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Concord Establishes $1 Million Scholarship Fund for Stax Music Academy

Stax Music Academy
Courtesy of SMA

Stax Music Academy

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of Stax Music Academy (SMA), Stax Records owner Concord is pledging $1 million to fund scholarships to attend the Memphis institute, Billboard has learned.

Over the next five school years, the Concord Stax Scholarships will cover full tuition for at least 20 students each year.

Awarded by the Stax Music Academy based on financial need and merit, the scholarships presented to each student will bear the name of a legendary Stax Records artist or executive. The list thus far includes Stax founder Jim Stewart, former owner Al Bell and former director of publicity Deanie Parker as well as signature artists Otis Redding, William Bell and members of the iconic solo and house band Booker T. and the MG’s. Additional names will be revealed at a later date.

In the months leading up to the COVID-19 global pandemic, Concord, its friends and extended family donated $450,000 to SMA parent the Soulsville Foundation to provide critical funding for SMA students, instructors and programming. Now as part of its scholarship fund, Concord and its partners — PULSE Music Group, Creative Titans, Hang Your Hat Music and Easy Eye Sound — will continue to extend their philanthropic efforts to underwrite potential workshops on A&R, songwriting and music tech, remote internship programs and an annual trip to its Nashville headquarters.

In a joint statement announcing the scholarships, Concord’s chairman Steve Smith and CEO Scott Pascucci commented in part, “It’s been 60 years since Estelle Axton and Jim Stewart named their fledgling music company Stax Records. The Soulsville Foundation was inspired to create the Stax Music Academy some 40 years later. 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.”

Parker, also the founding/retired president and CEO of the Soulsville Foundation, said, “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. Concord’s support of SMA mirrors that of Stax’s investment in us when Booker T. Jones, Carla Thomas, Steve Cropper and Otis Redding were just budding artists. 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 noted, “We’re 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.”

Launched in 2000 and operated by the Soulsville Foundation, SMA engages and inspires youth from under-served communities in the greater Memphis area through an afterschool and summer slate of music education and special programs. To date, SMA has taught music theory, composition and music business basics to more than 4,000 students. In the last 12 years, its graduates have scored a 100% college acceptance rate, with 67% of the SMA class of 2020 earning college music scholarships. Most recently, SMA students performed alongside Justin Timberlake and Ant Clemons during the Biden inauguration television special, Celebrating America.