by Menthia P. Bradley
At Memphis Business Academy Middle and High Schools, we understand the importance of music and the arts in the enrichment of our Executives. We have always been supportive of the Executive Sounds Choir, under the direction of Joyclyn Wilson, and we have made important strides to develop that department. The issue, however, is that the department was limited in personnel and it needed to grow because students who are involved in music and the arts are more involved and engaged in school, have a higher level of school pride, and have better attendance. Therefore, we knew that developing this department would have immediate and lasting effects on the entire school climate.
We added the Executive Sounds Band, under the direction of Demetrius Pearson. He is doing an excellent job! But adding these departments we did not fully calculate the costs of uniforms, equipment, maintenance of those items, sheet music, travel, and personnel.
That is where we received an unexpected amazing blessing from MMI. As we were working to develop the music program, we were introduced to Lecolion Washington who told us about how artists are given this opportunity to work with students and to continue to hone their craft in a safe and protected community. I was so impressed. First, that artists have this space, and secondly that students are able to learn directly from musicians, vocalists, spoken word artists, and other talented people in the field who would share rich experiences and musical ingenuity. When I found out there was no cost to the schools, I literally jumped out of my seat! Other than my marriage license, I have never signed my name to something so fast!
Everything about MMI has been seamless. The process of choosing the fellows was so powerful — and difficult, because they are all so awesome! Going through the meetings and professional development sessions increased the collaboration with Mrs. Wilson and Mr. Pearson, allowed them to participate in an interview and “hiring” committee, and gave them the autonomy to choose the best fit to work with their departments. They know best who could help build their programs, what essential and specific strengths were needed to develop the Executives, and how well the individuals could work with their vision as the leaders of the MBA Music Departments. Having them involved gave more ownership into this budding partnership.
Our amazing fellows are Shayla Jones and Betty Lin Gallardo! They both bring such great skills, talent, diversity, and collaboration to our Music Department. These artists can be seen playing at programs, helping small groups, preparing lessons with the teachers, staying after school to practice with students, and sharing ideas with the teachers. At any class observation, I have been proud to see them deeply involved in student work and with the school body as a whole as they display talents to students.
The blessings don’t stop with the awesome personnel! The Executives were able to attend field trips, one to Nashville where they auditioned for the Tennessee State University Band! Two students will attend TSU on a full band and academic scholarship as a result of this field trip, sponsored by MMI. This summer, we also had a student who was chosen to be part of the MMI Works summer internship along with students from other MMI Schools!
MMI has been such an enrichment to the Memphis Business Academy Schools’ music program and academic vision for success. The combination of an awesome partnership and musicianship produced scholarships!
I am looking forward to continuing the work with MMI. Thank you for everything!
Dr. Menthia P. Bradley loves music and is very appreciative of the partnership with MMI! She knows the importance of the arts in the growth and development of students, including their engagement with students and themselves.She has been with Memphis Business Academy Schools for twelve years, serving as Principal of the Middle and High schools and now Chief Operating Officer.