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VOL. 128 | NO. 208 | Thursday, October 24, 2013

Berklee City Music Network Conference Returns to Memphis

By Andy Meek

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A national music conference is headed to Memphis, bringing a variety of leaders in education and fundraising, plus youth groups and music teachers, to the Westin Memphis Beale Street Hotel and Minglewood Hall for a concert and master class.


The 2013 Berklee City Music Network Conference, to be held Oct. 28-30 and co-hosted by the Stax Music Academy, will focus on music education topics for students in underserved communities, addressing challenges and other issues they face. Those topics will include creative revenue streams and online learning, among other things.

Speakers scheduled to be at the conference include several national figures, such as Libby Lai-Bun Chiu, former director of the National Endowment for the Arts Education Leaders Institute, and Tuffus Zimbabwe, a Berklee City Music program graduate who’s also a pianist and keyboard player in the current Saturday Night Live band.

Also speaking will be Jeffrey C. Walker, co-author of “The Generosity Network,” Music Empowers Foundation founder Andrew Davis and former Memphis City Schools superintendent Dr. Carol Johnson. A theme of this year’s conference is how looking to current music prepares talented and underserved children to compete with more advantaged peers for college admission and scholarships, according to Berklee City Music executive director J. Curtis Warner.

“Berklee has this national conference every year,” said Tim Sampson, the Stax communications director. “They love Memphis, they consider it the music capital of the world, and they love it so much they said let’s have the conference here again like last year. They’ve also opened it up and made it free for college students. We have a really great relationship with Berklee and love that they’re having this here.”

Further underscoring Berklee’s affinity for the Bluff City, Berklee has held its annual regional summer music program auditions at the Stax Museum. Warner also has personally announced and given scholarships to Stax Music Academy students who earned them for Berklee’s five-week summer performance program.

The conference next week will include a full day dedicated to board development and fundraising topics, and other benefits for attendees include networking opportunities with arts educators and administrators from around the country. Broadway stage veteran Shoshana Bean and Soulsville Foundation president and chief creative officer Kirk Whalum will hold a master class for Berklee students, and there will be a variety of other live music performances.

Attendees also will get an opportunity to visit local attractions like Stax.

Whalum is a Grammy Award-winning artist who’s worked as a session player for major artists like Whitney Houston and Quincy Jones, and Bean appeared in the Tony Award-winning Broadway productions of “Hairspray” and “Wicked.” Also sharing their insights at the conference will be Warner in addition to Berklee College of Music president Roger Brown.

Students pursuing degrees in music education can attend for free, and the conference also is open to all educators and community program directors. The website berkleecitymusicnetwork.org includes complete registration information.

Berklee City Music is a nonprofit program that provides music education to students in grades four through 12 in underserved communities at 45 network sites, educating nearly 23,000 students across the country. Berklee City Music has provided more than 100 summer program scholarships this year and awarded 17 full scholarships to attend Berklee College of Music.

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