Arts & Culture

Darling, he's playing your song

Jake Halpern ’97 is the author of Fame Junkies: The Hidden Truths Behind America's Favorite Addiction.

Allen Murabayashi

Allen Murabayashi

Sometimes, says Josh Dodes ’95, bridegrooms have trouble expressing their feelings. He'll take care of it for them. View full image

For those über-wealthy Americans who would not blink, even in a recession, at the prospect of dropping $100,000 on a wedding, there is simply no other man to call upon for your musical needs than Josh Dodes ’95. He is not just another wedding singer. He is your personalized wedding singer.

In 2005, Dodes and two other entrepreneurs, Matt Stamm and Eyan Mitchell ’94, founded a company called This Is Your Song. First, they do an in-depth interview with a couple to get all the details of their story -- how they met, where they had their first date, how they got engaged, how they tease one another. When the musicians have gathered enough material, they write a unique song to be performed at the wedding. "And we work very fast," says Dodes. "Our turnaround time is two weeks."

The cost for this service started out at a cool $5,000, which, Dodes insists, isn't that much money if you think about it. "A lot of New York couples pay $100,000 to $200,000 for a wedding. So what's an extra $5,000 if it means adding a touch that really sets you apart?" The package includes a CD with a studio-quality recording so that, after their wedding, customers can listen to their own love song again, and again, and again.

Dodes has been a professional musician since the age of 16, when he first started playing at piano bars in his hometown of Boston. At Yale he played in a band called Electric Mayhem (named, of course, for the band on the Muppet Show). After graduating, he struck out on his own, and the Josh Dodes Band recorded several albums and toured nationally before Dodes retired it in 2004. He is now a full-time sideman keyboardist and backup vocalist who performs with many different artists and has opened for Jewel, James Blunt, and others.

Most wedding marketing is directed towards women, but This Is Your Song targets men. "The truth is that a lot of guys have a hard time expressing their feelings in a unique and meaningful way," says Dodes. "This is the ultimate way for them to overcome their limited communication abilities." And speaking of communication, the company will also perform for marriage proposals. "We are willing to go to the top of a mountain when someone proposes," he asserts.

Lisa David, who got married in 2002, is one of the company's original and most zealously enthusiastic customers. Benjamin David, a friend of Matt Stamm and now Lisa's husband, commissioned their song as a surprise for her. Midway through the wedding rehearsal dinner, Stamm stood up, broke out his guitar, and sang the (future) Davids' customized wedding ballad. "There were definitely some things in there that were embarrassing -- things that I didn't intend for everyone to know," says Lisa. One verse revealed Benjamin's pet name for her: Am I dreaming, you're my bean / And I insist that we've been blessed. Another verse recalled, I knew you were sick but we kissed on the lips. Ahh, romance. But Lisa says the song was a hit, and after three verses, two iterations of the chorus (So is this love, so is this wilderness / I've seen all directions and still you're the best), and the romantic finale (Yes and again, and again / I would say yes), there wasn't a dry eye in the place.

The company received "four or five" commissions in 2008, and Dodes admits business has been a bit slow getting off the ground. But he's optimistic. "We want to expand," he says. "We've done one or two bar mitzvahs, and we're open to anything that is meaningful to people." The company recently lowered its prices to a quite reasonable $2,000 per song.  

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