White House invites Soulsville students to music special - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

White House invites Soulsville students to music special

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

For Soulsville Academy and Charter School seniors Adrian Williams and Stephani Brownlee, it was a prank quickly forgiven.

"My teacher's like, ‘You guys are in trouble. You've been so bad;' and I was about to cry, like, ‘What did I do?'" Brownlee recounts, "And then he was like, ‘You're going to the White House.'"

Justin Timberlake, Al Green, Mavis Staples – They are just a few of the Memphis musicians performing for a White House music series, "In Performance at the White House: Memphis Soul."  The two Soulsville students have front row seats to the performances and an educational sidebar event.

"It's fulfilling to know that the same music that me and my peers sing, some great artists around the world will be singing the same music," says Williams, "Memphis music is timeless, I think Memphis music is soulful and it's just real. It's all about the feeling."

While these students grew up listening to and performing music originally produced in their backyard, Soulsville instructors say this trip will help them realize the reach Memphis music really has.

"I think they take for granted what it is that they have right here," says Vocal Director Justin Merrick, "We talk about the sacred soils of all the music that's been produced right here in this community, but when you get to see how it impacts the rest of the world and how highly revered it is, it broadens their mind."

The Soulsville students say they aren't only helping the White House as ambassadors, the White House is helping them; Brownlee says, "It's very important to have those leaders to help to recruit new kids and really just keep the legacy of Stax music alive."

"In Performance at the White House: Memphis Soul" is a PBS special taped in the East Room of the White House. President and Mrs. Obama will host the event on April 9; it will air on Tuesday, April 16 at 7 p.m. on PBS.

Williams and Brownlee are also celebrating academic achievements: Williams received full financial aid scholarships to Rhodes College, Connecticut College and Bates College, and Brownlee received a $250,000 scholarship to Brown University. Brownlee says she will be the first in her immediate family to go to college.

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