The Commercial Appeal, Thursday, April 15, 2010
By Bob Mehr
Grammy-winning jazz saxophonist and music educator Kirk Whalum has been named president and CEO of the Memphis-based Soulsville Foundation.
On Thursday, following a long search, the board of Soulsville — which includes the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, the Stax Music Academy and The Soulsville Charter School — formally announced Whalum’s appointment.
Whalum takes over for longtime Soulsville head Deanie Parker. Parker originally retired from her post in late 2007, but returned last year in an interim capacity after the departure of her replacement, Marc Willis.
In addition to Whalum’s appointment, Memphis businessman Mark Wender has joined Soulsville as the foundation’s chief operating officer.
The 51-year-old Whalum is no stranger to Soulsville, having grown up in the famed South Memphis neighborhood and having served as the Stax Music Academy’s artist in residence since 2006.
“I felt I was already invested in Soulsville on so many levels,” said Whalum. “And so it was a matter of asking myself, ‘Is this something you can do?’ And the answer was yes.”
“I just really wanted to qualitatively invest — more so than I was doing as artist in residence — in the Soulsville kids and community,” said Whalum.
Although Whalum will continue to record and tour, his new duties at Soulsville will mean a change in his performance obligations. “I’m 51, and I’ve been out here traveling for 25 years or more, and I’ve gotten to the point where I’m actually ready to scale back a little,” said Whalum.
Wender’s résumé includes service as chief operating officer of National Mortgage Co./Boatman’s National Mortgage Co. from 1981 to 1997. Also, for more than a decade starting in the late-’90s, Wender was the owner and president of Lunar Productions, a corporate marketing and communications company based in Memphis.
In addition, Wender is one of the founders of Memphis Jewish High School, and he has served on a number of nonprofit boards, including the Memphis Jewish Federation and the Center for Southern Folklore.
The 53-year-old Wender, who began his job Wednesday, is optimistic about the future of Soulsville. “It’s going to take a lot of work and dedication, but Kirk will provide the vision and the contacts, and he’ll be a great ambassador for Soulsville,” said Wender.
“Hopefully we can build on the great legacy of Stax to create an outstanding environment for the children. We want to make this the premier music academy, the premier museum. That’s our goal.”
— Bob Mehr: 529-2517