Ryan Kennedy had plenty of music surrounding him growing up.
The son of band and choral directors, his house was filled with music.
Yet it was a move from Charleston to South Charleston that inspired his love of jazz.
"When we moved into our new house, somebody left behind a CD of Bobby McFerrin and Chick Corea - it was the only thing that the people left behind," Kennedy recalled. "It was in one of the bedrooms upstairs. At the time, the only thing I knew Bobby McFerrin had done was 'Don't Worry, Be Happy.'
"I listened to that CD religiously for a few months. What struck me was how I didn't understand it - so I kept going back to it," he said. At the time, he was doing what many kids his age did - play in a rock band.
"It didn't seem to me that's what these guys were doing at all - it just flowed so naturally, I thought. And it was just that they had practiced so much and played together so much. It really developed for me an understanding of how much a discipline music was."
Kennedy's mom, Gail, is the choral director at South Charleston High School, and his dad, Jack, is a retired band director for Stonewall Jackson Middle School.
"I got exposed to a lot of music," he said. "There was not really any single style of music that predominated when I grew up. My parents were both in the Symphony Chorus. They both were brass players so I think they expected me to take up trumpet or French horn. Or they thought I might sing."
When he expressed interest in guitar at age 12, they were nonetheless supportive.
I think at first they wanted to make sure it was something I took seriously," he said, and so he was expected to take formal lessons, which he did with Chuck Biel.
His dad took him to hear Biel play, and to Bob Thompson when Kennedy discovered jazz. He soon was invited to play with Thompson, something he still does every chance he gets.
After a year at West Virginia State College, Kennedy headed to Boston's Berklee College of Music, where he studied guitar and jazz composition.
He might have stayed in Boston, a city he loved, but Kennedy, now 33, returned home and has never regretted it. He's made his living with music ever since.
That requires holding down more than one job, but that's been pretty fun, too.
Kennedy teaches music lessons, plays with Thompson, is a member of the Mountain Stage house band and has his own trio, which takes the stage at Haddad Riverfront Park Friday night for Live on the Levee, opening for Season 8 "American Idol" winner Kris Allen.
The Mountain Stage gig - Thompson also is part of that band - has afforded Kennedy some pretty cool opportunities for travel, including to Alaska last year.
He said the show also has helped him grow as a musician.
"I think about this a lot," he said. "I notice it just focuses you more. There are so many gigs where people in my position play together who have never played together before. It tends to be really loose. The audience tends to be very forgiving.