Of all the things that my family did to prepare for, and deliver a great Graduation Party, our play list is the one that people have talked about most afterwards. In this part of the series, I will tell you how we constructed a great play list for the party.
For the first two graduation parties at our house, we either relied on the radio, or a shuffling of all the CDs in our collection (we had one of those 100 CD jukeboxes). Both had their limitations. Between commercials, disk changes and poor song choice, the music was unremarkable at best. You may ask, why does the music matter? Music sets the tone of the party. Done right it keeps the mood up, and keeps people talking. The wrong music mix runs the risk of alienating large portions of the party.
Our solution was to create a play list for the party. We combined all of the music among the various collections in our house onto one computer. Then the graduate and I went through and selected music that fit the tastes of some or all of our guests. We stressed music that appealed to grandparents, aunts and uncles early in the party, and saved the more modern music for later when we knew some guests would have departed.
To help with the brainstorming and sequencing, we came up with themes for various hours of the party. Some of our themes were:
- Longer, more instrumental songs for the hour when people were arriving.
- Road songs – for the hour when many of our guests might be departing
- Cow Bell songs – yes, songs featuring cow bells
- American Idol – all songs from people who had been contestants on the show
- Songs from the 70s / Dance tunes
- Naughty or suggestive songs – for after the grandparents departed
With the raw list complete, we actually sequenced the music. Being somewhat of a control freak, and having some time in the evenings in the weeks before the party, I actually created a spreadsheet where I put the songs in order, with their play times. This allowed me to know, at any given hour of the day, what songs would be playing. It took some work, and I had to come up with a few fillers here and there, but when I was done I had a sequenced list. For a bit of added fun, we put in something at the top of each hour to let us know when the theme, or just the hour was about to change. For my daughter’s party, we used “Real Men of Genius” commercials from Bud Light. For my son’s, we used the introduction to episodes of 24 – “The following takes place between one PM and two PM…”
For the day of the party, I used a laptop computer connected to an amplifier to broadcast the music. We wired speakers to strategic parts of the yard to get the sound out. The idea was to have the music audible everywhere, without being ear-splitting anywhere. At our last party we had three sets of speakers, each with their own volume control. My older son was able to create a small sound board for us to help control the volume. We even mounted speakers on poles to elevate them, and help get the music where we wanted it.
The result? After each of our last two parties we were asked for copies of the play lists by other parents and graduates to help their parties along. After the last party, we were asked for our pole speakers and sound board as well.
The creation of our list took some time, but it was a labor of love. I really cherished the time spent debating music with my daughter and later my son as we prepared. Our last party was a few years back, and today much of what we did with selecting and sequencing the music can be done with on-line applications like iTunes or Spotify.
When you are planning your party, you will likely not go to the level of detail on music that we did. The important point of this post is to spend a bit of time thinking through how you want your music to sound. If you and your graduates have particular tastes, you will want to take some time to find the right mix of music for your party.
In the next installment of this series, I will talk about some decorating tips, and how to create a great display to show off your graduate to the world.
The playlist from my daughter’s party in 2007 is now published! You can find it here
And the play list from my son’s party in 2009 is here.