usic is important to McKenna Redmond and Brianna Shelly, as the Cactus Shadows High School graduates have been immersed in it since they were children.
A year and a half ago, the sisters—along with their husbands Georgian Michael Redmond and Cambridge, England-born Dan Simmons, respectively—opened the Carefree School of Music.
“We want to remind our community that music is so, so important and if a child has a passion for music—whether it’s a hobby or a career choice—it can enrich lives,” said McKenna, the director of operations and a voice and piano teacher.
“Music is so important, and it has so many benefits. If they have a twinkle in their eye about it, try to nurture that at a young age.”
The classes are held at their dad’s 20-year-old ranch on the border of Scottsdale and Cave Creek.
“My father built it so many years ago,” McKenna said. “It’s a 2.5-acre property with the main house and a smaller house on the property. We converted that house into a school, and every room has a grand piano in it.
“My parents live right next door. They’re the reason we do what we do. My dad is a big classic rock fan. He and my mom (Jim and Jayne Shelly) pushed us to follow that. They love music and are extremely supportive.”
The school was formed after Shelly and Simmons moved from Germany back to Scottsdale and began giving music lessons. The Redmonds relocated to her hometown from Georgia.
Because Brianna and McKenna’s parents inspired them to pursue music, the classes that McKenna called affordable are on their dad’s ranch.
“The four of us—especially Dan, Brianna and myself—were really inspired by those who taught us,” McKenna said. “We had some amazing teachers and school experiences. Our goal is to instill the passion we have for music and try to grow whatever comes naturally.
“Whether they have a passion for—classical, pop or rock music—we have experience in all genres. I don’t think one should limit their abilities. Music can play to their strengths and help them overcome insecurities. We approach every student like they have their own individual journey. We want to give back what was given to us.”
As for McKenna, she “thrives” in pop and rock music, as well as theater tunes and jazz.
“I’m inspired by Queen,” she said. “I think Freddie Mercury was an amazing vocalist and performer. I die for Bonnie Raitt. She’s just so authentic. When I listen to her sing, I feel like she’s talking to me and I believe everything she says to me.”
Shelly created Rhythm and Tots, a class that prepares children ages 3 to 5 for music lessons. She introduces them to every instrument and teaches them how to read music in a fun and colorful way.
“Pre-COVID-19, we held workshops and group classes,” McKenna said. “The students could get to know each other and build a musical community as well. With COVID, we can’t hold group classes, but we’re really excited to get that going again.”
McKenna stressed that Carefree School of Music teaches voice lessons in all genres, piano in all genres and acoustic guitar for people of all ages—not just children.
“We have students as young as 5 and in their 80s,” she said. “It’s a wonderful pastime and great for the brain. Some of the students who are a little higher in age realize it’s important to learn something new to keep their brains going. It can do a lot for health, hands and minds.”