I’ve been in the special event industry now for 25 years, hard to believe. A quarter of a century entertaining if I had to guess somewhere between a half a million and 2 million people. This was something I thought would just be fun to play with. I never expected to be devoting my life to it.
I was pursuing a career in the
arts as an actor, dancer and songwriter. I came to NYC and lived with my sister in a 2 BR apt in Windsor Terrace Brooklyn right across from Prospect Park. We were paying $450 a month and I could barely scrape that each month.
I had a lot of pride and confidence, but not much to prove it back then. Those in the arts now, or pursing the arts know the challenges and difficulties you face everyday.
You have to have a thick skin. Unfortunately I never had thick skin. Fortunately there were just enough people who I had some talent that I didn’t wither away into defeat and depression. But that didn’t stop bouts with real doubt and frustration.
I got lucky in my first year in the big apple I landed a gig written and directed by Harold Guskin the acting coach of Kevin Kline, Glenn Close and many other well known actors. Guskin is somewhat of a legend in the acting profession. I was honored. He not only cast me but asked me to write 4 songs for the show. We performed at schools and it culminated in a stop at the Kennedy Center of Performing Arts. That was a nice little taste of artistic fulfillment.
Back in NYC, I catered and waited tables like
the litany of other aspiring talented people out there and then I got a really cool role.
I toured in the middle 1980’s in a show that dealt with teen drug and alcohol abuse, called Halfway There. The show (apparently turned into a movie in 2011) toured schools, rehab centers, prisons (yes we were often, escorted in to perform behind bars – yes we were scared), universities, regional theaters and even off Broadway.
This show really changed my life. I played the role of Temptation. It was a silent physical role, that required my mime and movement training. It was a masked part. He was the sinister, evil part of addiction, that could control the teens whenever he wanted. It added a surrealistic aspect to the play that was very powerful. I worked on and off with this play for 5 years playing 2 other non-masked roles, that required a lot of emotional range.
People would come up with tears in their eyes afterward with their sons and daughters who were recovering or perhaps relapsed and wanted to go back in. It was an eye opening experience for a very young inexperienced man to see firsthand what directed intention with art can do.
During and after this run, I continued pursuing a career as an actor. But I soon realized that every gig I got did not have the same penetrating impact and inspiration. I realized that I craved that. It wasn’t enough now for me to just act or sing. I realized I craved a way to somehow connect to audiences in a deeper more meaningful way. Performance for me to show myself off simply wasn’t as satisfying.
I actually fell into the special events performing (weddings, mitzvahs & corporate events) niche by accident when a really hot girl friend of one of the other actors came to that touring showand told me I’d be great with the company she worked for. I didn’t know what it was but if I could be next to her (or girls that looked like her) I’d be crazy not to see what it was about.
She said that she performs at parties. They do choreographed numbers and just dance and have fun with the guests. And I was like and they pay you to do that? I was like Babe Ruth when they offered him a a contract…”they’re going to pay me to play baseball?!”
So I tried it out. My first party was a Bar Mitzvah in Long Island.
It was a blast. I got to be wild, irreverent, crazy, funny and got to dance with a lot of great looking women, and get crazy with the kids. And while it wasn’t quite the transformational experience the show was, what I liked was the positive energy and dancing, and I could help people to have a great time.
I worked for many years as an interactive dancer and specialty performer eventually learning how to move 200 people as a solo dancer. I learned to be a games master, and my improvisational theater background worked wonders here. I worked my way up in different capacities to master of ceremonies for 2 of the 3 largest companies in the NYC area, eventually headlining and on site point person for around $2 to $3 million dollars of special events a year, helping to build business for owners that didn’t necessarily have the quite the same ideals, consideration for clients or ethics.
I had already created LSNY Events back in 1991, and was it was slowly growing, emphasis on slowly. We started with maybe 6 parties a year offering choreographed routines to event companies who didn’t have performers. Then 12 parties. Then a few more each year. People were truly enjoying what we did, but I still envisioned a solo career as an actor or singer so I didn’t push it.
I was making most of my living between working for other companies and waiting/catering. Then there was a certain “aha” moment when I had a record deal in hand and then lost it that I did not want to live my life in waiting for my life to happen mode. That coupled with finding out that clients were hiring and rehiring the companies I was working for by requesting the only stipulation was that I was their MC. I found out that if I was not at the company the client would not have booked that company because they weren’t all that fond of them.
That was the tipping point. That’s when I stepped away from the perpetual starving artist and into the entrepreneurial role and began building LSNY Events for real. From 1998 to 2004 LSNY grew exponentially to where I was able to completely step away from fronting other companies and working solely with LSNY.
And LSNY really took off from 2004 to today growing exponentially each year.
We have somewhere in the neighborhood of 34 from clients telling us that their event was “the BEST party or event they’ve ever been to”, and that has been the feedback they received from their guests as well. We love that. My whole staff gets really pumped when we read that.
But then we received 1 video that said that their event with us was the “Best Day of their Lives”. It was from a family in Sarasota, Florida – the father is a heart surgeon. It was his Sammi, his 1st daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. It was incredibly touching receiving a “Best Day and Night of my Life’s” because a) He didn’t want anything to do with the party when we first met. B) He’s a very serious guy (scary serious and has a lot of gravitas) and C) He completely surprised me that he would even participate.
He got caught up in the atmosphere, and energy swirling around. Something he never expected, all happened quite naturally. No one pushed him. The energy was bouncing off the ceiling, a very excited energy from the first moment. It ended up taking him for a ride that felt the best to him that he’s ever felt.
When someone says those words Best Day and Night of my Life, I cannot imagine anything better than that. And this man operates on peoples’ hearts and saves people’s lives for a living. He’s also witnessed the birth of 2 of his daughters and been married once. He has a beautiful large house on the water, and probably traveled the entire world and seen things I’ve never seen. Yet this day with our company produced what was unmistakable in his words and emotions the best of his life.
That was another game changer. That struck a chord with me. I had come full circle.
Seeing and hearing something like the best day of my life absolutely brings me back to my
days with the drug and alcohol rehab tour. I was truly surprised and delighted to find out something like that was possible from a party. It simply never occurred to me that this was something in the realm of a party to do.
But once I saw/heard that, and realized it was possible there was no going back.
I began really observing and investigating what we do and how we do it. How did we get from here to there? What were the elements that seemed to really connect with people? What was being said and done to inspire folks to naturally come fully alive? And how our approach and execution could make that happen again and again. I shared this with my staff. This can be just another fun, amazing party or you can really make an impact thought truly investing and giving. It’s up to you. If we change our intention what might take place?
And we took on a very subtle change and more realized outer change of energy. And the letters began coming in. Over the last six years we have had 14 personal responses that have said was the “Best Day of (my life or) their Lives”. One as recent as a 2 weeks ago from furniture designer Lisa Albin.
Once is by accident. Twice may be a coincidence. After that it would certainly appear that we unearthed a method or a system.
And let’s be real here, I know it is not possible at every event. There are so many variables that come into play. It’s like pitching a perfect game. At any given event 75 to 500 people (or more) have to all begin to resonate and let go with that
appreciation and joy, where all woe, criticism and jadedness just dissolves away for a while. In its place emerges a presence of joy and hope, exited anticipation and willing involvement. It’s something that can only happen because people WANT it. It cannot be coerced, manipulated or demanded.
All the elements: the heart, the energy, intention, focus combine with the details, planning and execution to all fall exactly inline and in sync. And all of a sudden the event flows into to that zone: That sweet spot of excitement with full out energy life force blazing. Unleashed Freedom.
And people become the best versions of themselves.
How great is that. As the commercial says, “Priceless.”
When I can’t do this anymore and parties are a thing of my past, all the earnings have long been accounted for, braces have been paid for, college is over, kids have grown and have their own lives and families, the thing that will mean the most to me is that we were an integral part of people’s lives for a moment, creating something really special and meaningful for our clients, their friends and families, and guests 1 at a time, 100 to 300 people at a time.
And every once in a while helping a person to have such an extraordinary experience that they remember it as one of the best days they spent alive.
This has been my unexpected journey and its given a breadth of meaning to my life.
Special Events has also given me back more than I ever imagined for myself. I went from living on the poverty line for probably a decade to being able to own a car, which was amazing. From living in an apartment for 23 years (thinking I’d live there my entire life) to owning a home.
Working so hard to be carve a path as an actor or artist I never thought about having a family, let alone getting married. It wasn’t even on my radar. Because of these events I was able to do both.
Getting married was the very first party I’d ever thrown for myself. And yes as you might imagine it was one of the greatest experiences I ever had. Strange that someone who does this for a living could be so surprised at how awesome and deeply moving it was for me.
Now I have two of the most incredible little girls. I thought I’d been in love a few times in my life. But never the feeling I have when I hug my little girls. Each of them has been hugged and kissed multiple thousands of times. And it continues every day.
I can hardly breathe sometimes at the love I feel for them.
For a few years it was surreal, like I was being given someone else’s life. I wasn’t quite sure how it all came to be. And now I finally live in this place in peace. I’ve grown into it.
Those of us in the events industry, the hospitality industry have an often very demanding, technical and logistical job. It’s many hours and a lot of time away from family on weekends. It’s a lot of planning, hand holding, debating over the best way to do something, often and always hopefully for the best end result, and to create something extraordinary.
There’s a lot of emotion involved, because there’s a lot invested. The stakes are high and it’s often a one shot deal, or one week deal. Then it’s over it’s off to the next one.
We have one chance to get it absolutely right. And the best events have the most natural feel. So that intensity has to be stress less so the party can soar.
I embrace that. I’ve always seen life just like that. Each day is a one shot deal. Each hour. Things happen. Surprises. Shocks to the system. Many times beyond our control. Sometimes we handle them with grace and we show great power and fortitude. Other times we succumb and fumble, rail and cry. I have been both places. I can absolutely tell you which feels better.
Now I know what is possible from experience and choose to live there. It’s a high standard, not always attainable personally every moment. But professionally thank God there’s a commitment and a standard that is set that we are compelled to attain. And we find a way.
I’m incredibly proud and honored to have found and developed a staff of artists and technicians that get this and go the extra mile toward this lofty goal every week. And perhaps even more grateful to attract clients that have that desire, to see and feel the difference about what is possible. They are willing to go for it with us.
I see our events as a chance for everyone to not just to go crazy and let loose, or to create an elegant, exciting affair, but as a chance to inspire and uplift on a bigger scale. But also a chance to connect with the basic life force in all of us and charge it up to its full capacity, maybe even beyond. If just for the 4 or 5 hours, great! If it lasts longer than that: amazing. If it runs deep and stays forever as an one of the best moments ever felt; Awe inspiring and magical.
The gratitude I feel for being able to do this cannot be described or contained. The Greatest Feeling in the World is Helping others to have THAT Feeling.
I look forward to the next time with you.
Michael Sage Schindler