IU Soul Revue meets with Stax Music Academy students during recent visit to Memphis

Guest post courtesy of IU Soul Revue member Bruce Anderson IV:

Editor’s note: IU Soul Revue, under the direction of Tyron Cooper, recently traveled to Memphis, Tenn. with the support of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs. Despite treacherous weather, the group was able to perform and meet with high school students at the Stax Music Academy. This visit, a 2014 trip and the Stax students’ visit to IU last fall are all part of a blossoming bond between the two schools. 

Wednesday, March 4

The IU Soul Revue band, vocalists and crew arrived at the Neil-Marshall Black Culture Center loading dock at 6:30 a.m. to board the bus and prepare for the trip to Memphis, Tenn.

Welcome Indiana University

The Rock and Soul Museum offers a warm welcome.

Upon Dr. Cooper’s request, the male students were given the task of loading the musical equipment and luggage into the bus’ storage compartments. By 7:30 a.m., we were off toward Memphis.

During the seven-hour drive, most of the band members and singers relaxed and listened to music. Some slept, while others talked and enjoyed the company of their classmates. The bus driver, Les, was very prompt and ensured that we arrived to our destination on time, in spite of the icy conditions in Tennessee.

After an hour or so of engaging conversation and fellowship during lunch at Subway, we were instructed that it was time to board the bus and continue our journey to Memphis. Though the ride often felt never-ending, we eventually arrived at the Memphis Rock and Soul Museum at 4 p.m. You could feel the excitement fill the bus as everyone prepared to learn about the history of rock ‘n’ roll, soul and blues.

Bruce Anderson IV sings in IU Soul Revue.

Bruce Anderson IV sings in IU Soul Revue, one of the ensembles of the African American Arts Institute.

At the Rock and Soul Museum, I was amazed to learn about the rich musical history of Memphis and how it gave birth to the genres of blues and rock ‘n’ roll. I was also blown away by the humble beginnings of music legends like Elvis Presley, Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes and Jerry Lee Lewis. I took pictures of various artifacts, including the first working electric guitar, old jukeboxes, and outfits worn by various celebrities during their prime. The museum provided the IU Soul Revue with the opportunity to embrace the past and gain an understanding of the lives of those who shaped Memphis’ musical culture.

At 7:30 p.m. we headed to B.B. King’s Blues Club on Beale Street. The food was excellent, and the talented bands playing at the restaurant motivated everyone to get up on their feet and dance. The IU Soul Revue did not hesitate to get on the dance floor and show Memphis how we groove up north at Indiana University! The band for the night was interactive and sang songs that were well-known by the vocalists and members of the Soul Revue.

Thursday, March 5

On Thursday morning, I joined everyone downstairs for breakfast. We were notified that school was canceled at Stax Music Academy and that we would have to wait for further instruction to see what we were going to do for the day.

Stax Record Co.

Stax Record Company was known for its soulful sound.

In the meantime, several of the vocalists and I watched television and rehearsed for the upcoming performance.Some band members searched for quiet areas where they could practice and work on scales. Even though school was canceled, the members of the IU Soul Revue continued working on improving their crafts and learning about Memphis.

Most restaurants were closed because of the weather. With the help of Joii Cooper, performance manager for the African American Arts Institute, and Gloria Howell, road manager for the IU Soul Revue, we were able to find a place to eat for dinner. We were well-fed at a restaurant called Local on Main Street.

Friday, March 6

On Friday morning, the IU Soul Revue members and crew packed all of their luggage and checked out of Doubletree Hotel in downtown Memphis. I made sure not to use my voice because of the performance. Everyone boarded the bus in expectation for the show at LeMoyne-Owen College that night.

Asia Crawford

Asia Crawford performs in Memphis.

We arrived to Gus’s restaurant for lunch at 11:30 a.m. and of course were blown away by the food and spirit of Memphis. Dr. Cooper informed everyone that the college was closed because of bad weather and that we would instead perform at the Stax Music Academy at 5 p.m. We were instructed of the attire for the concert (our black Soul Revue shirts and jeans) and gathered together once more to prepare for a great show.

The performance went extremely well! Our hard work and practice paid off, and it was great to see the audience involved and moved by the music. The high school students stood the entire show and knew every song, making the concert a communal event. It was fun to do what I love and see that other people felt the same joy that I receive from performing and singing. It was also good to be an example to high school students and encourage them to go to college and pursue what they love.

At the end of the concert, the Soul Revue members had the opportunity to interact with the students from Stax and share experiences and contact information. The high schoolers were excited and said they were inspired by the performance and looked forward to going to IU in the future. It’s an amazing feeling to know that you made a difference in the life of another person, and we were filled with humility and happiness at the positive response we received from the Stax students.

IU Soul Revue

IU Soul Revue performs at the Stax Music Academy.

The trip was excellent! The IU Soul Revue was able to bond, not only with one another but with the students from Stax Music Academy. The food was delicious, and we were truly captivated by the spirit of music that surrounds Memphis. I learned more about blues music than ever before and had the opportunity to see some of history’s most well-known music artifacts and interact with people who love music just as much as I do. I can’t wait to return to Memphis again soon!

Bruce Anderson IV is a junior from Gary, Ind., who is studying psychology with a minor in counseling. He has been in IU Soul Revue for four semesters, volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club and serves at his local church.

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