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Rock Hall Sets "Thunder Soul" Screening, Discussion

By Rich Heldenfels Published: June 11, 2012

The movie is worth your time, whether you check it out on DVD or attend the presentation at the Rock Hall. You can read my review here.

The official word: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is pleased to host a film screening of Thunder Soul (2011, 88 minutes) on Tuesday, July 10 at 7 p.m. in the Foster Theater. The documentary Thunder Soul chronicles the history of Houston’s Kashmere High School Stage Band and its legendary band director, Conrad “Prof” Johnson. This event is presented in conjunction with the Rock Hall’s annual Summer Teacher Institute, a week-long workshop for teachers dedicated to bringing rock and roll into the classroom. The screening will be followed by a discussion with Craig Baldwin and Jimmie Walker, former members of the Kashmere Stage Band, as well as Conrad Johnson Jr., son of the group’s founder. This event is free with a reservation. Seating is limited. RSVP information is as follows:

ROCK HALL MEMBERS
Rock Hall Members can RSVP starting at 10 a.m. EST on Monday, June 18 through the Rock Hall website at https://tickets.rockhall.com or at the Rock Hall Box Office.

GENERAL PUBLIC
Non-Rock Hall members can RSVP starting at 10 a.m. EST on Tuesday, June 19 through the Rock Hall website at https://tickets.rockhall.com or at the Rock Hall Box Office.

A limited number of tickets will be available for those without internet access through the Rock Hall’s RSVP phone system by calling (216) 515-8426.

About the Film
In Houston, Texas in the late 1960s, musician and composer Conrad O. Johnson, widely known as “Prof”, took a job as Music Director at the predominantly black Kashmere High School where he would go on to transform the school’s struggling jazz band into a full-fledged funk powerhouse. The Kashmere High School Stage Band and their dynamic leader would soon become legendary and world-renowned.

In the early 1970s, national High School Stage Band competitions were fiercely competitive, strictly conservative, and almost entirely white. Not only did Prof break the color barrier and get his kids into these competitions, he flipped the status quo by rearranging all of his band’s music into elaborate funk arrangements. He changed the band’s look, encouraging them to embrace their own inimitable style. He then introduced the element of showmanship, with each section choreographing slick moves with their instruments—unprecedented at the time. Finally, he unleashed his band on the competition scene, where, against tremendous odds, they would go on to triumph again and again.

From 1968 to 1977, the Kashmere Stage Band won a record number of titles around the nation and was invited to perform in Europe and Japan. Prof and the band made history when they won Most Outstanding Stage Band in the Nation at the highly prestigious All-American High School Stage Band Festival in Mobile, Alabama, in 1972 – the very same year that state’s segregationist Governor George Wallace would announce a run for the presidency.

The band’s success reverberated throughout Kashmere High School resulting in unprecedented student achievement in the arts, athletics and all academic disciplines. Prof and the band’s accomplishments also helped to uplift and unite the community.

 

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