Sophisticates of String Quartet

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General FAQs
Wedding FAQs

General FAQs

Q: What instruments are in your group?

A: Our typical group consists of two violins, one viola, and a contrabass (double bass). Many quartet parts were originally written as quintets with two violins, one viola, one violoncello (cello), and one contrabass. Our contrabassist plays cello parts.

Q: How much experience do you have?

A: Shannon Ballhorn, contrabassist, formed the Sophisticates of String quartet in 1998. Over the last 10+ years we have performed for over 100 weddings, office parties, holiday parties, fund raisers, gallery walks, and other events. Our individual group members have been playing their instruments for an average of 20-30 years and are active musicians in orchestras, musicals, and other performing ensembles outside of the quartet.

Q: Why should I choose the Sophisticates of String Quartet over another instrument or ensemble?

A: String instruments do not require electricity or amplification, so it is very easy for our quartet to play in almost any place. Our quartet has the expertise to adjust our sound for a small and quiet gathering, a large hall filled with chatting guests, or an outdoor event. We can play classical, holiday, or popular favorites to add a special touch to any event, large or small, in almost any location. We are experienced, reliable, professional, and knowledgeable performers.

Q: How do I book the SOS quartet for my event?

A: Contact Shannon Ballhorn, our bassist and booking manager. She will discuss our typical rates with you and send you a contract and information sheet. After you fill out the contract and provide a deposit, we are booked for your event. Until you provide a signed contract and deposit, your date can still be booked by another customer for another event.

Q: How much space do you need?

A: We prefer a flat surface about 10 feet by 10 feet square, minimum. If the space is outdoors it should be shaded or sheltered. We can adjust for smaller spaces, but we encourage you to ask us if you have any doubts about the available space. If you are hiring us for a wedding ceremony we need to have a clear view of the ceremony, and preferably a clear view of the entrance area for the bridal party and bride. See our weddings FAQ page for more information.

Q: What equipment do you need the venue to provide?

A: In addition to a 10 foot by 10 foot space, we also need three armless chairs and good lighting. We can supply our own chairs, wire music stands, and battery powered clip-on lights if necessary. If your event is outside we need to be in a shady location, under a tent, awning, or large tree. Our instruments cannot tolerate direct sunlight or any precipitation. For outdoor events we cannot play for long periods of time if the temperature is below 60F or above 90F. We do not require power or amplification. We provide our own music stands and all of our instruments and accessories will fit through a standard size doorway.

Q: Have you played at [my venue] before?

A: We have played at public and private venues all over southern WI and northern IL, including numerous auditoriums, churches, restaurants, and art galleries in many different cities. Here is a list of other frequent locations:

  • Allen Centennial Gardens at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Badger Farms, LLC in Deerfield
  • Badger Prairie County Park in Verona
  • The Bishop's Bay Country Club in Madison
  • Bellini Italian Restaurant in Madison
  • The Edgewater in Madison
  • Gates of Heaven at James Madison Park in Madison
  • Inn on the Park in Madison
  • The Heidel House Resort in Green Lake
  • The House on the Rock Resort in Spring Green
  • Lussier Family Heritage Center in Madison
  • The Madison Masonic Center
  • The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art-MMoCA
  • The Maple Bluff Country Club
  • The Memorial Union at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Monona Terrace Convention Center in Madison
  • Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison
  • The Olin Park Pavilion in Madison
  • Overture Center for the Arts in Madison
  • Paradise Park in Cottage Grove
  • The Pres House near the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Quivey's Grove Restaurant in Fitchburg
  • The Stoughton Country Club
  • The Stoughton Opera House
  • Tyrol Basin in Mount Horeb
  • The University Club at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • The Warner Park Community Center
  • The Wisconsin State Capitol building

Q: What happens if it rains during an outdoor event?

A: Our instruments are fragile, so we must move under a tent or indoors if there is any precipitation. If there is no place we can play that is completely sheltered from rain, we will wait up to one hour for rain to stop so that we can resume playing outdoors.

Q: How long can you play?

A: Depending on the event, we can play for several hours or longer. If we are providing continuous background music for an event we usually need to take a short break (about 5-10 minutes) each hour.

Q: What do you usually wear?

A: We usually wear black. For warm weather events (inside and outside) we sometimes wear short sleeve or sleeveless tops and/or sandals. If you would prefer that we wear something other than black or if you have any other special requests for wardrobe, please let us know. Please refer to our photos page, which includes some examples of events where we have worn typical black and other colors upon request.

Q: How far in advance do we need to reserve the date to book the quartet?

A: As far in advance as possible is ideal, but we understand that last minute requests are necessary for some events. Our Fridays and Saturdays often fill up quickly. We are sometimes able to accommodate last minute requests. Contact us to see if your date is still available. Your deposit secures your date.

Q: My event is during the day on a week day. Are you available on week days?

A: Check with us to see if we are available. We can often clear our schedules on week days for your event.

Q: Do you charge less for events that are not on Saturday?

A: No. Our standard fees are based on location and total time commitment, and do not vary by time of day or day of the week.

Q: Do you charge extra for performances on holidays?

A: No. Check with us to see if we are available.

Q: I would like to have you play a piece that is not in your repertoire list. Is that possible?

A: Yes. Not everything that we play is on our online repertoire list, so check with us and you may find we already have the piece you want. Otherwise, please let us know at least 30 days in advance (as early as possible is best) about the piece you would like to hear. If a quartet version is not available we have connections with composers and arrangers who can create a quartet version specially for your event. Please understand that sheet music may not have been published for the song you want to hear. A custom arrangement from piano sheet music typically takes between 4 and 10 hours to write, and one or more rehearsals for the quartet to learn. An additional charge may apply. Please contact us for details.

Q: Can you accompany an instrumentalist, vocalist, or another musical ensemble? Is there an extra charge?

A: We can accompany singers and other musicians. It is usually best if we can arrange to rehearse with them an hour or more before the event. Put us in touch with them and we will work out the details. There may be an extra charge if we have to arrange the accompaniment for quartet or if we have to book extra rehearsal time.

Q: Do you charge for transit time to drive to the event location?

A: Not if it is within 30 miles of the Wisconsin State Capitol building in downtown Madison. If your event is further away please contact us to discuss any possible additional fees.

Q: How far are you willing to travel to an event?

A: We play for events all over southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, including Madison and the surrounding area, Milwaukee and the surrounding area, Platteville, Janesville, Rockford, Wisconsin Dells, Stoughton, Sauk City, and more... Please contact us to ask about your event location.

Q: What do I do if I have a last minute request or change?

A: Please give us a call. If it is the day of your event you can usually catch us setting up and warming up an hour before we are scheduled to start playing. We are happy to talk with you about last minute details at that time.

Q: Does the quartet accept tips?

A: Tips are not required or expected, but they are always welcome.