Winner of the BizBash Entertainment Act of the Year, voted 2015-2017 Best Band by Make It Better Magazine, and acknowledged by Chicago Magazine as the “Top Choice” for a dance band in the city, the Ken Arlen Evolution Orchestra has ignited thousands of special events with its unique style, stage presence and contemporary music selection.
The Ken Arlen Evolution Orchestra delivers an incredible energy geared for today's brides and grooms! Imagine a band with 6 incredible vocalists, our Sirens rock violins, sizzling horns, and the tightest rhythm section in the country. Using the latest technology, this band is able to perform from any part of the room and make it sound like a live concert of the original artist.
The centerpiece of Evolution brings the experience and energy of two bandleaders to the stage, Ken Arlen and Caitlin Simone, which gives our clients unrivaled ability to live out their perfect musical vision. Arlen Music Productions also offers the opportunity for clients to experience the power of Evolution under Caitlin's solo leadership, as she has quickly become one of the most sought after bandleaders in Chicago.
As a sought-after orchestra leader and saxophonist, Ken Arlen has been a featured entertainer for numerous celebrities and dignitaries, from the President of the United States to Hollywood stars. Ken is also the founder of Arlen Music Productions, a Chicago-based entertainment company that specializes in providing live customized music for special events. He has led the transformation of the impact of music on this industry in Chicago, and over the last decade has brought this force to the national event scene through his performances with the Ken Arlen Evolution Orchestra.
Caitlin Simone is thrilled to bring her versatility and charismatic presence to the Ken Arlen Evolution Orchestra! Prior to beginning her tenure with Arlen Music 6 years ago, she developed her unique abilities as a musician and bandleader through a variety of opportunities, including featured roles in musical theatre, leading and performing in multiple pop, jazz, and cover bands at legendary venues both nationally and throughout Chicago, arranging and singing with a female a cappella quartet, and engaging clients as a spokesmodel and performer for Toyota. Her dedication to clients, attention to detail, and powerful voice make Caitlin an asset to any special event!
Michael Avery is one of the Windy City’s best-kept secrets. A professional front man and studio vocalist, he has performed at some of the most prestigious private parties and events in Chicago and abroad. His experience includes performances with the Chicago Catz, a European tour with Mavis Staples, lead vocalist of the legendary Staple Singers, as well as singing a duet at a recent gala in Jamaica with Gladys Knight. Mike also enjoys expressing himself as a songwriter, believing that music is a healing force that crosses all barriers. Mike recently released his latest CD, Destination Love. His first love, however, will always be live performance.
Cristina Sanchez, a Ken Arlen Orchestra veteran (’01-’05), returns her trailblazing R&B sound to our vocal team. A Chicago-based recording artist and two-time winner of New York’s legendary “Night at the Apollo Theatre,” Cristina lights up the stage with her magical mix of Classic Soul, Latin, and R&B/Pop. With a performance style that rivals prominent artists such as Aretha Franklin, Beyoncé, and Rihanna, Cristina has a soulful and rhythmic edge that mesmerizes audiences. Her debut single, “Free,” stayed on the Billboard R&B Singles and R&B Singles Sales Charts for seven weeks. Cristina was recently chosen to perform on R&B star R. Kelly’s world tour, has sung with Frayne and Bobby Lewis and Heather Headley, and toured as a solo artist in China as well as other European venues.
Ben Scott started singing at the age of two, and hasn’t stopped. He studied music at Western Michigan University, where he performed all over the world with the legendary vocal jazz ensemble, Gold Company. Ben has shared the stage with many great musicians, including Kurt Elling and Take 6. He has toured across Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji with the many choirs and jazz ensembles that he has been in. He has also performed in Northern Michigan at Dill’s Olde Towne Saloon and the Shanty Creek resorts, giving him a chance to showcase his wide vocal range and ability to perform in many different styles. Since moving to Chicago, Ben has performed with many of the top-rated party bands in the city, and is very happy to be able to perform with the Evolution Orchestra.
Neil is a graduate of the American Conservatory of Music, where he studied both classical and jazz performance. He has become one of the most in-demand session keyboard players in the city and has recorded hundreds of TV and radio commercials. In the summer of 1998, Neil was specially chosen as one of the select musicians to perform and record the opening theme of the Oprah Winfrey Show. He has also performed with such nationally known artists as Luther Vandross, Bebe and Cece Winans, Martha Reeves, Gladys Knight and Ed Thigpen.
A top session player from Chicago, Mark is a master of both acoustic and fretless bass. He has accompanied numerous jazz artists including Diahann Carroll, the Count Basie Orchestra, the BBC Big Band, the Artie Shaw Orchestra, Dave Liebman, Rosemary Clooney, the Cincinnati Symphony, the Atlanta Symphony, Lena Horne, Carol Lawrence, Angela Bofill, Michael Brandmeier and Mark Madsen. He has also performed at Carnegie Hall and the White House with Vic Damone.
Frank Alongi has been creating music professionally for over 15 years. He has toured Central and South America with the rock group "Torre Fuerte” and holds an endorsement with Innovative Percussion Inc, and percussion innovator Kelly Shu. Frank is known for his ability to move effortlessly through various styles and for his expertise at incorporating electronic drum loops with a traditional drum set. We are thrilled to bring Frank’s unique brand of drumming to the Ken Arlen Evolution Orchestra!
Soulful guitar, honest vocals, and lyrical saxophone are hallmarks of Chicago-based musician Wes John. Wes has been a featured entertainer in showrooms around the world and recently had the honor of recording with music legend Phil Collins. He has played on Grammy-nominated recordings and has toured with the likes of War, Ziggy Marley, Maceo Parker, Guster, 3 Dog Night, Tony Levin, Adrian Belew, Umphree’s McGee, Tributosaurus and many, many more. He has performed at events for companies including Wrigley, Hewlet-Packard, Sun Microsystems, McDonalds’, Ikea, Starbucks and Dean Foods. The Ken Arlen Evolution Orchestra is delighted to showcase Wes’ many talents!
Chris Neal is an exceptionally versatile musician. He has shared his talents as a vocalist and saxophonist in the United States, Canada, Europe, and South America. He has shared the stage with The Temptations, The O’Jays, Manhattan Transfer, Taj Mahal, Buddy Guy, Randy Brecker, Donald,Byrd, R Kelly, The Joffrey Ballet, Syl Johnson, and Umphrey’s McGee, and he is thrilled to be a lead vocalist in the Ken Arlen Evolution Orchestra!
Victor Garcia is one of the most in-demand trumpet players in Chicago. He has had the opportunity to play with a multitude of artists from a wide variety of genres, such as Aretha Franklin, Arturo Sandoval, Spoon, Victor Manuelle, Nicholas Payton, La India, Fred Hersch, the Temptations, Steve Turre, Tito Puente, Jr., Paquito d'Rivera, Randy Brecker, Branford Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, Dr. John, Joshua Redman, the Isley Brothers and a multitude of others. His travels have taken him to Europe, Central America, and South America. In addition, he has recorded dozens of albums, two of which garnered Grammy nominations in 2005 (Angel Melendez & the 911 Mambo Orchestra) and 2008 (Sones de Mexico), and one which was nominated for a Latin Grammy in 2007 (Sones de Mexico). Victor also maintains a busy teaching schedule at the Music Institute of Chicago, Loyola University, Roosevelt University and University of Illinois at Chicago. We are excited to welcome him to the Evolution Orchestra!
Andrew is a dedicated member of the Low Down Brass Band, Black Bear Combo, The Drastics, and Deals Gone Bad and of course, the Ken Arlen Evolution Orchestra. Andrew toured with the acclaimed Broadway Musical ‘In the Heights’ and the Number Group Soul Revue, backing legendary Chicago Soul Artists Syl Johnson and Renaldo Domino. He performed at the White House two times for President Barack Obama with Black Bear Combo. He has also performed at numerous major music festivals, including the Cotai Jazz Festival in Macau, Wakarusa, Riot Fest, Wilco Solid Sound Festival, Abruzzo Jazz Festival, Turbo Rock Festival in Italy, Montreal Ska Fest, Lansing Jazz Fest, Rootabaga Jazz Festival, and the Oprah Winfrey European Cruise Celebration.
An East Coast native who began playing percussion in 1972, Rick has recorded with some of Boston’s top artists, including Patty Larkin. He moved to Chicago in 1998, recording on commercials for top corporations including McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Dominos, Kellogg’s and many others. Rick has worked with members of the backing bands for John Mellencamp, Bonnie Raitt, Van Morrison, Billie Holiday, and Ben E. King, as well as Chicago acts Tirzah and The Primal Connection, Chicago’s multi-ethnic World rhythm percussion ensemble.
Sylvia has been performing in the Chicago area for nearly fifteen years. After receiving a Masters in Music from the New England Conservatory in Boston where she studied with James Buswell, Sylvia moved to Chicago to perform with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Since then, she has appeared with artists such as Linda Ronstadt, Smokey Robinson, Barry White, Donna Summer, Celine Dion, Johnny Mathis, Lyle Lovett, Randy Newman, Dennis DeYoung, Andrea Bocelli, Sarah Brightman, Bernadette Peters, Josh Groban, The Irish Tenors, as well as the Chicagoland Pops Orchestra and Rockford Symphony. She has broadcast live on WFMT and WTTW Soundstage. Sylvia also maintains teaching studios at Near North Montessori School and Northeastern Illinois University.
Rebecca holds degrees in Music Theory from the University of Illinois and the Eastman School of Music. An Oak Park native, Rebecca has a rich and varied musical background. She has played in numerous symphony orchestras, backed such popular artists as Bobby Vinton and The Moody Blues, performed in avant-garde chamber works, and toured the US and Europe with the company of Amsterdam choreographer Beppie Blankert. Recently, Rebecca has performed in premieres of works by contemporary composers Augusta Read Thomas and Louis Andriessen, and has sung with Bella Voce, a Chicago a capella choir.
Caroline is a graduate from DePaul University. She is currently the Concertmaster of the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra in Iowa and was featured as a guest soloist performing the Saint-Saen’s Violin Concerto No. 3. She is also a member of the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra. She has played in the orchestras for the Joffrey Ballet Company, the Chicagoland Pops Orchestra and several different opera companies. Caroline has had the opportunity to perform with such celebrities and bands such as Bob Hope, Tony Bennett, Andrea Bocelli (on the Oprah Winfrey Show), Charlotte Church (in Hawaii), Garth Brooks, Celine Dion and Josh Groban (nationally televised), Ray Charles, Led Zeppelin (Page-Plant Tour), The Moody Blues, Kansas, Electric Light Orchestra, The Temptations, Mannheim Steamroller, Diana Ross, The Three Irish Tenors, and others. She enjoys freelancing in the Chicagoland area and plays in various chamber and quartet ensembles as well.
Julia Greenberger and Matthew Berk Wedding (Standard Club) – December 9, 2017
We wanted to thank you for making Julia and Matthew’s wedding fabulous and beyond fun. You and your band’s talent is extraordinary and so were the song choices and the rhythm of the party. It was truly sensational and we can’t thank you enough for creating such an incredible event.
Brooke Bosler and Marc Sampson (Venue Six10) – Saturday, October 28, 2017
I can’t thank you enough for making the Sampson/Bosler wedding a huge success. Every person there was blown away by the energy and quality of the vocalists and instrumentalists. We were beyond thrilled with the evening!
Allie Hynek and Joe Koukos Wedding – Saturday, October 21, 2017
Thank you so much for being a part of making our wedding day so perfect! You music is truly magical and we were so lucky to have you on our special day! It was perfect! Thank you!
Debbie Sherman and Oren Rasowsky Wedding (Standard Club) – Sunday, September 10, 2017
Jon and I have been inundated by calls, emails, and texts from our family and friends since Debbie and Oren's wedding on Sunday. We can't thank you enough for bringing the A-team, the A-game, and the most A-mazing music to the Standard Club. As you know, it was a hot room for musicians--from symphony musicians to gigging string players. You surpassed everyone's expectations. The bride and groom could not have been happier with every single moment, from the tisch and bedeken, when you led the men into the room where Debbie and I were with the women and on through the final dance. The processional to Bach Double was beautifully done--evoking Debbie's memory performing it with her grandma.
We had many guests comment that you managed to keep music going throughout, while enabling conversation over the meal--and that is quite rare.
Your hora medley was fabulous, and as I knew you would, you read the room just right--making sure that throughout the dance-filled evening, the young kids were dancing, the teenagers were dancing, the 20-somethings were dancing, the 50-somethings were dancing, and even my 86th-birthday-dad and his friends were dancing!
Wishing you and the band continued success. And sending our heartfelt thanks.
Lauren Kentouris and Paul Chapleau Wedding (Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel) – Sunday, September 3, 2017
Thank you for creating a memorable wedding day for Paul and me. Caitlin, your warmth and professionalism was a breath of fresh air and you made our wedding seamless throughout the entire planning process. The talent of your entire band is still being spoken about by our guests. We are forever grateful!Lauren and Paul, Bride and Groom
Colleen White and Henry Slingerland Wedding (Chicago Golf Club) – Saturday, August 26, 2017
Ken Arlen Evolution Orchestra completely ROCKED it at our recent wedding. Even with incredibly high expectations given feedback we'd heard, we were totally blown away. Caitlin Simone & crew took the time to meet with us, really understand our musical preferences, learn a few favorite songs, and understand the meaning behind some of our "must plays". They had so much energy and enthusiasm, not to mention raw talent. I could not peel myself off of the dance floor, and neither could most of our guests. I'd recommend them to anyone, and book them again in a heartbeat.Colleen, Bride
Lauren Livingston and Matt Caputo (Chicago Cultural Center) – June 30, 2017
We cannot even begin to express our gratitude for all that you did to make our wedding so incredibly AMAZING and everything that we wanted (& more!) You and the rest of the band were truly remarkable and turned our reception into the party that we had always dreamed of. From start to finish – there is absolutely nothing that we would have changed! We LOVED the way that entire night flowed and the amazing amount of dancing that took place! We cannot even begin to tell you the number of people who have reached out to us to share how UNBELIEVABLE our band was and how much they loved the high energy dance sets mixed in through the night! We cannot thank you enough for playing such a significant part of our special day! We have SO many incredible memories largely due to YOU!
We absolutely love you guys and can only hope that we get the privilege of seeing you again at weddings in the future.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! We are forever grateful.
Jodi Hochberger and Dan Ruben Wedding (Venue SIX10) – Sunday, May 28, 2017
Thank you barely scratches the surface, but THANK YOU!! You were absolutely phenomenal Sunday night at Jodi & Dan’s wedding, as was the entire Ken Arlen Evolution Orchestra. Clearly, it made the party…the music, the energy, the entire vibe from sweet slow dances to the violinists to the Hora to the super fun dance party...it was all spectacular. Jodi & Dan were thrilled which was my biggest objective, as were Dan’s parents & of course, Joel & I.
There are many memories, but my two favorites are Joel & Jodi dancing to “I Loved Her First” and Jodi & Dan on the stage dancing to “Hochberger/Cheerleader”.
Thank you for your genuine love for what you do. I’m pretty sure Joel & I will be the creepy people dressing up and stalking hotel ballrooms to see you perform!
With many, many thanks & great admiration,
Jodi Hochberger and Dan Ruben Wedding (Venue SIX10) – Sunday, May 28, 2017
I had heard amazing things about you and the band from so many friends and vendors, but you exceeded all of our expectations. I loved every minute and am especially appreciative that you all learned a new song for the recessional (especially given the sentimental value!) and we had the best time with "cheerleader" - the personal touches meant everything to us. You and your whole team are so talented and professional.
We heard rave reviews all night and have continued to hear from guests over the past few days. (As an aside, I was especially happy to hear from Darlene Chan, a producer from LA who works on events around the country like New Orleans Jazz Fest and Playboy Jazz Festival in LA, when she said it was the best band she'd ever seen at a wedding!)
Katie Napleton and Kevin Snyder Wedding (Chicago Hilton) – Saturday, May 20, 2017
I wish I could remember all the kudos you and the orchestra have gotten from our guests. I've gotten at least 25 emails or texts about what a wonderful wedding it was and every one mentions the music and the horns. Several said they just moved up and watched like they were at a concert. The chanting, “More, more, more” at 12:30am says it all! It can't be often that the music starts at 7:30 and at 12:30am the dance floor is still packed and the guests don't want to leave!
Thank you for all your effort in creating new arrangements and filling out the orchestra with tremendous horn players.
Edwin Tumlos and Liza Cuison Wedding (Palmer House Hilton) – Saturday, February 25, 2017
Good morning Caitlin,
Hope all is well! Now that we're back to our daily grind, Liza and I can't help but reminisce about how truly wonderful the music was in both our wedding ceremony with the quartet, and reception with your, and your band's, terrific performances. We wanted to thank you, again, for helping make our special day even more so!
Our guests from the night of, and still today on social media, can't help but rave about you and Evolution. We wish we were able to experience your performances from the very beginning, unfortunately, our tight schedule that evening prevented us from doing so. But having you already performing as the guests walked into the decked-out Empire Room apparently made an indelible impression on everyone!
Adina Rubin and Rick Straka Wedding (Bridgeport Art Center) – Sunday, November 20, 2016
I wanted to thank you so much for an outstanding party last night. Adina and Ricky’s wedding was absolutely a wonderful evening. Your voice, your musicians and the overall talent of the entire band made the event what it was. You listened to what they told you they wanted and you delivered, and then some. The integration of all of the Latin music was so wonderful and it made the party unique to our clients and, to me, that is what we strive for. We strive to make each party custom to the people who we are celebrating and you really did that and did it well.
Thank you for being such caring and flexible partner in putting the evening together!
I’m so glad I finally got to work with you and I look forward to doing it again, very soon.
Thank you again!