Berklee Blogs

First-hand accounts of the Berklee experience

Tag: Memphis


Musically and beyond…

This blog post was authored by Joanne Dill, Project Manager in the Berklee City Music office.

A long line forms to meet Ms. Patrice Rushen, after her ACI seminar with Berklee’s first-year students. She is generous with her time, giving each student personal advice. When she sits with us to talk about Berklee City Music, she’s shocked that BCM is already celebrating its 20th year.

In Patrice’s words, “BCM is a program that supports the idea that you need to want to be excellent. “ She has exemplified this idea in a big way as a successful musical director, composer, and performer.

Patrice speaks in depth about BCM, its important role in music education, and how contemporary music is key to reaching youth. “We must understand what they like and how it relates to them. When you have their interest, they can make connections to other things.”

The Berklee City Music Network Conference in Memphis, “American Popular Music: The Untold Story “ will focus on precisely those issues, with expert speakers in the field of music education.  Educators and administrators will explore themes on providing access to a quality and diverse music education for students in underserved communities across the country.

As our program grows, Berklee City Music aims to provide more opportunity for young students who will grow musically and beyond.

“If you are doing what you are meant to do, you have the opportunity to matter.”

-Patrice Rushen



Wattstax Revisited: 40 Years in the Making

Wattstax was a historic event of soul music and soul solidarity featuring Stax
Records’ legendary roster of artists. This seven-hour concert, hailed as the “Afro-
American answer to Woodstock,” was held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in
1972 in response to the Watts riots in LA. It was a peaceful, astounding, and vivid
celebration of self-expression and self-respect and allowed viewers to glimpse the
musical brilliance of the Staple Singers, Rufus Thomas, Kim Weston, Johnnie Taylor,
the Bar-Kays, Isaac Hayes, and Albert King.

The students of Stax Music Academy, a Berklee City Music Network site, celebrated
the 40th anniversary of Wattstax and the upcoming 20th anniversary of Berklee City
Music in a special live performance at the Berklee Performance Center on July 17th.
Grammy Award-winning artist Kirk Whalum also performed with the students,
bringing a blend of blues, gospel, funk, and soul to New England.

The Stax Music Academy is a unique learning center in Memphis 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. Founded in 2000 with 125 young people, it has helped changed the lives of
thousands of children since. Former Summer Soul Tour performances have included
Lincoln Center in New York City, Smithsonian Folklife Festival and Kennedy Center
in Washington, D. C, and tours of Italy and Australia.

For more background, a powerful documentary, “Wattstax” (1973) by Mel Stuart
focuses on the 1972 Wattstax music festival and the African American community of
Watts in Los Angeles, California.

BPC Photo Credit: Jandro Cisneros

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