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Stax Music Academy Changes its Tune on Music Education

Schools switching to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic is the new normal. But what about when you have kids that need to learn how to play music instruments and perform together?  Stax Music Academy has blazed new ground by taking music instruction online.  And it’s not just for Stax students anymore!

Practice Makes Perfect

The old adage “practice makes perfect” may sound like a cliche, but the instructors at Stax Music Academy live by it.  They believe that even a pandemic shouldn’t keep you from perfecting your saxophone skills.  That’s why Stax Music Director Paul McKinney came up with the “Soul Practice Chops” series— tutorial videos and sheet music that students can use to practice their different instruments while learning to play classic Stax songs like “Soul Man”.

As part of this series, two free virtual music courses launched in April:

  • Production 101 teaches the fundamentals of music production, using online software at home.  Working with a professional music producer, students learn the ins and outs of developing a song from arranging songs to recording and layering instruments.
  • Band 101 uses class collaboration online to build skill sets with instruments and focuses on different technique styles, sight-reading, and improvising.

Recognizing a need for music students across the city, Stax decided to make these classes and practice sessions available to everyone!  Middle school and high school students throughout Memphis and the surrounding region, regardless of where they go to school, can register for these free classes or they can access the “Soul Practice Chops” videos online anytime. 

Check out some of the videos provided in these courses below:

Paul McKinney helps students learn trumpet lines to the iconic Stax Records hit “Soul Man,” as played by Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love of The Memphis Horns.

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Steven Prince Tate, choreographer of Playhouse on the Square’s production of “Ain’t Misbehavin’”, gets vocalists up and dancing during class.

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Songwriting Challenge

In addition to making music instruction accessible, Stax also wanted to continue fostering an environment where students can showcase their creativity through music. Students have been encouraged to use songwriting to express their thoughts and emotions around quarantine.

Stax started a weekly songwriting contest where students work at home to create new material around current themes.  Each week a winner is chosen, and their song is featured on social media. 

Some of the incredible performances include the following:

Kennedy Ray performers her original song “Nighttime.”

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Vincent Burns, a senior at Stax was the 4th Songwriting Challenge winner. His newest album titled “Take A Second”, is now streaming everywhere.

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Brianna Hines, Week 2 winner, performs her original song “Safer at Home,” and her lyrics are some we can all relate to. 

“I need a breath of fresh air 

I can’t do this

Corona is on everyone’s mind

Quarantine got these people losin’ their mind

I’m just safer at home”

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This year Stax Music Academy is celebrating its 20th Anniversary in what is arguably the strangest year in its history. But the pandemic will not slow them down or deter them from their mission. Stax is still committed to giving its students what they need to grow and process what’s happening in the world around them. 

Their new virtual approach to music education means that students keep learning and creating during the chaos. Using online tools, they can keep up with not only their class work, but also with rehearsals and auditions so they’ll be ready for performances. 

Unfortunately, Stax students and their families have been some of the hardest hit by the current economic crisis. In response, they have started online mental health counseling and peer counseling for their students, and they’ve suspended tuition payments for families in financial stress. 

In order to offset the costs for these relief services, Stax launched the #MusicMustContinue campaign. They need to raise $16,000 in the next few weeks to help pay off outstanding tuition balances so that students and their families have one less worry.

You can be a meaningful part of this caring community that needs help. To support the #MusicMustContinue campaign, visit their fundraising page and make a donation today!

To learn more, check out their video:

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Keep up with how Stax students are doing by following them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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