Memphis is music. We’re known for our soul, hip hop, and blues, but we also have a rich marching band tradition; Memphis is home to the oldest high school band in the region. Despite this legacy, high school musicians have experienced declining access to music instruction in schools, and marching band programs are particularly difficult, and costly, to maintain. That means that once-popular traditions like the Battle of the Bands have been happening less and less.
But that’s changing.
Last month, the Oakhaven High School gym was filled with spectators for the school’s Battle of the Bands showcase—the first in years. The showcase was co-created by Oakhaven’s band director, Dean Jones, and MMI Fellow David Bassa, who is stationed at the school (Bassa developed the Oakhaven High School drumline with students he first worked with at Oakhaven Middle). Together, they planned and executed the showcase, spotlighting young musicians from six area high schools and four middle schools. Two of the participating schools, in addition to Oakhaven, are MMI partners through our In-Schools program.
MMI Fellow Coach Mike Mosby, who was in attendance on the day, said the vibe at Oakhaven was electric. “I was like, ‘Okay, these folks have been working.’ The gym was packed to capacity. It was a beautiful thing for the city.”
Take a look!