Talented teens from the Stax Music Academy will show off homegrown R & B next weekend in Berlin, Germany. Standout students will provide live entertainment for the opening reception of “Memphis Exhibition Berlin” at Gibson Guitar Showroom in Berlin on September 28th. Organized by Berliners Clemens Gubernath and Jacqueline Mende, the exhibit showcases Memphis music with film clips, photos, clothing, as well as other memorabilia that traces the history of Beale Street and the Sun and Stax Records labels.
It’s an exciting opportunity for the nine musicians, who were selected by their teachers for the honor. The group includes Brandon Chornes, drums, Tia Henderson, vocalist; Justin Hicks, vocalist; Alan Maguire, bass; Carl Maguire, drums; Tangela Matthis, vocalist; Evvye McKinney, vocalist; Grantham Moore, keyboards; and Jeremy Wright, guitar. Many of the students attend Soulsville Charter School. After the opening reception, the ensemble will perform for the public September 29th.
“American culture has been very prominent in Germany since the 1950s," notes Gubernath. "We want European visitors to experience this and learn what a unique city Memphis is, not only because of its history but also because of the way the people there have embraced it with world-class attractions like Sun Studio, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, and Elvis Presley’s Graceland."
Prior to the trip, teens Carl and Alan Maguire spoke to us about their pending adventure. The 16- year-old twins are seniors at Houston High School, where they sing in the Concert Choir. The boys enrolled in the Stax Music Academy’s after-school jazz program following their family's move to Memphis from Hong Kong last year.
Memphis Parent magazine: What aspects of Memphis music do you look forward to showing off? “Stax is known for its energy,” Alan says. “That's the main reason people like Stax. And our group is really energetic.” "We’ll play 18 songs by Stax artists," adds Carl, "people like Eddie Floyd, Otis Redding, the Bar-Kays, Tina Turner, and Aretha Franklin. I like to play all genres, but I really love soul music."
Academy students tour internationally and play many top concert venues in the U.S. What are some other advantages? “We get to perform with famous artists like Grammy-award winner Kirk Whalum," says Alan. "And famous people do workshops. We have performed with Larry Dodson, the lead singer from the Bar-Kays.”
What was your musical background before enrolling at the Stax Academy of Music? “When we were 11, we played bass and drums with our older brother, Kevin,” says Carl. “At 14, we started a rock band in Hong Kong with two of our friends. The rock band got me interested in music. We tried all sorts of stuff and then ended up writing our own songs.”What do you hope to gain from this experience? “I’d like to see different cultures and understand them better,” says Carl. “Our mother is Japanese, and when we visit Japan every summer, we attend a local Japanese school.” Alan adds, “We were born in Tokyo and moved to Hong Kong when we were 3. In Hong Kong, we attended American and British international schools. Our family has traveled to New Zealand, France, Australia, Holland, Belgium, Italy, and Japan.”Is music your first passion? “Pretty much,” says Alan. “We practice three days each week after school with the Stax Academy and also take private music lessons. We’re hoping to go to Berklee College of Music [in Boston]."