Craig Baldwin, Kashmere Stage Band Alumni, joined us to talk about Thunder Soul Movie and Kashmere Stage Band; History of the internationally acclaimed Houston, TX High School stage band (from the ‘70’s) and it’s world renowned Director Conrad O. Johnson Sr. (“Prof Johnson”)(film available on DVD).
Kashmere Alumni Stage Band
Our mission: to disclose fine arts to all, especially students which offers more opportunities to implement and augment their imagination which conclusively provides valuable experiences transferable into reading, writing and arithmetic. Nzinga, Conrad O. Johnson (Prof) believed in the preceding. It is our focus and intent to maintain his belief.
To recap the film’s focus, the Kashmere Stage Band was the brain child of Mr. Conrad O. Johnson, Sr. or known to most as “Prof.” He was solely responsible for the band’s success during 1969 – 1977 at KashmereSenior High Schoollocated in Houston, Texas. Prof was a proficient musician in his own right and at one point, he had an opportunity to play with greats like Count Basie, Duke Ellington and other great jazz bands during those times. However, he opted to stay home with his family and instruct his students on the importance of education, respect, values and musicianship.
In 1967, Prof attended an Otis Redding concert and was inspired to translate the style of the concert into a program he could sustain at the high school in order to create opportunities for his student musicians and thus the Kashmere Stage Band [KSB] was born. During its time, KSB won several national and local championships in high school band competitions. We gained a reputation for being unbeatable; we were unbeatable. Prof, served as our band director, arranger, principal composer (for the band) and guiding source. KSB recorded eight albums during its life under Prof; not a common fact during those times for other high school bands.
In January of 2008, many our original band members, all in our mid-50s, reunited for the first time in over three decades to pay tribute to our legendary leader. One month later, the band performed live at Kashmere Senior High School for the Prof, the Johnson family, the student body, faculty and special guests. It was a media frenzy. The story of Prof, the exceptional music program he built, and the historic reunion of his former students was captured in a feature-length documentary film called Thunder Soul. The film was directed by Mark Landsman from Snoot Entertainment.
Prof was a “highly qualified” instructor who captured his students’ imagination. His former students are now doctors, lawyers, educators, business men and women. One of his former students is the Pastor of one of the largest Methodist Churches inAmerica. In fact, this same Pastor was the spiritual adviser for former President George W. Bush for the 8 years he was in office. The Pastor’s name is Kirbyjon Caldwell of theWindsorMethodistChurch and Kingdom Builder’s Center. He was Kashmere Marching Band’s first drum major, now he’s a drum major for the Lord. He is one of our trusted advisers. The man preaching initially in the film is Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell.
A report commissioned by the Arts Education Partnership and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies cites research studies documenting more than 65 distinct relationships between the arts and academic and social outcomes, including:
- Visual arts instruction and reading readiness
- Dramatic enactment and conflict resolution skills
- Learning piano and mathematics proficiency
- Traditional dance and nonverbal reasoning (Dancers scored higher than non-dancers on creative thinking measures, especially abstract thought.)
- Arts activities promoted growth in students’ social skills, including:
- Self-confidence and self-control
- Conflict resolution and
- Empathy and social tolerance
The arts also play a key role in developing social competencies among educationally or economically disadvantaged youth who are at the greatest risk of dropping out.
On January 31, 2012, the Thunder Soul DVD was released. Our new show includes the film’s screening immediately followed by the band’s live performance. And after the performance, we meet and greet with our audience. This formula has been quite successful. We are proud that Thunder Soul was nominated for Outstanding Documentary (Theatrical or Television) by the 2012 NAACP Image Awards. The preceding will open more doors allowing conversation to the importance of preserving fine arts in schools.