everyone who sees her slight-of-hand effects.  That might be just the 'out-of-the-ordinary' touch you were looking for."

"Our guests will just love it, I can see it already!"

Needless to say, the whole evening went fabulously.  Another night to remember...

Take 3) THE SECRET GIFT

My very first conversation with Robert went something like this: 

"Hello, do you teach piano and voice?"

"Yes, about half of my students work on that combination." 

"Can you keep a secret ?"

"Hmm, maybe you could explain a bit about this?"

"I'm getting married in nine months and I want to sing and play piano for my new bride at the wedding in front all of my guests."

"I'm not sure where the 'secret' is here."

"Well, the thing is, none of my guests—including my fiancé—know that I play or sing, and I would need you to train me in complete secrecy. Can you do that for me?"

"I've never been asked to do this before, but sure, I can do this. And when is the wedding?"

"In nine months."

And that's exactly what I did with Robert until his wedding day—I coached him in total secrecy and he managed to work out all of his practicing at times when no one would hear him.

When he brought in the sheet music to the song he was going to sing at the reception, "It's True Love" by David Gray, he said, "You know, I also want to make a studio recording of the song with myself on piano and singing, plus electric bass, and give copies to all of my guests."

I replied, "Isn't there also a synthesizer on the original?"

"Ah, but I'd rather hear a rich string quartet behind everything. Can you make an arrangement that really fits the song?"

"An excellent idea, it would be a pleasure, Robert."

I suggested that we wait for several months of vocal training before committing to a specific key for his song.  In the meantime, we built a solid foundation for both his piano playing and voice so that he could put those skills together comfortably for not only his performance, but also his recording.

Fast forward to Robert's wedding reception in the main ballroom of the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco.  After I played an hour of solo piano I took a microphone to speak to his guests, "Can I have your attention please.  Robert has a special gift for his new bride."

The room became very still as he escorted his new bride to a chair next to the piano and said into the microphone, "Sweetheart, this song is for you."

That was the cue to open the curtain, revealing a string quartet and electric bassist.  I counted off the tempo and slipped into my chair where I had a perfect view of the bride. Needless to say she became teary-eyed, as did many of the guests during that moment in time... 

Take 4) TRADITIONAL JEWISH WEDDING GOES INTERNATIONAL

One of my favorite places to create special music is at the Brazilian Room in Berkeley's Tilden Park. There's just something about the wooded setting and charm of the building that always puts a smile on my face.  Once when I was playing at an Open House there, I noticed a woman sitting not ten feet from me, listening very intently. About 45 minutes into my set, one of my musical partners arrived with his West-African kora (21-string harp).  As soon as we started to play together, she got up and brought her fiancé to sit right next to us and listen. 

When I finished that set she came up to me and said, "I really like your different instruments—the piano, voice, your strange looking marimba, this Middle-Eastern drum, and I love this flute of yours.  It's bigger than the one I played as a child.  And all the different styles, too.  I think that you're the one who could handle what I've got planned for my wedding."

I replied, "I get the sense that you're not only a musician, but that you also compose your own pieces. Am I right about this?"

She said, "Now I know you can handle all the music for my wedding."

Here's what finally emerged for her entire wedding:

As her guests arrived, I was joined by two of her long-time musician friends in three traditional Jewish songs, alternating between alto flute and Middle-Eastern dumbek. We also played one of her original songs during the ceremony, as well accompanying the rousing hora dancing right after they "smashed the glass" (the customary ending to a Jewish wedding).  For the first half of the reception I joined my kora-playing friend on my West-African balafon (marimba), voice, shakers, and melodica (small harmonica-like keyboard).  The second half of the reception featured a quartet of top-call session players on saxes, basses, drum set, and myself on piano/keyboard for a delightful mix of instrumental jazz and pop music. 

All in all, a very fun time was had by all...
(more)
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Corporate Function

Overall
 
Professionalism
Accommodating
Overall Talent
Recommend

Great corporate band! Wide variety of songs and professional musicians. Prompt responses and flexible with changes during the program. Highly recommend.

(more) Review by . from Burlingame, CA on

Birthday Party (Adult)

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Professionalism
Accommodating
Overall Talent
Recommend

Michael Smolens and his ensemble provided the perfect classy and lively jazz mood for the dinner portion of my party. Michael has an amazing and vast repertoire of songs to choose from, and using the list of songs that I selected, he did an outstanding job of curating them to comprise the "ultimate" dinner playlist for a truly magical evening.

(more) Review by . from Berkeley, CA on

Birthday Party (Adult)

Overall
 
Professionalism
Accommodating
Overall Talent
Recommend

Many of the guests commented on how much they enjoyed the music.

(more) Review by . from Pleasanton, CA on

Wedding Reception

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Professionalism
Accommodating
Overall Talent
Recommend

Michael was great! Our friends and family who brought their own instruments had a great time butting in and playing with him. He was flexible and accommodating with their requests and sounded great on that keyboard! Thanks so much Michael for holding the space with us and providing your talent and awesome sound system so everyone could be heard! I look forward to hiring a bigger ensemble in the future!

(more) Review by . from Sausalito, CA on

Birthday Party (Adult)

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Professionalism
Accommodating
Overall Talent
Recommend

Michael is a true musical genius! The jazz ensemble he commissioned to join him in performing at our event was world class! The guests are still sending their rave reviews, I myself would hire the exact ensemble again and again for future events. A dear friend Luke Hawkins, who recently performed his magical "Fred Astaire" tap dancing at the 2015' Tony's commented ..."Sarah, do you have any idea what world class musicians you have performing here tonight?" Luke also joined Michaels ensemble's wondrous rhythms and dazzled my crowd with his superb tap dancing! It was just a magical experience having such talents here at my home, I highly recommend Michael Smolens!

(more) Review by . from Loomis, CA on

Birthday Party (Adult)

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Professionalism
Accommodating
Overall Talent
Recommend

Wonderful jazz trio of piano, bass and drums, for a 90th birthday celebration with 200+ people. The, music was perfect throughout, and fit the energy, vibe and flow of the party perfectly. Michael was a professional from start to finish, and so helpful in the planning process. All 3 musicians were outstanding.

(more) Review by . from Sunnyvale, CA on

Corporate Function

Overall
 
Professionalism
Accommodating
Overall Talent
Recommend

Michael Smolens ensemble (a trio for our event) was GREAT! Perfect for our office gathering of about 100 friends and colleagues. Many compliments from attendees. Michael personally handled my diverse requests for modal jazz a la Bill Evans and bossa nova a la Jobim with grace and aplomb. Would love to work with them in the future.

(more) Review by . from Sacramento, CA on
PAST EVENTS
FUTURE EVENTS
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2019
Oct
26
Open Embrace House Concerts
Cupertino, CA
7:30 PM - 11:00 PM
2019
Nov
1
Wine Tasting Party
Oakland, CA
6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
2019
Nov
1
Private Event
Oakland, CA
6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
2019
Dec
6
The Back Room
Berkeley, CA
8:00 PM - 10:00 PM
2019
Sep
6
Private Party
San Francisco, CA
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
2019
Sep
6
Private Event
San Francisco, CA
11:00 AM - 2:00 PM
2019
Aug
4
Private Event
Berkeley, CA
4:00 PM - 10:00 PM
2019
Jul
27
Private Event
Sacramento, CA
11:30 AM - 2:30 PM
2019
Jun
8
The Monkey House
Berkeley, CA
8:00 PM - 10:00 PM
2019
Apr
12
Red Poppy Are House
San Francisco, CA
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
2019
Feb
10
Maybeck Recital Hall
Berkeley, CA
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
2019
Feb
10
Maybeck Recital Hall
Berkeley, CA
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
2018
Dec
23
Boudin Bakery at The Wharf
San Francisco, CA
12:00 PM - 3:30 PM
2018
Dec
16
Boudin Bakery at The Wharf
San Francisco, CA
12:00 PM - 3:30 PM
2018
Dec
9
Boudin Bakery at The Wharf
San Francisco, CA
12:00 PM - 3:30 PM
2018
Dec
8
Private Event
San Francisco, CA
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
B A L L A D S
After You've Gone
Angel Eyes
As Time Goes By
Autumn Nocturne
Bess You Is My Woman Now
Bewitched
Black and Blue
Blame It On My Youth
Blue in Green
Body and Soul
Dedicated to You
Detour Ahead
Dreamsville
Easy Living
Embraceable You
Full Moon and Empty Arms
Georgia
God Bless the Child
Good Morning Heartache
Goodbye Porkpie Hat
Harlem Nocturne
I Cover the Waterfront
I Got It Bad
I Remember Clifford
If You Could See Me Now
I Left My Heart in San Fransisco
I'll Be Around
Ill Wind
I Loves You Porgy
I'm Through With Love
I'm in the Mood for Love
In a Sentimental Mood
Isn't it a Pity
It Was a Very Good Year
It's the Talk of the Town
Love is Stronger Than Us
The Man I Love
Memories of You
Misty
Moonlight in Vermont
More Than You Know
My Foolish Heart
My Funny Valentine
My Man's Gone Now
My One and Only Love
My Ship
My Song
Naima
The Nearness of You
A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square
One For My Baby
The Nearness Of You
No More
Our Love Is Here To Stay (piano & sax duo/lazy swing)
Over the Rainbow
Precious Lord, Take My Hand
Prelude to a Kiss
Rhapsody in Blue
Round Midnight
Ruby My Dear
Save Your Love For Me
September Song
Skylark (piano & flugelhorn/ballad)
Some Enchanted Evening
Some Other Time
Someone to Watch Over Me
Somewhere
Sophisticated Lady
Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most
Spring is Here
Stairway to the Stars
The Star Crossed Lovers
Stardust
Stormy Weather
The Summer Knows
Summertime
Turn Out the Stars
Unforgettable
We'll Be Together Again
What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?
What's New
When I Fall in Love
When Lights Are Low
When Sunny Gets Blue
You Are Too Beautiful
You Must Believe in Spring
You Taught My Heart to Sing
S W I N G
Ain't Misbehavin'
All of You
All the Things You Are
Along Came Betty
April in Paris
Autumn Leaves
A Beautiful Friendship
The Blue Room
The Days of Wine and Roses
Do Nothing til You Hear From Me?
Dolphin Dance
Don't Blame Me
Don't Get Around Much Anymore
The Duke
Easy to Love
A Foggy Day
Good Bait
Have You Met Miss Jones?
Honeysuckle Rose
How Deep Is The Ocean
How High The Moon
I Got Rhythm
I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart
I Mean You
I Only Have Eyes For You
I Should Care
I'm Beginning to See the Light
In Walked Bud
In Your Own Sweet Way
Isn't it Romantic?
It's Only A Paper Moon
It's You Or No One (jazz quartet/swing)
It Don't Mean a Thing
I Got the World on a String
Just Friends
Killer Joe
Lazy Bird
Laura
Let's Fall In Love
Like Someone in Love
LOVE
Lullaby of Birdland
Lullaby of the Leaves
Mack the Knife
Mean to Me
Moondance
Moonglow
My Romance
New York, New York
On a Clear Day
Robin's Nest
Satin Doll
Scrapple From the Apple
Star Eyes
Stompin' at the Savoy
Straight No Chaser
'S Wonderful
Take the "A" Train
There is No Greater Love
They Can't Take That Away From Me
The Way You Look Tonight
Well You Needn't
Whisper Not
Willie's Tune
Witchcraft
L A T I N
Agua de Berber (Water to Drink
Corcovado (Quiet Nights Quiet Stars)
Desafinado
Dindi
East Of The Sun & West Of The Moon
Every Time We Say Goodbye
A Felicidade
Garota de Ipanema (Girl from Ipanema)
Insensatez (How Insensitive)
In Your Eyes
If You Never Come To Me
Meditaçao (Meditation)
Once I Loved
Sabía
Wave
L A T I N (Antonio Carlos Jobim)
Autumn Serenade
Caravan
Ceora
The Dolphin
Elizete
Friends (jazz trio/Samba)
The Gentle Rain
Here's That Rainy Day
I Hear a Rhapsody
Imagination
The Island
Jubilee
Like A Lover - vocal (quartet/Brazilian ballad)
Une Homme et Une Femme (A Man and a Woman)
Manha de Carnaval (A Day in the Life of a Fool)
The Masquerade is Over
Moon and Sand
Moon River - vocal (quartet/bossa-nova)
My Little Boat
Nica's Dream
Night and Day
Pavane
Pensativa
Serenata
The Shadow of Your Smile
So Many Stars
Summer Samba (So Nice)
A Time for Love
Veracruz (Empty Faces)
Yellow Days
W A L T Z E S
Alice In Wonderland (jazz trio/waltz)
Bewitched, Bothered, & Bewildered
Bluesette
The Christmas Waltz
Falling in Love with Love
Fly Me to the Moon
I'm All Smiles
It Goes Like it Goes
The Jitterbug Waltz
Little Waltz
Morning Has Broken
Take Five
Tenderly
Theme from Piano Concerto #2 (3rd movement)
Up Jumped Spring
Waltz for Debby
While We're Young
B L U E S
All Blues
An American in Paris
Basin Street Blues
Blue Monk (jazz trio/blues)
Blues on the Corner
Blues in the Night
Freddie the Freeloader
Gee Baby Ain't I Good to You?
Pussycat Dues
Serenade in Blue
Since I Fell For You
Sweet Georgia Brown
Walkin'
Willow Weep For Me
F U N K
Ain't No Sunshine
Alone Again (Naturally)
Caught Up in the Rapture
Heatwave
Heart in View
How Sweet It Is to be Loved by You
I Heard it Through the Grapevine
Just the Two of Us
Mary Had a Baby
Midnight at the Oasis
Night Mood
On Broadway
Pick Up the Pieces
Sunny
Sweet Love
This Masquerade
Valdez in the Country
We're in This Love Together
What's Goin' On
S T E V I E - W O N D E R
All in Love is Fair
Another Star
Don't You Worry About a Thing
Golden Lady
I Wish
If It's Magic
Isn't She Lovely?
My Cherie Amour
P O P
Alfie
All I Ask of You
American Pie
Aquarius
Close to You
Colors of the Wind
Crazy
Daydream
Dedicated to the One I Love
Don't Know Why
Everything
Feelin' Groovy
Follow Me Down
Godfather Theme (Speak Softly Love)
Gonna Fly Now (theme from Rocky)
The Greatest Love of All
Heartbreak Hotel
I Don't Know Where I Stand
I Say a Little Prayer for You
I Will Remember You
If
Imagine
It's Too Late
Jean
Just the Way You Are
Lady Gaga medley
Leaving on a Jet Plane
Let's Stay Together
The Look of Love
Love Story
Michael From Mountains
Mr Bojangles
My Girl
My Immortal
Night Life
Nights in White Satin
Savin' All My Love For You
Send in the Clowns
Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay
Songs To Aging Children Come
Suicide is Painless
Think of Me
Traces
Up Up and Away
Walk On By
The Way We Were
We've Only Just Begun
What A Wonderful World
Wichita Lineman
You Make Me Feel Brand New
Your Song
You've Got a Friend
B E A T L E S
Can't Buy Me Love
Good Day Sunshine
Eleanor Rigby
Get Back
Girl
Here There and Everywhere
Here Comes the Sun
Hey Jude
Honeypie
I Feel Fine
If I Fell
I'll Follow the Sun
It's Only Love
Imagine
In My Life
Junk
Let it Be
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
Michelle
My Sweet Lord
Norwegian Wood
She's Leaving Home
Something
When I'm SixtyFour
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Yesterday
C L A S S I C A L
Ave Maria
Bist Du Bei Mir
Canon in D
French Suite IV Allemande Sarabande Air
Gymnopedie #1 #2 #3
Here Comes the Bride
Kinderszenen #1 (theme to "My Brilliant Career")
Prelude Op. 28 #4
Pavane
To Romance
H O L I D A Y
Angels We Have Heard On High
Auld Lang Syne
Away In a Manger
Christmas Time is Here
The Christmas Waltz
First Noel
Hark! the Herald Angels Sing
Have Yourself A Merry Christmas
It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
Joy to the World
Lo How A Rose E're Blooming
Let It Snow
O Come All Ye Faithful
O Christmas Tree
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Silent Night
Winter Wonderland
Choral Group
Classical Duo
Jazz Duo
Chamber Music Duo
World Music Duo
Classical Trio
Jazz Trio
Chamber Music Trio
World Music Trio
Jazz Quartet
Chamber Music Quartet
Jazz Ensemble
Weddings
Bar Mitzvahs
Celebrations
Concerts
Bat Mitzvahs
Events
Banquets
Conventions
Festivals
Fundraisers
Meetings
Birthday Parties (Adult)
First Communions
Wedding Ceremonies
Wedding Receptions
Engagement Parties
Rehearsal Dinners
Christmas Parties
Grand Openings
Graduation Parties
Holiday Parties
Memorial Services
Cocktail Parties
Private Parties
Retirement Parties
Wine Tasting Parties
Church Services
Valentine's Day Parties
Anniversaries
Labor Day Parties
Please note Michael Smolens Ensembles / Second Sight Music will also travel to Albany, Emeryville, Oakland, Canyon, Piedmont, El Cerrito, Orinda, Richmond, Alameda, El Sobrante, Lafayette, Moraga, Rheem Valley, San Francisco, San Pablo, Hercules, Pinole, Walnut Creek, Martinez, Pleasant Hill, Rodeo, San Leandro, South San Francisco, Tiburon, Concord, Crockett, Port Costa, Alamo, San Quentin, Sausalito.
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