Rhodes College
Mellon Innovation Fellowship Program

Music and Community in Memphis

John Bass
Director of the Mike Curb Institute for Music
2014-2015 Fellow

In 2015, John Bass and the Curb Institute created a new class called “Music and Community in Memphis”. Over the past two years, over 30 students have taken the class and the experience has not only given them new experience with various community partners, but also has led to greater development for the Curb Institute.

Students come to the class from various majors and backgrounds and work in teams based on their area of interest—video production, audio production, PR/marketing, archival work, news and research, and community engagement. Class sessions are used as a time for reflection with the students and for them to see how all of their work connects together. Among the projects that have come from the class and become core parts of the Curb Institute are:

The Audubon Sessions
A house concert series filmed at Elvis Presley’s first purchased home in Memphis. Students work hand-in-hand with professionals to produce all aspects of the program. The show airs nationally on public arts television (anchored by the NECAT network in Nashville), and at www.audubonsessions.org

The Curb Institute Community Recording Space
Among the student desires that came out of the class was the need for a space on campus for students to come together to make music and be creative together. Through this effort, the Harris Lodge (home to the Curb Institute) has been converted into a space where music can be recorded, audio/video production can take place, and students can meet to work on projects related to Memphis music.

Curb Institute Community Engagement
Through students’ work in the class, the Curb Institute has begun the process of providing scaffolding and support for students and faculty interested in engaging the community through music. The institute sponsors an afterschool music club at Sherwood Middle School, but also helps connect these efforts to other classes with community components, students doing internships with music organizations, and service opportunities in Memphis related to music.

Curb Digital Archive
In collaboration with ITS, and the DPS team, Curb students are working to preserve and archive unique collections related to Memphis music. Among these projects are a set of oral histories by Stax artists, the digitization of The Memphis Star (a trade publication from the 1980s and 1990s), and a series of sermons and works by Revered William H. Brewster

Curb Newsletter
Students have been writing and disseminating a monthly newsletter detailing the activity of the Curb Institute.

PR and Marketing Plan
Curb students work in conjunction with local PR firm Signal Flow PR to develop marketing strategies for Curb Institute activities and manage the Institute’s various social media platforms.

John Bass
Director of the Mike Curb Institute for Music

Dr. Bass, Director of the Mike Curb Institute for Music at Rhodes, is an active researcher of the musical traditions of Memphis and works as a professional guitarist in the Memphis area.