Special to the Citizen
As KC Music Academy’s fifth anniversary approaches, owners Mark Ballard and Kevin Allen will not only celebrate their successful business in Platte Woods, but also their 50-year friendship.
The academy, which moved to Platte Woods on April 1, offers individual and group lessons for piano, guitar, bass, ukulele, drums, voice, saxophone, trumpet, flute, violin and cello and they sell and rent instruments.
“We cater our retail offerings to our students,” says Ballard. “We’ve tried hundreds of brand names and have settled on a few in each instrument category that offer high quality at a price that our students can comfortably step up to. We offer solid well-made instruments that won’t break, stay in tune and don’t cost an arm and a leg.”
The business is committed to getting the right instruments into the hands of their students and working with parents to find an instrument “that makes the students’ hearts soar.”
Their Concert Kids program offers students the opportunity to practice as a rock band and then perform the music they’ve learned as a group at local music venues. “I know all about the confidence, courage, prestige and leadership skills that come from actually being a performing musician from the very first day of rehearsal,” says Ballard. “ I have put kids on the same bill with REO Speedwagon, Head East, Arcade Fire, The National, Skid Row, Tesla, The Baha Men, Queensryche, Chaka Khan, Journey, Foreigner, Styx, Blue Man Group, The Steve Miller Band, Heart, Jason Bonham, Ted Nugent, Lynyrd Skynyrd , Kansas, Steely Dan, Pat Benatar and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters. My young musicians have also played every important venue in Kansas City.”
Because Ballard still remembers his childhood music lessons with “the mean old trumpet teacher” as some of his worst childhood memories, he always vowed to create an inspirational and exciting atmosphere for his students. Only lively and upbeat teachers who are highly skilled and student-focused are hired.
Ballard believes that kids tend to become more musically skilled if they start young. “Our violin instructor Laurel Gagnon recently won fourth place in the entire world at the Singapore World Championships and she started playing when she was 3 years old. Our youngest student is 5 but we have worked with even younger kids.”
Some adult students also take lessons at the academy and Ballard says they fall into two camps — the highly dedicated students and the students that treat lessons like a gym membership and come when they want.
KC Music Academy student success stories include Casi Joy who performed on “The Voice” and Matthew Clinkenbeard and Nick Riffle who are sought-after guitarists in Nashville, Tenn. “Nick Mason from the legendary band Pink Floyd owns (and often wears we’ve heard) a KC Music Academy hoodie,” says Ballard.
At KC Music Academy music is secondary. Ballard says they simply use music as a tool to build confidence, courage and self-esteem.
“These cool kids are getting up in front lots of friends and folks to perform their hearts out,” he said. “And when each of these young musicians face those moments they’re required to step up and speak in front of their class or attend a job interview, do you know what they’ll say to themselves? They’ll say, ‘I’ve got this.’”
With rapidly changing technology, Ballard believes it might not be long before the business has dedicated live instructors teaching students around the world. And while he’s very familiar with the well documented educational value of learning to play an instrument he believes the best outcome is having fun and gaining a lifetime love and appreciation for music.
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