When you think about Memphis, Tennessee, Elvis Presley maybe comes to mind. But today, the city is brimming with talented musicians.
They play all kinds of music styles, from rockabilly to soul, in clubs and on the streets throughout the city.
What’s more, the locals say there’s usually a level of unity whenever music starts to play in Memphis. Making music just seems to bring everybody together.
Music also has the power to inspire us to be better and go a step further in life, even when circumstances have pushed us down. That, in essence, is why Stax Music Academy got started — to encourage kids’ development through the practice and performance of music.
Stax Music Academy exists to nurture the next generation of musical talent — no matter their background or skill level.
“We get students in and we try to enhance their cognitive abilities and musical abilities as well as their character,” explains Adrianna Christmas, the director of Stax. They turn students into “Soul Communicators” — socially conscious artists who actively give back to their communities.
There’s also a huge focus on the legacy of Stax Records, the iconic, soul-based record label that was founded in Memphis 60 years ago.
What makes Stax particularly special, however, is that 70% of their students come from marginalized communities. Since its mission is to raise up kids using music, it would only make sense that they would strive to include the kids who might need that boost the most.
But it’s not just about fostering great musicians. It’s about helping these kids get in touch with who they really are.
“Stax taught me how to control myself, discipline myself, better myself,” says Chris Franklin, one of Stax’s students. “Both sides of my family, they’ve done music. It runs in my bloodline, and I think I should carry it on.”
“I know Stax helped me to see the worth and value that I have in myself,” admits Jaden Graves. “Even if I don’t fit in, I can embrace who I am.”
The teachers see the growth too. Kids come in nervous and shy but leave as confident music aficionados. It makes sense that they’ve maintained a 100% college acceptance rate since 2008.
In a world where there’s so much adversity and discord, a space that’s dedicated to teaching kids how to harmonize is most welcome.
That’s especially poignant when you remember Memphis is where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. While music may not be the only reason attitudes have changed there, it’s unifying nature no doubt played a part.
Stax’s awesome setup is more than capable of fostering the next great musical prodigy, but that’s far from what makes it important. It’s the fact that it offers musically minded kids a chance to find themselves and that is beyond worthwhile.
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