Beatles’ Abbey Road is centerpiece of Asheville Music School fundraiser event

WELL PLAYED: A performance of The Beatles' Abbey Road in its entrety will cap an evening designed to raise funds for the Asheville Music School The school's Chamber Ensemble is pictured. Photo courtesy of Asheville Music School

The music that The Beatles made in their final sessions together will provide the centerpiece for Sound Effects, a gala fundraiser event — concert performances, a raffle and a silent auction — all to benefit the Asheville Music School. The show will be held at Isis Restaurant & Music Hall on Thursday, April 21.

The Asheville Music School has been in operation for nearly 20 years but only became a nonprofit in 2012, not long after the sudden death of its longtime director, Paul Thorpe. “After Paul passed away, there was a lot of learning on our feet, learning about what Paul did,” says Ryan Reardon, who served as interim director. (The school recently announced the appointment of Charlotte Sommers as its new executive director). “We brought in people who are passionate about the school and its mission.”

Asheville Music School board chair Melissa Reardon (Ryan’s wife) describes that mission as being “a school for the community, to make music education accessible to anybody who wants to take lessons. Music lessons aren’t cheap,” she says. “One of the things we’re able to do — because we’re a nonprofit — is help keep lesson costs and teachers’ rents low.”

The fundraiser at Isis Restaurant & Music Hall supports those goals and provides financing for scholarships and an outreach program. “Since 2012, Asheville Music School and the Paul Thorpe Music Education Fund have awarded over 400 full or partial scholarships, totaling over $30,000,” says Melissa. Now in its fourth year, the Sound Effects event is the school’s biggest fundraiser.

Ryan says that the school’s outreach program has multiple purposes: “At a certain point when you’re learning music, you’ve got to step outside of the practice room and start making music with your friends, your peers. That’s where the social benefit of music comes into play.” And the performances bring music to those who might not otherwise hear it. The ensembles “perform on a regular basis in places in the community like the Charles George VA Medical Center, Chunns Cove Assisted Living, ABCCM’s Veterans Restoration Quarters and Care Partners,” Ryan says. “We seek out facilities that don’t have the budget for music as part of their program. We know the power of music and how it affects people. A lot of times, people who really need it don’t get it.”

Need-based Asheville Music School scholarships help defray the costs of lessons for students demonstrating financial need. The upcoming fundraiser supports all these initiatives.

Ryan says that the top-billed performance at Sound Effects will highlight faculty and students together. “They’ll cover The Beatles’ Abbey Road record in its entirety, with full instrumentation,” he says, The 16-person group onstage will “keep it pretty true to the record, with strings and horns.”

But that’s not the only music scheduled for the event. Abbey Road is the highlight, Ryan says, “but the AMS Rock Band will perform, as will our pop-rock ensemble, Vinyl Crossroads.” Other acts on the bill include Americana band Grits & Soul (featuring AMS faculty member John Looney), the school’s classical ensemble and The Woodsong Clarinet Choir.

Last year’s Sound Effects event at Isis Restaurant & Music Hall raised abut $7,500 for the nonprofit music school. To some, that might not seem like a large figure. “We’re new and growing,” Melissa says.

“We doubled from the first year to the next,” adds Ryan. “So in percentage terms, we’re doing great!” This year’s event goal is $10,000.

In the weeks running up to the event, students at Asheville Music School have taken part in an annual practice-athon. They solicited sponsors for their practices throughout March. “At the concert, we’ll announce four winners,” Ryan says. “The grand prize is for most hours practiced. Another prize is for the most money raised, and [there’s a prize] for the most sponsors. A fourth prize is a random drawing.”

A silent auction will provide one more way for people to support the work of the nonprofit school. Melissa says that items available for bid include a session at Echo Mountain Studios valued at $900 and an in-home wine dinner for four provided by Anthony Cerrato of Strada. The evening will also feature a raffle with prizes. Melissa says, “We’ve got a lot of support, and there’s a lot of excitement around where we’re going.”

But in the end, it’s all about the music: “Being involved with music and a music school, I see kids who still love The Beatles,” says Ryan. “I see 12-year-old students come to lessons with Beatles T-shirts on. The Beatles are still relevant to young people. So for Sound Effects, out of a bunch of full records that we would want to perform, Abbey Road was definitely the one.”

WHAT: Sound Effects fundraiser concert to benefit Asheville Music School, ashevillemusicschool.com
WHERE: Isis Restaurant & Music Hall, isisasheville.com
WHEN: Thursday, April 21, 6-9 p.m. $12 advance/$15 day of show/$6 kids 10 and younger

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About Bill Kopp
Author, music journalist, historian, collector, and musician. His first book, "Reinventing Pink Floyd: From Syd Barrett to The Dark Side of the Moon," published by Rowman & Littlefield, is available now. Follow me @the_musoscribe

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