Owner and founder of Black Tie Music Academy, Braeden Kershner wore a white shirt and black tie to teach music lessons until he was told he looked like a Mormon missionary.
The progression of the uniform marked the shifting tides at the school: "When I started, I tried to be a serious music school. First I started with the white shirt and black tie, then I switched to colored shirts, then polos with our logo and then I decided not to care. Now, you come in and we look casual, but we are very serious about music."
More than his attire changed. He replaced recitals with open mic nights. At Black Tie's five locations, there are video game and adult jam nights.
Braeden's love for music started early. He can play every instrument in the orchestra, and, at 18, he raised enough money to fund conducting the Boston Pops for a performance in Greenville.
He prefers teaching to conducting, though, and after working in the school district, wanted a better way to reach kids.
“It started about five years ago. I was a teacher in the schools, and I was broke, because teachers don’t make a lot of money,” Braeden explains, suddenly moving closer to the recorder. “And you can put that on the record! Because I will preach for teachers.”
His most lucrative option was to start music lessons. So, he presented a plan to his pregnant wife, quit his job and opened Black Tie.
Braeden admits he owes a lot of his success to his business partner, Kris Manning. Together, they have also started the nonprofit The Music Battery. From 4 to 7 p.m., kids from Morningside Middle School are tutored, do their homework and participate in a drumline. They are provided straps, sticks and snacks, all free.
Next, Braeden and Kris are working on getting a bus, so then they can bring kids from all over Charleston in for music and art lessons.
Oh, and he holds the Guinness World Record for passing his body through a tennis racquet 23 times in a minute. But he doesn't offer lessons for that though.