Memphis in Motion - Stax Music Academy
Past, present, and future in one place. They preserve the past, recreating the sound of a legendary horn section during an appearance with Memphis sound “Founding Father” Booker T. Jones. They are firmly planted in the present, with international tours, local performances and structured practice and training. They are the future, not only ensuring the continuation of the legacy of Memphis music, but learning life lessons and moving on to The Berklee School of Music, playing on new hits with 21st Century performers, and for the last eight years a 100% college acceptance rate. Where do the past, present, and future of Memphis music reside? Where else but Stax Music Academy. The Academy is part of the renaissance of the Soulsville neighborhood along with multi-dimensional Soulsville Foundation’s other projects, The Soulsville Charter School (founded in 2005) and the reconstructed birthplace of the Memphis sound, a perfect replica of Stax Records, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music (opened in 2003).
Founded in 2000, the after school program has hosted over 4,000 students in after school programs involving 6-12th graders. The youngsters learn “discipline, musicianship, and solid technique” in ensembles ranging from the Junior Rhythm Section to Street Corner Harmonies and Audio Engineering and Production, plus five other programs, all while enabling their overall success with college prep workshops, tutoring, and community service projects.
I was privileged to witness their delivery of Memphis soul classics in support of Booker T. Jones at the Halloran Center last year, stepping into the role of recording giants The Memphis Horns, and I was thrilled to be one face in a big crowd last month celebrating Stax Music Academy’s Summer Grand Finale at The Levitt Shell, featuring Stax’s Second period, from 1968-1975. A powerful vocal, backup singers, and big band kicked it off with Eddie Floyd’s “Big Bird.”
With enthusiasm and great talent, they showed us Memphis music’s storied past, our ever-unfolding present, and the dazzling future promise of Memphis in motion.