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For the Grizz and Stax, the beat goes on

  • Written by Kelley Evans
  • Published in News

The Memphis Grizzlies and the Stax Music Academy hosted the annual pre-event leading up to Staxtacular 2011.
Kelley Evans

Responsibility is part of the package deal when one becomes a celebrity, with some warming to the task better than others. Four stars seemingly comfortable with their roles showed that on Tuesday (March 8) as the Memphis Grizzlies and the Stax Music Academy hosted the annual pre-event leading up to Staxtacular 2011.

Grammy Award winner and Soulsville CEO Kirk Whalum, who noted the importance of celebs exemplifying responsibility, introduced Grizz players Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay.

“I think it is invaluable. I believe some of these kids are going to be stars. They’re going to be celebrities. They need to know now that there are two kinds of celebrities,” said Whalum. “There is irresponsible and there is responsible and they get to see first-hand responsible.”

Grizz players Mike Conley (left) and Marc Gasol work their dance floor moves. (Photos by Kelley Evans)

Kirk Whalum
Soulsville CEO Kirk Whalum pitched the value of responsible celebrities.

The fourth annual pre-event took place at the Stax Museum, where the seventh annual Staxtacular fundraiser hosted by Conley, Gasol, Gay and Zach Randolph will be held on Friday.

The evening was filled with the melodies of a full band of students under the direction of Paul McKinney.

“These students are learning the fundamental theory, they’re getting unique performance opportunities, and we’re teaching them professional practices,” said McKinney, adding that the students come from throughout the city.

Baye Slappy, a 17-year-old pianist, said he once was told that he never would perform at such an event. “Guess I showed them,” he said. “The Stax Academy has helped me out a lot. I love being here. It’s like a family away from home,” said the Soulsville Charter School eleventh-grader.

“You get to meet new people and experience new genres of music. It’s really a life changing experience. It teaches me self discipline, how to listen and how to be patient with people.”

The pre-event is an opportunity for players to spend some time with the students and it gives Staxtacular 2011 event sponsors an opportunity to spend some time with the players, said Jenny Koltnow, executive director for Memphis Grizzlies Charitable Foundation.

“We’ve had a great collaboration seven years going strong. Staxtacular is the most prominent manifestation in this partnership,” said Koltnow. “While our players may not be musicians, I think they just really can appreciate what the academy is doing for the kids and see that what basketball has been for them is what music is to those kids, and it can grow and open doors to other opportunities.”

Conley and Gay have hosted the event since each joined the team.

“It’s for these kids and their development and giving them a better opportunity to achieve dreams that they may not have been able to do before,” said Conley. “It’s just an opportunity to mingle with them and mingle with the sponsors and get to see everybody face to face.”

Conley has been learning to play the piano for a year. “Just from me trying to learn how to play the piano and to see these kids at a young age being so much more talented than I am is unbelievable. I have so much respect for them and the work ethic they have to have to stay focused. I’m getting better, but I’m still a beginner.”

Koltnow said the players and their wives sowed the seeds for Staxtacular in 2004 and that it continues today with the support of active Grizz players.

Stax Academy students and Grizzlies players
A full band of students under the direction of Paul McKinney interacted with Grizz players Conley, Gasol and Rudy Gay at the Staxtacular pre-event.

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