Mark Ballard Creates Full-Service Music Resource
For those about to rock, play the blues, or perform odes about country roads and pick’em-up trucks, KC Music (6506-B NW Prairie View Road) is the place to chase your muse. Professional performer and music industry veteran Mark Ballard opened KC Music in October 2014 to offer complete resources as a full-service music store and concert venue.
KC Music hosted a multi-act concert on opening day with a bevy of acts across different genres, including Uncountable Kings, Riverrock, Brian Ruskin, Lonesome Hank and Red Velvet Crush.
“It was very fun and exposed us to many Northlanders and area musicians,” says Ballard.
Since then KC Music has featured Victor & Penny, E11even, The Matt Cook Collective, Casi Joy, Modern Friend performing a benefit for Harmony Project, and local legend Bob Walkenhorst of The Rainmakers on stage.
Ballard says, “Our awesome in-store stage, lights and monitor system make having concerts here a snap. People really enjoy the high level of talent we present for free.”
The Northland store also sells instruments for band and rock music, professional audio gear from brand names such as Roland, Ampeg, Tama, Luna and Fender, as well as custom sound installation. Further, KC Music also offers individual, 30-minute lessons for voice, guitar, ukulele, drums, violin and many other instruments.
Ballard draws from a deep reservoir of experience; his professional music performance background dates back nearly 40 years.
“When my first band, Fields, formed, we instantly became a Kansas City favorite and worked five nights a week for many years,” says Ballard. “We also toured with many big name acts like The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Michael Murphy, The Pure Prairie League, Vince Gill and Merle Haggard.”
Ballard, a singer, also plays harmonica, guitar, bass and “about anything with strings that does not require a bow.”
“I continued to play music during my 22 years in the radio business and retired from performing live in 2004 when I started ROCK U, KC's first rock music school,” he says.
Ballard sold ROCK U to the large national chain, The School of Rock, in 2007 and continued to work for them until June 2014. The intent of selling the business was to give the students more national opportunities.
“That was a mistake because so few kids benefited from the national thing that we simply had to make our own musical magic,” Ballard says. According to him, School of Rock offered students their famous name. Chicago management “kept all of the great opportunities for the kids in their market.”
Kansas City-based students at Rock U did share the same bill with high-profile rock acts like Journey, Foreigner, The National, Arcade Fire, Skid Row, The Steve Miller Band, Heart, Jason Bonham, Chaka Kahn, Kansas, Ted Nugent, Styx, Daughtry, Tower of Power, The Broadway cast of Rock of Ages, Pat Benatar, Tesla, Queensrÿche, RATT, Night Ranger, Lynyrd Skynyrd, REO Speedwagon, Steely Dan and Pink Floyd's Roger Waters.
“The kids also headlined The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland twice and were the pre-game entertainment at Kauffman Stadium for every Sunday Royals home game this past championship season,” says Ballard. “No other School of Rock has achieved that success. I am very proud that I was able to give hundreds of kids some amazing and thrilling lifelong memories.”
Ballard intends to develop musical talent and create opportunities with this new venture. Music lessons won’t begin until June 20, a condition of compliance Ballard must uphold with School of Rock’s non-compete contract. He is in the process of lining up his team of instructors.
“We do have them in the wings and they are amazing, inspirational teachers,” says Ballard. “After June 20, we will commence with individual instruction for all ages on most instruments. A student can take his or her individual lesson elsewhere and still be in our concert groups, or they can enjoy a lower cost for lessons if they do both programs here.”
Beginning in late June, KC Music will house three schools in different genres. Two nights a week will be rock-focused at KC Rock University aka ROCK U. KC Blues Academy and KC Country Music Academy will each dedicate one night a week for lessons in their respective genres.
“We are actively seeking a satellite location in which rehearsals will be held. I do see a strong and growing demand for active music education,” says Ballard. “By active, I mean instruction that includes execution but not recitals. Actual concerts performed by the kids at area live music clubs and arenas.”
The store will host a free ukulele club called The Ukulele Ninjas on the first Tuesday of every month. The club welcomes all skill levels. Ballard plans for the club to include free "flash-mob" performances at local businesses.
For more information, contact KC Music at 816.505.5005 or visit KCMusicStore.com.