KC Music gives Ballard chance to branch out

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Don’t call it a comeback, but Kansas City’s “dean of rock” indeed recently went back to school to teach the next generation in the ways of rock. And he’s got some singing the blues. Mark Ballard’s new Kansas City North business venture, KC Music, is now offering lessons in three programs — rock, country and blues.

“We expected the rock program to be popular, but we were really surprised there’s been a bigger turnout for the blues program than the rock,” Ballard said, although the lessons just started this summer and there is time for all three programs to grow.

Ballard, the former head of the School of Rock in Parkville, Mo., struck out on his own last year, opening KC Music at 6506 NW Prairie View Rd. in Kansas City with his longtime friend and fellow musician Kevin Allen. From its opening in August 2014, the store offered professional instruments, school instruments, repair services, custom sound installation, rentals and deliveries and set-up.

Now, Ballard and Allen have branched out into the KC Music Academy, offering Rock U and the KC Blues and KC Country academies.

“We’re doing just fine. We’ve been open one year and last month was our best month so far,” Ballard said.

Picking the best location for their burgeoning music empire was the first step, and Ballard said they looked at a storefront right next to Park Hill High School.

“We thought, ‘Hey, that would be great. After school, we’d have kids just pouring in,’” Ballard joked. “Then we realized we’d have kids just pouring in …”

So they opted for middle ground, just off Highway 45 near Hy-Vee, right off of Interstate 29 and in a burgeoning part of the Northland.

“We wanted to stay in the Northland, and we’re both Platte County guys since after high school,” Ballard said. “There are no full-service music stores in the Northland — not offering these kinds of instruments — so we wanted to fill that need.”

And now, they’ve branched off into offering lessons.

KC Music Academy offers a concert kids program for older students and a Rockstar Club for children ages 5-8. One-on-one lessons are offered in guitar, electric bass guitar, piano and keyboard, harmonica, ukulele, violin and viola and drums.

Voice lessons are also an option.

Parents can also sign kids up for combo packages featuring the concert kids program as well as one-on-one lessons. Students attend weekly rehearsals and will perform at local venues as they progress.

“We have a simple motto here,” Ballard said. “If we have a tough decision to make, we just remember that this business is all about the kids and not the bottom line. We’ll always do what’s best for the kids.”

Already, more than 50 students have flocked to the KC Music Academy programs, and Ballard is looking for opportunities to showcase his students’ talents in the community. Their first concert dates will be sometime around Halloween.

“We’re really into the kids having a good time and making lifetime memories,” he said.

And to that end, they are keeping class sizes small. In fact, with continued growth, Ballard expects KC Music Academy to expand to the Liberty area around the start of 2016.

All a part of bringing music to kids in the Northland.

“This is a great community, and we’d love to be a part of that community as well,” he said.