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Thunder Soul – Movie


17 September 2011 No Comment


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 mediocre 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. As former student Gaila Mitchell put it:

“The Kashmere Stage Band was the best thing that ever happened to our community. Even in a time when there was so much racial bias, everybody in the community came together to help the Kashmere Stage Band do whatever they needed to do.”

What is truly extraordinary is that in February 2008, 30 former Stage Band members, now all in their fifties, reunited for the first time in 35 years to play a tribute concert for their former teacher, mentor, and beloved bandleader, Prof, who was 92 years old. They would rehearse in the very same band room where they used to practice as kids. And then they would go on to perform before the current student body at the very school where they made history decades earlier. It was unreal. Some of these men and women hadn’t picked up their instruments in 34 years!

What happens next would prove historic.

THUNDER SOUL has been inspiring audiences around the world and is the winner of Audience Awards at South by Southwest, Dallas International Film Festival, Hot Docs, Aspen Film Festival, and the Los Angeles Film Festival; the Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature at Indie Memphis; and the Heartland Film Festival’s Crystal Heart Award.

THUNDER SOUL is endorsed by national arts education champions Americans for the Arts Action Fund, and school districts around the nation. Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) Executive Director, Robert Floyd, describes THUNDER SOUL as “a wonderful tool that will help us further convince students, educators, and policy makers of music’s life-changing impact.”

Opening Date: September 23, 2011

Directed by: Mark Landsman

Produced by: Keith Calder, Jessica Wu, Mark Landsman

Exec Produced by: Jamie Foxx and Jaime Rucker King

Rating: PG for Brief Language and Momentary Historical Smoking

Run time: 91 minutes

Official Website: http://thundersoulmovie.com/

Trailer: http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/independent/thundersoul/

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