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VOL. 129 | NO. 38 | Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Visible Appeal

Visible Music College tells brand story far beyond Memphis

By Andy Meek

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At one point a few days ago, the performance space at Visible Music College near the front entrance to the school was booming with raucous applause and with the strains of musicians performing, cutting loose and using the stage to explore the range of their musical talents.

Ra-Chard Tucker from The Nottingham Emmanuel School watches a video while instructor Michelle Smith looks over the wall of Freedom Award winners at the National Civil Rights Museum.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

A group of students hailing from the United Kingdom – where they attend Emmanuel School, in Nottingham – was in the audience. They’d come to hear this, to study Visible – all the academic nooks and crannies of the institution – as well as to venture outside its four walls. They also took in landmarks around the city, learning about iconic Memphis destinations like the National Civil Rights Museum.

It wasn’t out of step for Visible to play host to the British high school students or to serve as a temporary global ambassador for theirs and Memphis’ brand. Indeed, Visible touts four planks to the college’s mission – spiritual, professional and academic are the obvious ones, the college explains.

The fourth item on that list, though, is global.

Scott Lencke, the college’s operations manager, pointed out that the student body already includes students from far beyond Memphis, with some coming from places like the Caribbean and Europe.

Some of the students from Nottingham who visited Visible might end up at the college. The goal of the trip, though, was broader than that.

“It was for them to see what’s going on at the college and to experience music education in a music city like Memphis,” Lencke said.

Most people, he added, may not be aware of how the footprint – and the brand awareness – of the school extends beyond Memphis. One way Visible plans to see enrollment growth, for example, is through partners and teaching sites around the county and around the world, and that includes places like Schal Werk Stadt, a partner campus in Holden, Germany.

That campus opened in the fall of 2011. The school’s broad push beyond Memphis continues this year, with a Chicago campus opening this fall.

The students from Nottingham were in Memphis Feb. 15-22 for what was a follow-up to a trip of students here from the same school in 2009.

Instructor Michelle Smith, left, with 12th-year students from The Nottingham Emmanuel School toured the National Civil Rights Museum during their visit to Memphis.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

The connection between the two schools was forged by a meeting at a music festival in Hungary between Visible president and founder Ken Steorts and Andy Wolfe, a teacher at Emmanuel School. Wolfe said he and Steorts felt there was “a real commonality of values” between the two institutions, both of which are faith-based, and they wanted to explore ways they could work together.

For that previous trip, Wolfe and another Emmanuel teacher accompanied a group of a dozen 17- and 18-year-olds for a week visiting with Visible students and faculty.

“The benefits were huge, in relation to their (academics), and they received outstanding feedback from their examiners in the U.K. for the work they had done,” Wolfe said, adding that the students were inspired in a big way by the people they met and places they visited in Memphis.

This time, Wolfe’s colleagues Michelle Smith and Neal Osgood accompanied students on the trip. During the week, in addition to sightseeing, the students also experienced a microcosm of the Visible student experience, working on songwriting, performance and recording.

Visible is always looking at new ways to expose more students to the offerings of the school, which Steorts founded in 2000 and which moved to its Downtown campus in the summer of 2011.

This summer, for example, Visible is introducing Visible Music Week, an intensive weeklong music program for students in a range of age groups to be held at both Visible’s Memphis and Chicago campus locations.

Basically, it involves Visible condensing the elements of a semester into one week – so, it’s a way for students to get a feel for Visible and to experience things like music theory, devotionals and the opportunity to play in student bands, work out tunes and record them.

Participants also will get to stay in student housing. And applications for the program will be open to students from across the country and around the globe.

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