The Soulsville Foundation marked a milestone Friday morning in Studio A of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.
Kicking off the Stax 10-year anniversary "Soulebration" were celebrities, dignitaries, politicians and The Peabody Ducks marking the decade since the museum opened its doors and established itself as a key destination for tourists and music lovers.
The event, which also spotlighted the foundation's Stax Music Academy and Soulsville Charter School, looked forward as well with announcements of several anniversary-related events, new interactive exhibits at the museum and a capital campaign for new construction at the charter school.
Grammy-winning saxophonist Kirk Whalum, who performed with academy students at the event, is also the chief creative officer for the foundation. "We're in a campus here that celebrates looking behind, looking at what's happening now, and looking ahead," he said. "To me that's a trifecta of beauty and significance, the fact that we have folks here who were here when the music was being made."
He pointed out Stephani Brownlee, a senior at the charter school and member of the academy who is getting a full scholarship to Brown University. "Those people who were here before are now able to say, 'Look at this kid who is not only playing piano in the band but is going to Brown and be a scholar.' That story is being multiplied many times over, but seldom do you see those narratives in this proximity that we can celebrate and get involved."
U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell were on hand to present proclamations praising the foundation. Also attending were Stax luminaries David Porter, Ben Cauley, James Alexander and Wayne Jackson.
Among upcoming events are the Stax Music Academy's "The Sacred Side of Soulsville" at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts in February; a tribute concert in March for the late Donald "Duck" Dunn of Booker T. and the MGs with Steve Cropper; and a "Macon to Memphis Tour" in September arranged by the Otis Redding Foundation and the museum.
Tim Sampson, the foundation's communications director, said about $5 million has been raised by the foundation to build new structures at the charter school and that a 2013 capital campaign is being launched to come up with another $5 million to complete the project, which includes adding a building for a gymnasium and cafeteria.