Memphis keeps getting shine in the media — one of the latest being the Stax Music Academy blowing up the stage on Ellen DeGeneres’ “Greatest Night of Giveaways” on NBC Thursday night.
By the time it was over, one young musician had tickets to the Grammys and a scholarship to “Grammy Camp” to go with a $50,000 gift. Stax Music Academy also tore up the stage with a rendition of Soul Man. Oh, and Ellen has apparently donated $250,000 to Stax! From a statement at StaxMusicAcademy.org:
On Thursday, December 12, 2020, the Stax Music Academy was featured on the final night of NBC’s three-night holiday special, “Ellen’s Greatest Night of Giveaways,” during which Ellen DeGeneres and a host of her celebrity friends surprised people with incredible unexpected gifts. Celebrities included Michelle Obama, Jennifer Aniston, Justin Timberlake, Robert Downey Jr., Melissa McCarthy, Michael B. Jordan, Jason Momoa, Christy Teigen, and many others.
Justin Timberlake, who in August 2019, with the Levi’s Music Project, installed a songwriting lab in the Stax Music Academy and spent two days with the students working on original music, surprised the students on the show with Ellen and joined her in giving one Stax Music Academy student a cash gift for his college fund, along with other prizes for the students who performed the Stax classic “Soul Man” on the show and a $250,000 donation to the Stax Music Academy. Academy staff and students were unaware of Timberlake’s involvement or the donations until the segment was taped.
“As one thing led to another,” says Stax Music Academy executive director Pat Mitchell Worley, “and we found ourselves traveling to Los Angeles in late October to be on a special show with Ellen DeGeneres. This kind of national exposure is what our students and staff work so hard to achieve and it was a great, confidence-building experience for them. It was a lesson for the students in just what heights they can achieve if they stay focused, work hard, and practice whether they plan to be a professional musician or any other endeavor they pursue in life.”
Richard Greenwald, President and CEO of the Soulsville Foundation that oversees the Stax Music Academy along with the Stax Museum of American Soul Music and The Soulsville Charter School, says, “We couldn’t have imagined a better way to kick off the Stax Music Academy’s upcoming 20th anniversary and we so appreciate for everything Justin Timberlake has done and continues to do for us, especially helping us establish this new relationship with the Levi’s Music project and now helping us with this opportunity with Ellen DeGeneres. We have set a fundraising goal of $1 million for the coming year and this will certainly help us get to that goal. We hope the momentum is just beginning and we look forward to all we have planned in 2020.”
The Stax Music Academy hosted a small, informal watch party in its band suite for students, families, and friends, who screamed and cheered while someone passed around a mammoth box of Kleenex.
Check it out for yourself:
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) December 13, 2019
And Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland couldn’t stop tweeting about the night:
All I can say is wow! As they always do, @staxacademy brought the house down. So happy for the students who performed, and thanks so much to @jtimberlake and @theellenshow for making it happen. #EllensGreatestNight
— Mayor Jim Strickland (@MayorMemphis) December 13, 2019
What an amazing night for students from @StaxAcademy! If you missed their performance on #EllensGreatestNight check it out below. Special thanks to @jtimberlake and @TheEllenShow! https://t.co/HAV9ZbCv4m
— City of Memphis (@CityOfMemphis) December 13, 2019