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NBA Foundation: Memphis Music Initiative uplifts youth through music

NBA Foundation grantee Memphis Music Initiative aims to inspire Black and Brown youth through music.

Memphis Music Initiative emphasizes the importance of music in the development of Black and Brown youth.

“Memphis is synonymous with music.”

These are the words of Kathy Lindenmayer, the Director of Development for the nonprofit Memphis Music Initiative (MMI). “You don’t hear that word without thinking about music, without thinking about the powerful soundtrack that has accompanied American history.”

Due to the rich musical history Memphis has – and how it pertains to Black and Brown people – Memphis Music Initiative was created in order to boost opportunities for Black and Brown youth through music and to help recenter the story of music back to its roots.

The NBA Foundation, which is devoted to driving economic opportunity and empowerment in the Black community, has selected Memphis Music Initiative as one of its grant recipients.

Since its 2016 launch, MMI has provided a plethora of different experiences and aid to give its students the foundation to be successful, and also hone in on their creativity.

Some of its programs include mentorship by professional musicians, collaborating with more than 45 different schools and more than 4,000 students.

The organization also provides paid internships, where it employs over 40 young people in 18 different organizations. Most recently, it started its MMI Works Alumni Program, which the NBA Foundation’s grant has directly helped support.

“We have an MMI Works internship program here that supports the professional and personal development of young people as they are getting to know the world of the arts economy here, and what their future could hold inside of that,” said Amber Hamilton, the Executive Director for MMI. “But it’s a high-school-age program. So, once they finished our traditional program, they were out in the world with not a ton of guidance, mentoring, or things that help them stay along that path as they thought about their creative endeavors.
“This program, specifically with this grant, will help support that additional mentoring and guidance for young people age 18 to 24 as they develop their dream.”

The NBA Foundation’s grant substantially aided in the development, launch and execution of the MMI Works Alumni Program, which started with 12 Black youth.

The participants were tasked with bringing their “dream project to life,” and they were provided with funding, chances to widen their professional network, career and arts-related opportunities and communication and goal-planning skills to help them in their process.

This all came to fruition in December of 2022 during an event called “Pitch Fest,” where the 12 participants were able to present their dream projects to a panel of judges. These included music, books, podcasts, scripts, community activist-themed apparel, and more; all of which would not have been possible without support offered by the NBA Foundation.

This grant has allowed MMI to expand its programming for the youth and provide the students with an additional mentor who can offer personalized, specific advice.

Lindenmayer said the grant is “an incredible investment.”

Hamilton echoes this sentiment: “Music is not just something we listen to for fun. Music is literally our mirror. Our music that we have created has been a reflection of the times. It has been a documentarian of the times.”

“Black people are at the cornerstone of country music, of blues, of rap, of rhythm & blues, of gospel. It is of particular importance to Black America that we keep that tradition alive by continuing to invest in young people who have a story to tell, and are looking for ways to tell it. They have a lot of joy. They have a lot to offer, but they need a means to tell that story.”


To learn more about Memphis Music initiative and its programs– click here