Doing It For The Kids

How the couple behind C.T. Weekends helped save Community Music School.

Kristi Hipple and Dennis Mayfield, the owners of the eclectic Cameron Village boutique C.T. Weekends, exemplify the theory that opposites attract. For one thing, as one of four girls growing up in Wisconsin to a mother who was a piano teacher, Hipple’s life revolved around the arts.

“We all played in the high school band, we sang in the choir,” she says. “Music was such a big part of our lives.” Not so, Mayfield.

“I was asked not to play an instrument in school, because I was bad,” he says, face deadpan. “In the cantor in my synagogue, one of my best friends suggested I didn’t have to sing along.”

Regardless of any disparities in talent, the couple shares a deep commitment to promoting music and the arts, and their efforts in these realms, as well as their work with animals and women’s wellness issues, reflect the values they hold dearly. Their contributions haven’t gone unnoticed—next month, Raleigh’s Community Music School will honor Hipple and Mayfield with its first-ever Award for Philanthropy at a Broadway inspired musical event at the North Carolina History Museum.

Barely a year ago downtown’s Community Music School—a nonprofit that has taught low-income children to play a variety o instruments, sing, and perform in musical theater for nearly 25 years—was on the verge of shutting down. Due to what the school described in a statement as “insufficient fundraising,” among other problems, it found itself needing to raise more than $100,000 in three months.

“It was a terribly dark day for the school,” recalls CMS board member Cindy McEnery. “But sometimes bad news brings good news. The cry went out that we could have to close unexpectedly, and the community came to our aid. And the people who stood behind the tables and did everything in their human power to help us, were Dennis and Kristi. They opened their hearts to the school in an unbelievable way.”

The couple has been involved with CMS for several years, raising money to benefit the school’s students through annual fashion shows and other events and stepping in with support at a time when public funding for the arts started to fall off. Students from CMS perform regularly at their store and when they heard of the financial crisis the school was experiencing, the couple took action quickly, selling picture-postcards of their shop dog, Porkchop, and offering in-store discounts to customers who made gifts of $25 to CMS.

“Our financial contributions weren’t huge,” Hipple says. “As much as anything, we tried to help give them some exposure, so people would be aware of them and what they’re doing.”

One evening this winter, Hipple and Mayfield met with McEnery and their mutual friend, Alan Campbell, the Tony-award nominated Broadway and television actor who settled down in Raleigh five years ago to help raise his 13-year-old daughter, Riley. Over dinner, the group hashed out a plan for CMS’s third-annual major fundraising event: a Broadway revue starring Campbell, the formidable singer/songwriter and corporate lawyer Yolanda Rabun and Campbell’s Broadway colleagues, Kathy Voytko and Kevin Kern.

Campbell says the event’s performance will be an hour-long Broadway-musical theater-based production, with a mix of jazz and rock-and-roll classics sprinkled in. The goal of the evening will be to raise money through ticket sales and cash gifts to benefit CMS, with corporations such as Paragon Bank, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Smith Anderson sponsoring. Local restaurants and performing arts companies have chipped in meals and tickets to a donor raffle.

McEnery thinks the October event will sell out quickly and adds that, after re-envisioning the school’s mission, reaching out to community partners, and upping its fundraising work, CMS hopes to open its doors this fall to 120 students, up from last year’s 107. McEnery says she doesn’t believe the school will ever face having to shut its doors for lack of funds again.

Campbell, who has known Hipple and Mayfield for several years, says he appreciates the passion that the couple imparts.

“They come to every show, they see everything, they’re always there with a check in hand,” he says. “They do that with so many organizations. They’re just really present and show support, with their presence and with their finances. They’re a blessing. That’s a gift.”

If you’re interested in supporting the Community Music School or attending Broadway Believes at the N.C. Museum of History on October 3, email Community Music School at info@cmsraleigh.org.

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