top of page

About Standing Room Only Orchestra


Standing Room Only Orchestra originated in 1999. (Probably before current wedding clients were born!!) 


Kara Kesselring auditioned as the keyboard player shortly after moving to Chicago after completing her music degree at the University of Iowa (GO HAWKS!).


By performing in SRO at a young age, not only did Kara learn the large canon of live band repertoire, classic dance music (think Sweet Caroline!), she watched and learned from the previous owners how to run a successful small business.  


After performing at over a thousand weddings and corporate events for decades and witnessing happy clients and packed dance floors, Kara took a three year hiatus from SRO to perform with the broadway smash hit tour Jersey Boys. 


When Kara returned to Chicago, she and her husband bassist and sound engineer Patrick Williams bought the Standing Room Only Orchestra business. Not only did the opportunity present itself at the right time, but Kara knew that SRO deserved a future and had the potential to be successful on the music scene for years to come. Kara and Patrick were up for the task. 


a fun, down to earth, 
professional dance band


a small, boutique company that values quality over quantity

There are so many factors to consider when choosing the perfect band. Small band? Big orchestra? Is it financially worth the investment? Plus, there are so many bands in Chicago to choose from! It can be overwhelming! 


So why choose SRO?  Kara likens SRO to a small, boutique company that values quality over quantity.  

Imagine SRO being like a family-owned, delicious Italian restaurant. 


The restaurant owner greets you at your arrival, seats you at your table, helps the bartender make your drinks, steps back in the kitchen to oversee the chef. 


Maybe she shakes your hand at your table at the end of dinner, enjoying that you’re lingering over conversation and wine.  


The owner knows that dinner isn’t just about the food, but it’s about overseeing the entire experience and assuring you that your meal will be great.  You leave your personalized dining experience feeling like part of the family. The owner is gregarious and fun. 


The restaurant leaves you with the impression that experience isn’t about getting as many reservations packed into one night, it’s about sharing a meal together. 


Standing Room Only Orchestra is the boutique company with hands on, small enterprise expertise. 


Yes, Standing Room Only can assure you that we will play all the “home run hits,” but Kara also oversees the musicianship and professionalism of the band members. She makes sure the emcee script is accurate and, as a bandleader, works in tandem with the day-of planner, event coordinator, photographers, etc., to make sure we’re all on the same page, guiding the evening forward. 

Standing Room Only offers many different band sizes because Kara feels it's important to make live music accessible for all price points. She’s an advocate for live music (being an instrumentalist and vocalist herself!). 


We know there are less expensive bands than SRO, as well as many at a higher price point.  


Not only does SRO have rockstar front singers, but the guitarist, keyboards, and bassist sing harmonies and leads, adding to the diversity of vocalists and song selection options. 


Because Kara values quality over quantity of events, SRO does not accept multiple events in an evening.  Doing so would spread band members out, and building “pick-up” bands does not deliver the high-quality experience SRO is known for.


SRO prides itself on putting together a cohesive show. We seamlessly move from one high-energy song to the next with a connected flow, guaranteeing a packed dance floor the entire night. 

SRO performs approximately 40-50 events each year, with thousands of events of experience throughout the years.

live music accessible for all price points



over a thousand weddings and corporate events

Our SRO team of musicians and sound engineers is a tight-knit family. SRO owns all the sound and lighting, so there is no need for subcontracting. 

Kara has experience in the theater scene. She knows that a dance band needs to look the part. Our band members don't sit! An audience listens with their eyes. If the band is dancing and high-energy, your guests will be, too! 


From the first phone call to discuss your wedding music visions to the last microphone cable being wrapped up at the end of the night, Kara is the point person, shepherding the clients through every step of the way, giving guidance and helping them customize their unique event experience.


SRO has band member loyalty because Kara is a great liaison between the clients' needs and the band team members' needs. Kara is easy to work with and achieves success by choosing the best musicians in Chicago to perform. Kara provides a positive work environment for sound and event planners alike. 


The final words of wisdom…

Choose a bandleader that you feel comfortable on the music planning journey. Pick three words to describe your special day and build your customized event around those three words. 

bottom of page