Winner of the BizBash Entertainment Act of the Year, voted 2015-2018 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.
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.
Known as one of the most talented guitarists in Chicago, Lloyd has been key in leading special event bands over the last 6 years with great energy and attention to detail for his clients. Locally, he has performed with Girl Next Door, Green 14, Rendition, Hello Nuvo, and Hey Jimmy. He has also shared the stage with major artists such as Blues Traveler and Nate Ruess. As one of the great young front men in Chicago today, Lloyd’s style is inspired by Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, John Mayer, among other great virtuosos. Lloyd has already made a huge impact on Evolution, and we are excited to promote him to co-leader with Evolution beginning in 2019.
Prior to beginning her tenure with Arlen Music, Caitlin developed her unique abilities as a musician 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 powerful and versatile voice makes Caitlin a treasured member of Evolution!
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!
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.
Gracie Verkamp and West Cuthbert Wedding (Omaha, NE) – May 26, 2019
I wanted to thank you again for the wonderful job you and the entire band did at Gracie and West's wedding. I honestly lost count of have many compliments I received on your performance and how many times I was told that yours was the best wedding band ever!! The guests just couldn't stop dancing and I even saw the hotel staff dancing (they told me they couldn't resist and agreed you were the best)! Please give my thanks to your entire crew for making the evening the highlight of the weekend!! You were amazing!!Bridget Cuthbert, Mother of the Groom
Brittany Fischer and John Bowen Wedding (Standard Club) – May 11, 2019
Hi Ken! Thank you so much for bringing the house down at Brittany’s wedding! From the violins on the staircase, the ceremony music, the “All you Need is Love” and the entire reception it was top notch all the way. Not only is the talent in your group off the charts, the energy they radiate really inspires the crowd. I have to say I never left the dance floor all night. It was just too fun!!!
Thank you for really putting the “Party” in the wedding. We loved every moment!!!
Elena Tolochnaya and Robert Baldi Wedding (Four Seasons) – March 2, 2019
They were unbelievable! I couldn’t be happier when they sang Shallow, two Spice Girls songs for me and our favorite song, “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston!!! It was such a surprise! They were marvelous!
Our wedding was a DREAM COME TRUE!!! We clearly made the right decision on the music.
Gina Stefani and Luka Ilic Wedding (Navy Pier) – February 23, 2019
Outstanding, perfection, what more can i say, but wow and thank you. There was never a doubt in my mind that it wouldn’t be all those things, but you hit it right!!!!!
Thank you so much for making Gina and Luka’s wedding magical! The compliments that we have heard are coming in every way! Everyone has said the music, the show, and the violins were all outstanding!
I think when you brought everyone on stage it was so unexpected!! We need a do over so we can enjoy it again. I tried to sit and take every moment in to enjoy, but when i see video and pictures being posted, I’m like, “When did that happen?” Thank you , thank you, thank you!
Ken and Lloyd, you were great to work with from start to finish! Amazing!
Raquel Pagonis and Carl Fiebig Wedding (University Club) – January 26, 2019
Ken, WOW! I just wanted to thank you personally for a magnificent performance. Words cannot describe the experience we all had Saturday evening. You absolutely killed it, Ken. Our phones and emails have not stopped with the positive comments about the EVOLUTION orchestra. Your production made it very easy for our event to flow smoothly. You are a MASTER of music, and surround yourself with greatness. I wish I had another daughter, so we could plan another fabulous evening.Ted Pagonis, Father of the Bride
Emily Fitzgerald and Heath Gillespie Wedding (The Langham) – October 13, 2018
Thank you so much for the fabulous music at Emily and Heath’s wedding. From the first notes of the ceremony to the last notes on the dance floor the music was extraordinary. As I’m sure you are accustomed to, our guests were raving about how great the orchestra was all evening. And I certainly noticed when I heard the melody of “Emily”, a song that most people have never heard of playing during dinner, that was a lovely and thoughtful touch and very much appreciated. I think it was obvious that our dancing guests had an amazing time and loved every song. We really appreciate everything you did to make the wedding such a success. We will look forward to seeing you at events in the future and wish you all the best.Laurie Fitzgerald, Mother of the Bride
Caroline Chocola and John Flanagan Wedding (Peninsula Hotel) – October 6, 2018
A note of many thanks for an evening that will always be remembered as our “beautiful bride” and “the outstanding band!” Our guests were over the mon and ust also know the non-dancing family members were on the floor!!
Rachel Kesner and Jake Katz Wedding – October 7, 2018
I can’t begin to thank you enough for you and your spectacular orchestra. I’ve seen you many times, and always great, but you just blew me away last weekend. My friends, family and the new family can’t stop raving about the music. The best was how happy my daughter was with you and the band. She was beaming all evening and still talks about the music she asked you to play.
Allison Suhey and Matt Sullivan (Harold Washington Library) – September 29, 2018
Thank you so much for all of your incredibly hard work to make our wedding celebration absolutely amazing. The party started the second people walked in the door and didn’t end until the lights came on! We really appreciate your efforts to make it “a bash,” and we know everyone had the best time on the dance floor. The song selections, vocals, energy, etc. were all outstanding and truly made the party such a hit. We know we were not the only ones with sore feet and no voices the next day! Thank you again for helping to make our wedding night such a blast!Allison and Matt Sullivan, Bride and Groom
Ilana Rosen and Ben Roach (Revel Fulton Market) – September 2, 2018
WOW! How can we every thank you sufficiently for making our wedding the absolute best party?!? We had high expectations, but you all blew those out of the water right at the first song. Your energy, interaction with guests, ability to read the crowd and keep everyone dancing all night was amazing and impressive. So many friends have told us that they never saw dessert that night because they didn’t want to leave the dance floor! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts and dancing shoes for making our reception exactly what we wanted it to be: a huge dance party!Ilana and Ben, Bride and Groom
Bridget Napleton and Jeff Lupient Wedding (Ritz-Carlton) – September 8, 2018
Thank you so much for a truly amazing experience at Bridget and Jeff’s reception. I am so glad Bridget decided to have music right from the doors opening. It was such a wonderful evening, and you truly can read a crowd. The band was outstanding. Thanks for making all of Bridget’s wedding dreams come true!
Kit Dauten and Chris Kalpin (Millennium Park) – July 7, 2018
Words cannot express how thankful we are for all of your help in making our wedding day so incredibly perfect. What a party! You guys totally rocked it and made sure the dance floor was absolutely packed the entire time! You played all the right songs, and it was easily the most fun party we’ve ever been to. We are still, six weeks out, receiving tons of compliments about how great you guys were. So thank you for everything. We had the best time!Kit and Chris, Bride and Groom
Julie Futterman and Jonathan Garfunkel Wedding (Standard Club) – June 16, 2018
Thank you so much for playing at our wedding! To say you were the highlight of the night would be an understatement. You guys were phenomenal, just as we remembered you back at the Kirschbaum wedding – when we first met. As you know, our very first request when beginning the wedding planning process was that we have you for our band. We decided our date and venue would be based on your availability, and that turned out to be a very smart decision…
Your ability to read the crowd and play songs accordingly is unparalleled. You took our one main request to heart: play music that will keep everyone dancing! We had so many people tell us that they had never seen a band as incredible as yours. Not only was the band incredible as a whole, but the various groupings that would form through the night were just as wonderful. The violinists walking down the aisle moved us in a way we did not anticipate – it was just such a beautiful way to start the ceremony. And then there was the horns’ performance on the dance floor, which is something we will never forget – AMAZING!
The list goes on and on. We just hope you know how much we appreciate everything you did for the wedding. We will be able to look back at our wedding day as one of the best days of our lives and as the perfect way to begin our journey together as husband and wife!
Bess Magnuson and Mark Shaw Wedding – May 18, 2018
Just wanted to send a note to say THANK YOU! Your music was absolutely phenomenal and we are still smiling ear to ear thinking about the dance floor being packed till the bitter end.
From the acoustic music at dinner to New York, New York we couldn’t be happier with the music you all created for us. Please send our gratitude to your fellow band members as each and every one of you was amazing.