Throughout American history, music has played a pivotal role in the fight for racial equality. From the message songs imprisoned Africans crafted as a way to communicate with each other during slavery, to impassioned protest songs during the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-20th century, the soundtrack generated by Black singers, musicians, and writers has provided as much nourishment for the struggle as any factor in the fight for freedom.
Now, the world-renowned Stax Music Academy (SMA) blends these echoes of the past with technology of the future by offering a virtual Black History Month production titled “R & R: Rhythm and Revolution: Expressions of Struggle, Collaboration, and Peace.” The production is now online but registration is required. Once participants register, they will receive a confirmation email with the link and password.
Traditionally, SMA has hosted two live, in-person performances in celebration of Black History Month – a free morning show for area students and a ticketed evening performance, playing to an audience of roughly 2,000 fans collectively. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and safety-related issues, instead of these live concerts SMA will present an online variety show exploring Black history through music, people, and pride. The free virtual concert will be made available not only to every school in Shelby County, but is also being promoted regionally, nationally, and internationally, thereby boosting its audience well beyond the number of attendees at past live concerts.
“R & R: Rhythm and Revolution: Expressions of Struggle, Collaboration, and Peace” features the music of soul greats from Aretha Franklin and Al Green to The Jackson 5, Janet Jackson, and legendary artists of Stax Records. A series of music videos combined with commentary from our students, young viewers will experience music of the Civil Rights Movement and more recent songs.
Educators and parents are also invited to utilize the companion elementary school and middle/high school study guides to teach the messages behind the music. The study guides offer a deeper educational experience for teachers and parents and include a set of questions that can be used to help young people process some of the thoughts and feelings that arise in the topics the concert will address
The virtual Black History Month show was filmed in various significant locations in Memphis including the world-renowned Stax Museum of American Soul Music, the I AM A MAN Plaza at historic Clayborn Temple, the spiritual hub of the 1968 Sanitation Workers Strike that brought Dr. Martin Luther King to Memphis; World Famous Beale Street, and Royal Studios, home of Hi Records and artists like Al Green and Ann Peebles. At Royal, the students’ song was produced by the legendary Willie Mitchell’s son Boo Mitchell and they are accompanied by Al Green collaborator Rev. Charles Hodges of the Hi Rhythm Section.
“As important as the Black History Month lessons are in this virtual production, it is more than anything a show of sheer entertainment for students of all ages and parents alike,” said Stax Music Academy Executive Director Pat Mitchell Worley. “Our students are performing for other students and have been involved in every aspect of the show, from designing costumes to engineering and production to even filming dance lessons for other young people to emulate and enjoy.”
“R & R: Rhythm and Revolution: Expressions of Struggle, Collaboration, and Peace” is live on the Stax Music Academy’s website and free to all students, educators, youth groups, and schools with a “pay what you can” donate option for others. To RSVP for this concert, please click HERE.
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MORE ABOUT THE STAX MUSIC ACADEMY
Stax Music Academy is a premier afterschool and summer music institute that prepares students to earn music scholarships to college and for careers in the music industry. Its combination of high-quality music education, unique performance opportunities, and creative youth programming includes lessons in vocal and instrumental training, music theory, music business, songwriting, and audio production and engineering, as well mentorship from dedicated staff and professional mental wellness counselors that help promote leadership skills, critical thinking, positive self-image, and social consciousness. Students have performed in Italy, Australia, France, Germany, England, New York’s Lincoln Center, and Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center. In 2016, they performed for the grand opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. On January 20, 2021, they appeared on every major network with singers Justin Timberlake and Ant Clemons in the “Celebrating America” prime-time special hosted by Oscar Winner Tom Hanks as part of the JosephBiden-Kamala Harris Presidential Inauguration.
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