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Rhodes College students teach the 'music of Memphis' to local students

Jim Weber / The Commercial Appeal via AP

Sixth grader Kenyatta Davis, 11, rests her head on her guitar as she learns a new chord from Rhodes College music student Stephanie Milazzo during a meeting of the Cypress Guitar Club, Jan. 24, 2012, at Cypress Middle School in Memphis, Tenn.

Rhodes College faculty member, John Bass, says the Cypress Guitar Club is an afterschool program sponsored by the Mike Curb Institute for Music, an endowed institute at Rhodes College whose mission is to research, preserve, and promote the music of Memphis and the surrounding region. The institute gives students the opportunity to interact with Memphis music in a variety of ways, from research and archival work, to performing and outreach opportunities, which the guitar club is an example of.

Jim Weber / The Commercial Appeal via AP

Sixth graders learn a new song on Jan. 24, 2012 at Cypress Middle School. The music club has more than doubled in size since it started last year by Rhodes College faculty member John Bass, who along with two assistants, teaches the after school program twice a week.

“It is a service opportunity for us and a way for us to work directly with the city in which we reside through music,” said Bass.

Cypress Middle School is one of Rhodes’ Learning Corridor Schools, and has historically been a school with many challenges. The Commercial Appeal reports that the school received failing grades in reading, math, social studies and science on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests in 2010 and 2011.

There are 12 students enrolled in the guitar club. There is no fee for joining, but membership is determined by the administration of Cypress based on their interest in music, grades, attendance, and behavior. Guitars are provided to the students free of charge and were acquired through a grant written by the Cypress band director.

“We have several very talented students who are progressing at a very high level,” said Bass.

The club performed twice at Cypress school assemblies last semester and is scheduled to perform at Rhodes and in the community this term. In addition, one of the senior members of the club performed solo at a presentation at Rhodes last May and served as a junior counselor at a music camp hosted by the college last July.

Bass says, “It is a program we are proud of, and think it highlights our institutional goals of not only providing a first-rate liberal arts education for our students, but also helping them to engage with the community and become better citizens.”

Rhodes has been ranked as the #1 Most Service Oriented School in the Nation by Newsweek for the past 2 years.


The Commercial Appeal in Memphis reports:

A 2009 study published in the journal Psychology of Music found that elementary-school children exposed to a multi-year program of music tuition displayed superior cognitive performance in certain reading skills compared with their non-musically trained peers.

Rhodes mathematics major and guitar tutor Will Lang, 21, said the work has given him a greater appreciation for teaching. One of his pupils, Cedric Wells, 12, said learning guitar was harder than he had expected, but he wants to stick with it and play during this year's school talent show.