Entertainment Goes Extra Mile
By HUGH R. MORLEY, STAFF WRITER
Looking for an African djembe drum band for your wedding?
Or how about a jazz vibraphone trio for your cocktail hour?
Or a group of immigrant peasants, including an Irish tenor, for your corporate affair at Ellis Island?
If that’s your desire, then Dean Vali is your man.
Vali and his Fort Lee company, Bounce Music and Entertainment, provide music and spectacle for the kind of events where money is no object and a lasting memory is the goal.
Until last year, Vali, 53, a bass player and musical director, supplied music and other event production elements such as lighting, video projectors and multimedia equipment through a company he ran with his brother, Jim. The Norwood-based company, Vali Music, was started by their father, Gus, also a musician, in 1958.
But with older Vali long retired, the two sons parted company last year, and Dean Vali struck out on his own with Bounce at the start of 2008. He expects revenue of $1 million this year.
Vali said that in the competitive New York market, the secret of promoting his bands is to stimulate word-of-mouth recommendation by making a strong and distinctive impression at events. That, and constant networking, he said.
"For my kind of clientele, they have to touch and feel this thing," Vali said. "They are not going get excited about an ad in a magazine. They are not going to go to a Web site and say ‘That looks good.’ "
He works alone, hiring musicians, actors and others technical support staff on a temporary basis when needed.
One of his company’s strengths, Vali said, is providing ethnic musicians. He has a 2,000-name database of musicians who can play the gamut of musical styles, from Jewish klezmer music to Japanese kyoto, Jamaican reggae and Spanish sounds from Europe and Latin America.
He also can put together what he calls "the ultimate gala-fund- raiser" band a 22-piece orchestra featuring gospel singers and a string section, which goes for $25,000 a night.
"People who do big parties, they want you to hit a home run," Vali said. His clients include the United Nations and the operators of Ellis Island, and he does corporate events, fund-raisers, galas and weddings.
Dennis Telischak, president of the New Jersey branch of International Special Events Society, who has hired Vali’s bands, said the Bounce founder’s trademark is quality and consistency.
"Any time I need an orchestra where I cannot afford a hiccup, any kind of mistake, I use him," said Telischak, who also owns Audience Pleasers, which gets musicians from Vali. "He has an elegant look. All his musicians work in synch. And he just requires a higher standard of his musicians."
Vali’s business has its roots in his love of music and his Greek background. A Massachusetts native, he moved to New York at age 19, following his dream to become a professional bass player.
He did studio sessions, including work on commercials, and worked on Broadway playing in the "Little Shop of Horrors" for five years in the mid-1980s.
The arrival of electronic music in the 1980s, however, cut into the demand for live musicians, and in 1985 he began working for his father’s company.
"The niche was that our background is that we are Greek," he said. "That’s how my father made his name."
"We were doing a lot of Greek social events and this transformed into normal, mainstream social events," he said.
The diversity of the company’s offerings which Vali continues at Bounce was demonstrated at a corporate event at Ellis Island, for which Dean Vali provided about 15 actors dressed as peasants immigrating through the island center.
As guests arrived, the peasants rode the boats with them, acting out the kind of discussions that real immigrants might have had. And on arrival at the island the guests were met by "peasant" musicians including an Irish tenor and a small klezmer group.
It’s the kind of business that Vali is looking to do more of at Bounce. He is, for instance, looking to produce a full scale script that the "peasants" could follow for such events. And Vali also is looking to broaden the ethnic elements of his business, a move that was one driver behind his decision to launch his own company.
Bounce, for example, recently provided five different kinds of music for an alumnae gala organized by University of Virginia on its Semester At Sea cruise ship including the djembe drummers and Brazilian samba musicians.
Yet for all the diversity, Vali’s Greek background remains a powerful marketing tool.
He provided a 12-piece band for the Greek community’s Leadership 100 convention in California earlier this year, he said. He has been asked to provide musicians this month for the premiere of "Mamma Mia," the movie version of the stage-show by that name, which is set in Greece, Vali said, adding that he is awaiting confirmation of the gig.
And he still plays at many of the events, he added.
"I keep the young people at the front," he laughed. "And I stand at the back."
Bounce Music and Entertainment, Fort Lee
Owner: Dean Vali
Employees: none (but many freelancers)
Revenue: $1 million
Web site: bounce-US.com
Advice: "I really try to listen to my clients. I really try to identify their needs. And I try to exceed them. And I find that by really servicing them, that makes them feel good and makes them recommend me for the next one."
(c) 2008 Record, The; Bergen County, N.J.. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.