Concord has marked the 20th anniversary of the Stax Music Academy (SMA) in Memphis by pledging a minimum of $1 million to launch the Concord Stax Scholarships.
In each year over the next five school years, the scholarships will provide full tuition to at least 20 students. Concord, which owns Stax Records, is pledging the money from its owners, team members, friends, and partners. It will allow the advancement of music and life skills for at least 100 students, and the appropriate resources needed to support SMA career development initiatives during the five-year plan.
The Stax Music Academy is operated by the Soulsville Foundation and inspires young people from under-resourced communities in the greater Memphis area with industry-focused music education and creative youth programming. The education enhances their academic, cognitive, performance, and leadership skills by utilizing music, especially with an intense focus on the legacy and tradition of Stax Records.
Four thousand soulful students
Since the SMA was founded in 2000, it has fostered and coached over 4,000 students in music theory; the art of storytelling through composition of their own music; and education about music business basics, to ensure that each young artist is equipped to earn music scholarship to college, and understands how to make a living from music. SMA graduates have a 100% college acceptance rate over the past 12 years. Among the SMA class of 2020, 67% earned college music scholarships.
SMA students have been honored with the chance to perform at such important events as Justin Timberlake and Ant Clemons at the Biden Presidential Inauguration TV Special Celebrating America, which was seen by tens of millions of viewers around the world.
The Concord Stax Scholarships will each be named after a distinguished Stax recording artist or executive. These include label founder Jim Stewart, former owner Al Bell, members of Booker T. and the MG’s, former Stax Records performing artist and director of publicity Deanie Parker, the Bar-Kays, Otis Redding, and William Bell.
“It’s been 60 years since Estelle Axton and Jim Stewart named their fledgling music company Stax Records,” say Concord chairman Steve Smith and Concord CEO Scott Pascucci. “The Soulsville Foundation was inspired to create the Stax Music Academy some 40 years later.
“Now, during its 20th anniversary year, the Stax Music Academy can proudly say that its students enjoy a 100% college acceptance rate with more than two-thirds of those earning scholarships, underscoring that the legacy of Stax goes well beyond the music and its extraordinary artists. The Stax Music Academy gives its students a unique grounding in the Stax musical heritage while supporting their development as the next generation of leaders in the music industry.
“Concord is proud to invest in the future of these young people, ensuring that the cultural ideals of the original Stax remain a beacon in the global music business and the Memphis community where it all began.”
Adds Deanie Parker: “The architects of Stax music, along with those of us that contributed to the Soul company’s prophetic history and unique culture, are grateful to Concord for their generous financial commitment to benefit the Stax Music Academy (SMA). Concord’s support of SMA mirrors that of Stax Records’ investment in us some 60 years ago, when Booker T. Jones, Carla Thomas, Steve Cropper, and Otis Redding were just budding artists.
“The Stax Music Academy is 20 years old this year and already their achievements are myriad. Concord Stax Scholarships ensure that SMA will continue to give us more, great Stax-like music to expand our catalog of memorable songs in the key of – Memphis Soul music.”
Soulsville Foundation president & CEO Richard Greenwald notes: “We are so deeply grateful to our friends at Concord for sharing our passion to not only preserve and promote the legacy of Stax Records, but also to embrace the present and help guide the future through the Stax Music Academy. Their commitment to establishing these new scholarships provides so much hope and opportunity for so many young music students that it will essentially change the trajectory of their lives as we prepare them to move forward with post-secondary education and thriving careers in the music industry.”