Along my route is Memphis’ Stax Museum. The Stax Museum is one of the few museums in the world dedicated to soul music. The museum sits on the former home of Stax Records, a recording company that worked with greats such as Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, the Staple Singers, Johnnie Taylor, Albert King, Booker T. & the MGs, and Rufus and Carla Thomas. When Stax Records was forced into bankruptcy, in December of 1975, the Southside Church of God in Christ purchased the building and briefly used it as a soup kitchen. The building sat–basically unused–and continued to deteriorate until it was torn down in 1989. In 1998, a newly created Soulsville Foundation sought to revitalize the neighbourhood and preserve the history of Stax Records.
Starting in 2000, the Soulsville Foundation opened the Stax Music Academy with the purpose of providing:
“a unique learning center that inspires young people and enhances their academic, cognitive, performance, and leadership skills by utilizing music with a strong focus on the rich legacy and tradition of Stax Records. Since 2000, the Academy has been serving primarily at-risk youth from throughout the Memphis community with its unique brand of mentoring experiences, high-quality music education programs, and performance opportunities.”
In 2003, the Stax Museum was opened to the public. Since its opening day, it:
“has welcomed hundreds of thousands of people, sharing the story of American soul music, with particular emphasis on Stax Records and “The Memphis Sound,” through its 17,000 square feet of exhibits and vast collection of memorabilia, along with live music events, special exhibits, panel discussions, and various community outreach programs.”
In 2005, the organization enrolled the first students in The Soulsville Charter School, a school intended to provide ”a tuition-free public charter school whose mission is to prepare students for success in college and life in an academically rigorous, music-rich environment.” In 2012, The Soulsville Charter School held its first graduation. More importantly, The Soulsville Charter School has the following bragging rights:
In 2012, 100% of our first graduating class was accepted to college. The class of 2012 received over $300 million in scholarships and grants. Our students received over 180 acceptances to more than 50 colleges and universities in 17 states and the District of Columbia including Wesleyan, Vanderbilt, U.T. Knoxville, Tuskegee, Connecticut College, Berklee College of Music, and the University of Memphis.
This is quite a feat as the United States Bureau of Labour Statistics reports that of those in the 2012 graduating class, only “66.2 percent of 2012 high school graduates were enrolled in colleges or universities.”
It is exciting to see a historical establishment, such as the Stax Museum, working so closely with education, both with the charter school and a music academy.
My hat is off to you and your accomplishments, Soulsville Foundation.