The association offers training in the sector

Orson Weems received the best education in the music industry under “the instruction, tutelage and mentorship of the legendary Al Bell,” he says. Working alongside the former owner of Stax Records and owner of Al Bell Presents – the man who launched the careers of the Staple Sisters and Isaac Hayes and many others – Weems acquired the necessary know-how to train others in the music industry.

He and “GT” Thompson, also a Bell student, co-founded The Music Education Initiative, a non-profit organization whose mission is “to engage, educate, uplift and prepare the next generation of music professionals. music and entertainment industry. Explain.

“Our unique perspective focuses on music and entertainment in the interests of creating new artists from writing, recording, performing and industry professionals. It is imperative that more people join industries, to maintain the amount of live music, outdoor recreation, and corporate events, not just in northwest Arkansas, but across the country,” adds Weems.

Many of these jobs take place behind the scenes. “Our production education and technical training workshops provide job creation and workforce development by having production company owners and professionals provide hands-on training on the basics live events,” he says. “Topics include scene and event terminology, safety, proper PPE (personal protective equipment), how to handle equipment and gearboxes, types of lighting, types of cables, how to wrap cables properly, and audio and recording technology.”

The non-profit organization also works with local organizations to provide job training and job placement.

“We work with local production companies, such as Ozark Production Services and avad3 Event Production and venues such as George’s Majestic Lounge, the Faulkner Performing Arts Center at UA, and Thaden School,” adds Weems. “At this time, the basic or introductory training we offer costs nothing. We hope to keep the workshop programming at zero or low cost, if we get more support.”

So, who benefits from this type of training? Weems says, “The regional community as a whole, people looking for extra income, people who want to work in another industry, people who want to change careers or improve what they are currently doing.” Those interested in professional training with MEI should visit musiceducationinitiative.org.

The MEI also offers music education to the community. Last month, the nonprofit organization opened two art exhibits in northwest Arkansas. “A Cast of Blues,” which was on display at 214 CACHE, 214 S. Main St. in Springdale, allowed visitors to see and touch 15 resin cast faces of Blues icons such as Robert Johnson, Koko Taylor , Bobby Blue Bland and Bobby Rush. Later, Weems and company brought the Juke Joint exhibit to the Pryor Center in Fayetteville, then hosted Bobby Rush on the exhibit’s porch for a special performance.

Weems hopes “The Juke Joint will be a teaching and educational tool, a meeting place, a place for lectures, discussions, films, performances and guest speakers to share their experiences.” Made of cypress and pewter, the Juke Joint is a representation of an actual Delta juke joint and provides a unique venue for gigging.

“We want people to come up to us and call the Pryor Center and say, ‘Can we do something?’ many residents of northwest Arkansas may have never seen before.Viewers are invited to browse the exhibit, read posters, and examine its artifacts up close for insight into the history of the music.

The Juke Joint exhibit is free and open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday through the end of June. Music and other events are planned for the Juke Joint on display at the Pryor Center in the plaza in downtown Fayetteville. To follow these shows, visit pryorcenter.uark.edu.

Orson Weems (left) sits on the porch of the Juke Joint exhibit with William Schwab, executive director of the Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History. Weems helped co-found the Music Education Initiative, which provides free, low-cost training in the music industry. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Monica Hooper) The Juke Joint exhibit is free and open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday through the end of June. Music and other events are planned for the Juke Joint on display at the Pryor Center in the plaza in downtown Fayetteville. To follow these shows, visit pryorcenter.uark.edu. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Monica Hooper)


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Richard V. Johnson