It started as a way for David Calzaretta to have some fun, get free beer, and meet people.
It also offered a welcome diversion from his day job as a financial consultant while indulging his inner rock star.
“I started a band on the side to have some fun because no one was lining up to applaud my regression analysis skills,” Calzaretta said about his acclaimed cover band Maggie Speaks, which has entertained crowds around the globe for nearly a quarter of a century. “But, I ran it like a business because that was in my DNA.”
In booking his own band, the musician with an accounting degree from Indiana University was having meetings with venue owners and networking with other bands in the Chicago music scene. This led Calzaretta into the booking industry and, ultimately, launching his event planning company, Magnificent Events and Entertainment in 2000.
“I became a booking guy after someone asked if I could do it and I said I could,” Calzaretta said.
His one-stop shop creates customized entertainment solutions for just about any kind of event, ranging from weddings and corporate conventions to galas and fundraisers. It can handle talent, production, décor, catering, logistics, and whatever else clients desire for their events.
In 2020, Calzaretta expanded his Chicago-based business and opened a second home base in Phoenix.
Over the past 22 years, Magnificent Events has grown 19,000%, Calzaretta said. It currently runs 3,000 contracts a year ranging from small gigs like booking piano players at piano bars to large-scale corporate functions to booking Maggie Speaks, which has played in 33 states and 13 countries for Fortune 500 company events, among others.
Calzaretta is part of a global events industry market that was valued at $886.9 billion in 2020, according to Verified Market Research.
For more than 20 years, Jeff Siegel has collaborated with Calzaretta for events for clients of his corporate event and sales meeting development agency, Jeff Siegel Creative.
Siegel, who is based in Evanston, Illinois, has relied on Calzaretta to entertain his Fortune 1000 clients which include power players in the pharmaceutical, healthcare, and financial services industries.
The ability to accommodate clients’ last-minute requests or whims is among the key reasons Siegel continues to partner with Calzaretta.
“His attitude was always, ‘OK, Jeff, whatever you need.’ He’s made my life a lot easier, efficient, effective, and a lot more profitable,” said Siegel, who has worked with hundreds and hundreds of subcontractors over his 40-plus years in the industry. “In terms of the individuals who I enjoyed working with, Dave sits at the very top of that list. I’m working with Dave because of my confidence in Dave delivering what we needed 100 out of 100 times.”
How company got its start:
A native of Naperville, Illinois, Calzaretta has a professional music pedigree. His father Frank was the lead singer in a 1950s doo-wop group called The Highlights. The band had a national charted hit with City of Angels in 1956 and had toured nationally.
By the time Calzaretta was born, his father was on to his post-music career and became a businessman. On the flip side, Calzaretta took a path that made him a business-turned-music guy.
It didn’t take long for Calzaretta to book some of the biggest clubs in Chicago, which led to festivals and national acts. There was no playbook, just instinct and an affinity for people.
“I was just figuring it out. There is no training course for this. It was a lot of personal relationships,” he said.
Calzaretta’s business background was a rare asset in the music industry. The success of Maggie Speaks allowed him and Magnificent Events to thrive side-by-side.
In January 2020, Calzaretta’s father died from cancer. In creating a walk-through experience for memorial service guests to honor him, Calzaretta never wrote a word or included a detail that alluded to money.
Until then, Calzaretta was always focused on earning, doing one more show, working nonstop. This was an awakening. The businessman turned hard working song man changed his tune.
“I realized it’s all about family, fun and other things. Not money,” Calzaretta said.
COVID-19 challenges, AZ expansion
Two months later, the industry that had once consumed him was shut down for what would be an almost two-year period. While it shook his entertainment colleagues, Calzaretta rolled with it well, despite circumstances that would result in a 90% revenue decrease in 2020.
“I was OK because I hadn’t been so focused on the business part,” he said.
Calzaretta took advantage of the forced hiatus by expanding his business to Arizona and purchasing a home in the Valley. Doubling his reach was a way to make up for two years of lost income while also appealing to two large metro areas that complimented each other’s peak seasons.
With corporate events starting to ramp up, Calzaretta sees his clients wanting more experiential events that will engage attendees.
“Now with the rise in technology and shortened attention span, to captivate their attention they need to be invited, they need to participate, not just witness,” he said. “And Covid amplified it.”
Creating custom theme shows that involve audiences by getting them to don costumes, participate in contests and get involved with the band are among the ways to accomplish this. At a wedding, this could mean playing songs that mean something special to specific guests.
A game like “Spot my Photo” that automatically sends photos attendees appear in to their devices is a way to persuade guests to put down their phones, or use them to get involved by sharing those on social media.
But what Calzaretta really enjoys is seeing the effect his work has on those who witness it.
“For three hours a night, I can make people forget about their 9 to 5 job, transport them to a happier place … . Mental health is a real thing,” he said. “Everybody has pain and anxiety and my job is to make people forget about that for a while. When I get to do that, it’s super rewarding.”
What: Magnificent Events and Entertainment
Factoid: The global events industry market was valued at $886.9 billion in 2020, according to Verified Market Research.
Details: 815-230-3770, magevents.com