When we at the Soulsville Foundation say we are like one big family, we’re not just paying lip service and we are putting our money where our mouth is when it comes to hiring graduates of the Stax Music Academy and The Soulsville Charter School.
In 2013 we created the Stax Music Academy Alumni Band to offer graduates home on college break for summer the chance to spend some time not only continuing to bond with us and feel our support, but also honing their craft as professional musicians. We hired them to play for the summer at the Stax Museum on Tuesdays and they instantly got snapped up by B.B. King’s Blues Club on World Famous Beale Street to play during the daytime.
Our Soulsville Charter School College and Alumni Support Team (CAST) works tirelessly to not only prepare students for college life, but also to maintain contact with graduates to support them through college and other post-secondary pathways. In 2020, the Stax Music Academy created its Office of Student Success and Alumni Support and the results have been tremendous, with 100 percent of graduates receiving music scholarships to college in 2021.
One of our Soulsville Charter School graduates, Keosha Stewart (class of 2013), has recently joined the Stax Museum of American Soul Music at its new Education Manager. Keosha attended the Soulsville for six years before leaving us to attend Barnard College at Columbia University in New York, followed by stints in operations and assistant teaching at Libertas School and Memphis Delta Prep in Memphis.
In addition to Keosha Stewart, the following graduates now work for the Soulsville Foundation:
- Terrell Richmond, Stax Music Academy class of 2012, is now an SMA keyboard instructor. Fun fact: Terrell attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston on a full-tuition scholarship.
- Taylor White Colbridge, The Soulsville Charter School (TSCS) class of 2013, is now a teacher at the school. Fun fact: Taylor is an astute rugby star and spent much of 2022 in the United Kingdom playing for the Wigan Warriors. She is also married to our TSCS graphic design teacher and rugby coach Brian Colbridge.
- Brenae Johnson, Stax Music Academy (SMA) and Central High School graduate in 2016, is now the SMA Vocal Instructor. Fun fact: Brenae’s photo graced the cover of the exhibit guide accompanying celebrity photographer Simon Emmett’s first solo show in London in 2017.
- Jordan Harding, TSCS class of 2018 is now a Guest Service Representative at the Stax Museum. Fun fact: Jordan was the TSCS 2018 Valedictorian.
- Catherine Ealy, SMA and TSCS class of 2018, is now the SMA Registrar. Fun fact: Catherine was on the Stax Music Academy 2017 European Tour in France and the UK and traveled to Paris in 2021 to entertain audiences at the screenings of Soul Kids, a French documentary about the Stax Music Academy in which she starred.
- Sam Franklin, SMA and TSCS class of 2018, is now the SMA Lead Instrumental Instructor. Fun fact: Sam Franklin was also on the 2017 SMA European tour and is a triplet along with brothers Christopher and Jamaal.
- Christopher Franklin, SMA and TSCS class of 2018, now divides his time as a Guest Service Representative at the Stax Museum and the SMA Satellite Band Instrumental Instructor. Fun fact: Christopher Franklin, a triplet along with brothers Sam and Jamaal, was also on the 2017 Stax Music Academy European Tour and, with his brothers, provided the bass for Booker T. Jones’ rhythm section at a September 2022 event at the Stax Museum.
- Max Waldkirch, longtime SMA student and now attending Rhodes College, is SMA’s Production and Audio Engineering Intern. Fun fact: Max worked production at the SMA Summer Grand Finale take on Wattstax with original Wattstax organizer and former Stax Records owner Al Bell there to receive an award and watch the show.
- Morgan Cannon, Whitehaven High School and Stax Music Academy graduate in 2021, is now a Guest Service Representative at the Stax Museum. Fun fact: Morgan is also a talented photographer and often photographs events at the Stax Music Academy and Stax Museum.
- Christopher Clark, who graduated from TSCS and SMA in 2021, is now a Guest Service Representative at the Stax Museum and a volunteer at the Stax Music Academy. Fun fact: In November 2019, Chris was singled out to appear on the Ellen DeGeneres Show with his friend Justin Timberlake.
In addition, numerous Stax Music Academy and Soulsville Charter School students participate in 926, the Stax Music Academy Alumni Band, which is one of the most sought-after groups in Memphis and around the country, performing at the NEA’s Council for the Traditional Arts festivals, fundraisers, tributes to former Stax owner Al Bell, Stax Museum private rental occasions, citywide celebrations, and other events. We negotiate payment for each performance, which allows them to continue working as professional musicians. If you haven’t heard them around town, they are well worth a listen.
Many of our graduates who are now out in the world doing great things like winning singing competitions on television shows, touring with international artists, and winning ASCAP awards have also come back to conduct workshops with Stax Music Academy and Soulsville Charter School students, like Evvie McKinney, Derek Renfroe, Kirby Dockery, and others.