"The best thing about starting up a new program," says Larry Shane, 41, the band director at Ardrey Kell High School, "is that you get to create new traditions."
Having served as Ardrey Kell's band director since the Ballantyne high school opened in 2006, Shane has built the program from scratch.
Shane moved to Charlotte from South Florida, where he grew up playing the trumpet and served as a band director before taking the helm at Ardrey Kell. He and assistant director Patrick McGinty now oversee 210 students who participate in seven bands: three concert bands, a marching band, a color guard, a winter guard and a jazz band.
One of the new traditions Shane initiated is to ensure the Ardrey Kell Jazz Band "has a real presence in the community."
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He tries to line up public performances for the jazz band once or twice a month from December through June to "give our students and our program a chance to be visible." In addition to several school concerts, performances have included jazz festivals at UNC Charlotte and in Rock Hill, S.C.
To commemorate April as Jazz Appreciation Month, Shane has arranged for the Ardrey Kell High School Jazz Band to perform at Ballantyne Village. Today, the 27 students will play two 40-minute sets, at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., around the fountain.
Matt Marsico, 18, a senior at Ardrey Kell who also is a member of the school's marching band and wind ensemble, appreciates that, with the jazz band, he can express himself more creatively. Marsico, a drummer, said he loves playing music that "has such a rich heritage and taps into American history." He said he enjoys the public concerts because they serve to introduce or connect many of his friends to jazz music.
Shane said he sees the concerts as a win-win, giving students valuable exposure and practice playing for an audience while providing the community with quality entertainment. This year, the partnership with Ballantyne Village will have an added element - Village management has chosen the Ardrey Kell High School Band Booster Club as the recipient of all proceeds raised from the Village's Mix at Six concert series.
Now in its fourth year, Mix at Six runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Wednesday night from April 27 to June 1. For a $15 VIP pass, customers receive complementary beer, wine and appetizers while enjoying a different band each week. This year's lineup: Victor James Band, April 22; Coconut Grove, May 4; Smoky Justice, May 11; Borderlyne Band, May 18; Matt Stratford Band, May 25; and Leslie Thompson & Friends, June 1.
The Band Booster organization, made up of parent volunteers, is delighted to be the beneficiary of this year's Mix at Six.
"Our operating budget is in the six figures, but we receive absolutely no funding from the county, state or school," said Shane of Ardrey Kell's band program.
As is true of all Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools band programs, Ardrey Kell must rely on students and families to raise funds.