Symphony Soul Project

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FAQs: Symphony Soul Project

To support community revitalization in historic Soulsville USA, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra presented a series of FREE concerts during 2012-2013 at the Memphis Music Magnet facility, located at 879 East McLemore Avenue. The MSO, in partnership with Community LIFT, received generous funding from ArtPlace to support this work.

Question: What’s the best way for the Memphis Symphony Orchestra to celebrate 60 years of service?
Answer: By presenting a year of free programming in a real Memphis music neighborhood.

Question: What makes Soulsville USA a real Memphis music neighborhood?
Answer: In Memphis, where music is both legacy and industry, Soulsville is an authentic artistic asset. It is the Upper South Memphis community where Stax Records began, in the late-1950s, to craft an essential chapter in the American songbook – a place where musicians gave sound to soul in their homes, schools and churches. The streets of Soulsville resonate with decades of authentic Memphis music- making.

Question: But that’s all history - why go there now?
Answer: Soulsville lost its voice in the mid-1970s when Stax went out of business. Streets went quiet and people left. Fortunately for Memphis, the Stax Museum of American Soul rose from the studio’s vacant lot to become a catalyst for community interest and revitalization, and now the Stax Music Academy is training a new generation of Memphis musicians. These and other vibrant amenities, including the Renaissance Center at College Park, enhance the neighborhood’s historic assets – like Metropolitan Baptist Church, where civil rights leaders gathered after Dr. King was killed, and LeMoyne-Owen College, which began educating African-Americans in the 1800s.

Question: So how does the MSO fit into the Soulsville revitalization scene?
Answer: In February 2012, the MSO entered a partnership with Community LIFT to support Soulsville’s continuing re-development. Since its inception in 2010, Community LIFT has become an intermediary of collaboration and development that channels public and private funding toward resource-poor neighborhoods. In June 2012, the MSO / Community LIFT partnership received a highly coveted grant from ArtPlace, a national initiative that invests in community revitalization through the arts. Grant funds will be used to improve Soulsville’s music-focused infrastructure and fund a full season of free MSO concerts in the historic neighborhood.

At the heart of the MSO / Community LIFT partnership is a shared interest in the success of the Memphis Music Magnet. Originating as a research project of the Graduate Program in City and Regional Planning at the University of Memphis, the Memphis Music Magnet seeks to rehabilitate vacant neighborhood properties into a Soulsville community plan powered by the creativity and manpower of musicians. By attracting and supporting musicians, artistic products and the Memphis music industry, the plan breaks down barriers within and around the neighborhood to create an epicenter of cultural and commercial activity. MMM is designed to draw young, educated and vested residents, and provide opportunities for economic advancement. Visit to learn more about the plan.

Question: What exactly is the MSO doing with a year-long residency in Soulsville?
Answer: Throughout 2012-2013, the MSO will present concerts at the Magnet, a new performing arts facility in the heart of the community. Performances represent the full range of MSO offerings – classical, pops and the alternative series, Opus One. The Magnet at Soulsville is located at 879 East McLemore Avenue. The concerts are free, but come early – seating is limited!  In addition to bring in some of our performances outside of the concert hall and into the community, we will also be providing performances, storybook concets and workshops for the schools, daycares, afterschool programs and libraries in the area.  This residency gives the symphony the chance to truly focus on the 'soul' of this neighborhood, which is, at its core, both music and community.

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Administration (901) 537-2500
Fax (901) 537-2550

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