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Saskia de Melker
Saskia de Melker
Stax Music Academy is located on the site of the original Stax Records studio in historic Soulsville, which many legendary musicians -- including Aretha Franklin, Memphis Slim, and Booker T. Jones -- called home. It aims to nurture the next generation of musicians in the Memphis neighborhood that defined soul music.
My name is Johnathon Lee and I'm 18 years old. I can relate to a lot of soul music and a lot of gospel. I'm able to communicate my emotions and I'm able to exude that to the audience when I sing.
My name is Adrianna Christmas and I'm the director of Stax Music Academy. They learn music theory, music technique as well as performance. If you have never touched an instrument before you can come learn piano, guitar and bass. We also have some students that come in that have been singing all their lives in church.
The church was a place where people went to tell their troubles during the Civil Rights Movement. And people used gospel and soul music to communicate the stories that they had to tell when they were struggling.
Being able to share the Stax legacy with the students, they have this pride, like yes, I come from Memphis. I come from this spirit of innovation and creativity. So I want them to walk away being proud of that legacy, and I also want them to carry it on. Using their art to bring healing, but also using their art to say some things and stir the pot sometimes when it needs to be stirred.
So we have to analyze politically what was going on and why the artist chose to talk about a specific subject. They all have a story. There was a struggle. To be able to have black artists perform their songs or write their own songs. During the Civil Rights Movement, we did marches. So being able to have a march and then use music as a form to communicate what your march is meaning, that made a big impact.
Stax songs have so much history to them everybody was treated as equals, because music was that connector, it's what we try to create at Stax, where it's definitely, doesn't matter where you come from, you're accepted, you belong here, this is a place for you. We were delving deeper into MLK's legacy and we decided to try to go into songs that may have influenced him on his journey, what was released when the sanitation workers went on strike, what was released when they marched on Selma and then also talk about what was Stax Records doing at that time. The discussions really start with the music. So when the Staple Singers released Got To Be Some Changes Made, we're going to learn that song but we're also going to talk about why they were saying Got To Be Some Changes Made. And then go a step further to say do you feel that way now. In America 2018, do you feel like we need to make some changes, and what scale and how will we do that.
Music is really that key that we have with the students for them to explore who they really are. They're writing their own original music this year, actually the middle school ensemble started writing a song about change. Like you remember all the pain and suffering from 1968, but we still have some of these things today. And that's what their song is about.
70 percent of our students come on financial need. They have a lot of different things going on in the home, but they're so resilient and I think it's because of music. Because they can come, they can express themselves.
I have grown, grown, and grown. You learn how to control your voice, you learn how to build confidence. And it's like an elevation, you elevate every time and get better and better. Being able to learn from different people, different vocalists, they offer a sound that I didn't have, and I offered something that they might not have had. It's not a one-man show. I see myself doing Broadway, I see myself putting out an album or two, maybe 50, who knows. Music is a language that everyone can understand. Music is my passion, it's my love, it's my soul.
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