My name is Emmanuel del Casal. I am the owner of Smooth Groove Productions. It is an entertainment agency. I provide my clients with qualified professional live entertainers and acts for their special events. The types of events we supply entertainment for are weddings, corporate functions, holiday parties, celebrations, grand openings, product launches, conventions, cocktail mixers, dinner receptions, anniversaries, any and all special occasions.
I began my company in June of 1999. I was actually in another small business at the time called Sound America Bank Drafting. This was a business service primarily to other small business owners. I had a service in which I offered other business owners the ability to draft their customers' bank accounts on a regular basis to procure payments from their customers, ie., automatic payments. It was a paper version of EFT, which is electronic funds transfer. I dabbled in this business for about two years. When I first started out as a small business owner, one of the first things I did was to join the Seattle Chamber of Commerce. I wanted to network and try to get accounts, but also saddle up to an organization that has notoriety and credibility. I joined other organizations such as BNI for weekly meetings, networking, and trading referrals.
Before I go further I will back up a little and offer some background of myself. I am a professional bassist/musician. My first paid gig as a musician was when I was nineteen years old in my first band. I was a freshman in college. I think I got paid $50. This was in 1985. I played gigs while at the University of Washington. I played gigs throughout my college time. I left the UW after 1989. I was in the School of Architecture but realized that that was not where my heart was. I majored in jazz studies in the music department upon leaving architecture. I didn't finish that degree as I started too late in majoring in music. You want to declare a music major no later than your sophomore year. I declared it as a fifth year senior. By then I would have had to go for another three years of school to get a BA in music. I was burnt out on school by that point and just wanted to play music professionally. Eight years to attain a BA in music is not worth it in my opinion. So I left college and have never looked back.
I declared my choice to become a professional musician in April of 1990. I remember doing that. I was out of school for the first time in my life and working a job at SeaTac airport driving a shuttle van from one of the hotels and parking lots around there. I told myself that I would have a go at making a living as a musician. I quit that job and dove into the working music scene in Seattle. I landed gigs here and there and by years end I got a gig playing in a Top-40 band touring Air Force bases in Alaska and all over Asia. That was my first road experience and it was great. When you're 24-25 that's a terrific time to travel and play around. And that I did. Cut to several years later and I was at a crossroads when I was almost 30. I was in an original band that I had put my blood, sweat, and tears into for over two years. That band did a "Spinal Tap" and folded. I found myself without the thing that was driving my passion everyday for the past couple years. I didn't have gigs lined up and I was in a position where I had to make money--quickly. I also did not have too many other skill sets to be marketable for a decent job. I found a job at a temp agency as an office administration worker. I answered phones, did reception work, and my coworkers were mainly young girls just out of high school. I was 30 and pretty much everyone on the staff was a 18-19 year old girl. It was humbling to say the least. But, I did a good job and eventually caught the eye of another business owner who hired me for his escrow company. I was an escrow assistant a year and a half or so. I could have had a career in the escrow business. If I had stayed I would have been an escrow officer eventually and made some bigger bucks. It was at this time that I had an opportunity to get into small business as a sole proprietor. And that's when I started Sound America Bank Drafting. My father came across this business opportunity to become a licensee of a bank drafting company. He was impressed because it was a personal computer operated business. He tried his best to steer me into the scientific fields as he is a PhD Chemical Engineer, but being the artistic musician person that I was it was not to be. So, in an attempt to get me into something with potential and financial payoff, he paid for the license to sell bank drafting services.
So, back to the Chamber of Commerce that I joined and BNI referrals networking organization. I tried to sell my services. I immersed myself into the world of bank drafting. However, during that whole time, a quiet voice in back of my head was asking, maybe we could be getting some gigs out of this. And then it hit me. I had the classic epiphany! The light bulb in the thought bubble came above my head. I realized that the sales and marketing principles were basically the same, but the products were different. Whether one is selling insurance, carpet cleaning, janitorial services, accounting services, financial investment services, chiropractor services, catering services, or music services the sales and marketing hustle is basically the same. At all these networking functions I was attending there were dozens of different businesses representing countless different products and services. It dawned upon me that music is a service and that I could go about doing the same things that each and every business owner was doing at these meetings trying to get customers. So, I turned on a dime and immediately switched my business to what it is now: Smooth Groove Productions, an entertainment agency that supplies clients with professional entertainment. I took out a loan and hired a graphic designer to create my logo and marketing materials. By the holiday season I was booking my first gigs as a business owner and bandleader. I had found a way to make a viable living as a musician/agent.
As of this date I have been in business for over 13 years. During that time I have had two daughters with my wife of 17 years. I could not do this business without the support of my wife. She is the constant breadwinner as she is the Director of Housekeeping at The Fairmont Olympic Hotel where she has been employed for 27 years. During my time as a small business owner I have gone through two major recessions and the crash of 2008 in which recovery is still not in sight for a great many people. Fortunately, I have had the backbone of family to weather such storms. I have had the great fortune to be a regular performer with my band at The Olympic Hotel over a span of ten years. When the Olympic Hotel was managed by the Four Seasons Hotels I caught the last two years of that time and played in The Garden Court, which was the hotel nightclub/restaurant for many years. When the hotel changed hands and became The Fairmont Olympic Hotel, music discontinued in The Garden Court permanently becoming a banquet room for private events. There was a lull in live musical entertainment other than the solo pianist in The Terrace lounge for 2004. In 2005 the executive management looked to bring back live music in The Georgian restaurant. At first we tried a jazz quartet with vocalist for one night, but it was too much for a fine dining room that wasn't used to such live music in many years. The music was scaled back to a duo, myself and a guitarist at first only on Saturdays, and then eventually every Friday and Saturday. After a while I let the guitarist go and opened up the seat to rotate a different player on a given night. It has been an incredible run playing with some of Seattle's finest jazz musicians on piano and guitar as well as a jazz harmonica extraordinaire who plays once a month.
I will be featuring these highly accomplished musicians in this blog. I have been videotaping almost all my gigs at the hotel for the past several months and posting videos on my YouTube channel. I will be spotlighting some of Seattle's finest musicians with whom I have the privilege to play. I will also highlight events that Smooth Groove Productions has a hand in. This blog for all intents and purposes will be an ongoing documentation of my business within the special events industry as well as a journal of my life as a professional bassist/musician.