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Justin Timberlake, Stax Music Academy perform in Memphis as part of Biden inaugural celebration

Memphis music and Stax Music Academy were front and center during President Joe Biden’s inaugural festivities on Wednesday night.

Memphis-area native Justin Timberlake was one of the top billed stars on the “Celebrating America” broadcast. The 90-minute special, hosted by Oscar winner Tom Hanks, also featured performances by Foo Fighters, Katy Perry and John Legend, among others.

Timberlake duetted with up-and-coming artist Ant Clemons on their recently released single, “Better Days”. The segment was shot in and around the South Memphis campus of Soulsville, home to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, and historic site of Stax Records. The students of Stax Music Academy were also featured, serving as the backing choir for the performance.

The performance, which was a tightly guarded secret, was filmed earlier this month.

The segment saw Clemons and a group of backing musicians — led by Emmy-nominated musical director Adam Blackstone — set up in Stax’s Studio A, with Timberlake winding through the museum’s halls before joining them. Timberlake and Clemons eventually took their performance outside to McLemore Avenue, where they were joined by the students of Stax Music Academy.

“The fact that the Stax Museum and Stax Music Academy were chosen by Justin Timberlake, Ant Clemons and the Presidential Inaugural Committee to represent Memphis, Tennessee in the 2021 presidential inauguration, speaks not only volumes about the power, magic, and timelessness of soul music, but also casts a bright light on the work we have been doing here at the Soulsville Foundation for more than 20 years now”, said Richard Greenwald, Soulsville Foundation President and CEO.

Greenwald added, “We are grateful to our friend Justin Timberlake for embracing our mission and genuinely caring about the young people with whom we work every day”.

Since becoming a global pop star, Timberlake has been a major supporter of various Memphis music initiatives including Stax.

In 2019, Timberlake established formal ties with the Stax Music Academy when, as part of a Levi’s-funded effort, he installed a new $200,000 songwriting lab in the academy and conducted a camp for students. Timberlake also pledged $100,000 toward a scholarship fund for academy students over the next four years.

That December, Timberlake celebrated the school and its students as part of an NBC-TV holiday special with Ellen DeGeneres, where Stax Music Academy was presented with a $250,000 check and an additional $50,000 scholarship to one of its students.

The Commercial Appeal

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