Dean Office Staff Member Performs in Country Band

By Rohail Premjee - The Dartmouth, Hanover, NH

Juggling working at Dartmouth and performing in an up-and-coming band, Ed Leavitt has a busy life. During the day, Leavitt works as the executive assistant to Dean of Campus Life April Thompson. But Leavitt also has a burgeoning career as vocalist, rhythm guitarist and songwriter for The Shana Stack Band, a Top 40 country band that recently won Cider Magazine’s Country Band of the Year.

Leavitt and the rest of the band, including lead vocalist Shana Stack, lead guitarist John Sanchez, bass guitarist Kevin Miller and drummer Kurt Ekstrom, began in 2010 as a casual group of musicians who wanted to “come together and jam,” Stack said in an interview with The Dartmouth. The group decided to formally become a band and had their first performance on Sept. 11, 2010, according to Leavitt.

The Shana Stack Band mostly performs Top 40 country music, such as songs by artists like Martina McBride, Miranda Lambert and Kenny Chesney among others, their booking agent Conrad Farnham said in an email to The Dartmouth. Farnham also works for the College as a senior specialist at the Dartmouth Arts and Sciences Finance Center.

The Shana Stack Band also performs original music in addition to southern and classic rock, according to their website. Some of their popular songs are from such popular acts as “Little Big Town” and “Sugarland,” which both feature multiple harmonies. Leavitt is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Association International, which he said has aided in developing his songwriting skills. He has been songwriting at the professional level for 30 years, he said.

This past year, The Shana Stack Band released their first album, “You Can’t Make Me Fall,” which used music penned mostly by Leavitt, according to Farnham. The album was such a success that they plan to record their second album in April, Leavitt said.

All five members of The Shana Stack Band have extensive musical experience, according to Farnham. Stack has won over 20 awards as both a vocalist and an entertainer, including being selected seven times as the New Hampshire Female Vocalist of the Year by the New Hampshire Country Music Association, Farnham said.

The band recently opened for Reba McEntire at a concert in Gilford, N.H. this fall, Farnham said. Following their successful performance at McEntire’s concert, the band has been invited to open on the Magic Hat Stage for the popular country group Sugarland in Gilford this June.

The band has performed throughout the New England area, but they are open to exploring outside this region, according to Stack.

“Our home base is New England, as we feel that New England country [music] fans are some of the best around,” Stack said.

Leavitt attributes much of their success to younger generations’ increasing appreciation of country music.

“New acts like Taylor Swift and Jason Aldean have brought young people [also] into the fold of loving country music,” Leavitt said.

Leavitt said the band was fortunate in “catching the wave” of the increased popularity of country music in New England. Leavitt also said he appreciates for the support from his coworkers.

“[Thompson] has been extremely great to work with,” Leavitt said. “She and everyone else I work with are understanding and supportive [of the band].”

In addition to the support of his coworkers, Leavitt has found support from students and the Hanover community.

“Dartmouth has been supportive by hiring us to play at [One Wheelock] to expose our music to students and staff,” Stack said. “The Hanover community was supportive as well when [the band] was hired to play at the Hanover Street Festival last year.”

Leavitt said that much of the band’s success is also due to fellow Dartmouth employee Farnham, who has aided the group in booking 80 performances last year and more this year.

“[Farnham] negotiates all contracts with club owners while also maintaining and taking care of [the band’s] website and Facebook page,” Leavitt said.

Leavitt has also garnered attention with his song “Let It Go,” which was featured in the independent film “Compliance,” which will be screened at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. While many of the details of how “Let It Go” will be used in the film have not been released, it is the only country song to be featured in the film, according to Leavitt.

“Compliance” is one of the few films selected by Magnolia Pictures at the Sundance Film Festival to be released for national distribution, he added.

After recording their next album, the band plans to “continue building [its] brand and expanding [its] territory,” Stack said.

The Shana Stack Band will be performing this year at a number of outdoor facilities, fairs and festivals, including the New Hampshire Motor Speedway this summer, according to Farnham.

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