MC30 Kick Off


Cassandra Webster, Memphis Challenge   901-312-9620

Ashlei Williams, GJC Publicity   253-693-8711

Memphis Challenge Kicks Off 30-Year Anniversary with Jazz Experience

MEMPHIS, Tenn. November 5, 2018 — There is much debate about the long-term effects of the loss of arts education in the schools. To avoid complete program obliteration, many school districts have resorted to combined or limited music classes. However, the chaos of joint jazz, concert, gospel, and chamber programs is comparable to a joint golf and football program. The need to respect and preserve these art forms is apparent, and organizations such as local nonprofit Memphis Challenge are having to stand in the gap to provide well-rounded development for youth.

One such effort is the Memphis Challenge Jazzin’ Around 7 event, which will be held on Friday, Dec. 7, at the Halloran Centre for Performing Arts & Education with a Silent Auction @ 6:30pm and concert @ 7:00pm. The evening of music will be a kickoff celebration of the organization’s 30-year history of inspiring and developing future Memphis leaders through arts and community exposures. These opportunities augment the MC programmatic focus areas of social and emotional intelligence.

The experience will begin with a free music master class held during the day for Memphis area high school students. Later, the culminating event will begin with a VIP Reception & Silent Auction followed by musical performances. The featured performer of the evening will be the singer and trumpeter Johnny Britt. Other performers will include Memphis Challenge alumna and jazz violinist, Lila Hood, and saxophonist Dr. Bill Hurd.

“This event is a shining example of our work. From the educational opportunities of the master class to the full-circle experience of having program alumna Lila Hood perform, to the networking opportunities that will be available to our students and parents through the alumni and community leaders in attendance,” said Cassandra Webster, executive director of Memphis Challenge. “We look forward to a year full of impactful commemorations like Jazzin’ Around 7 that will highlight our 30 years of service to aspiring and developing future Memphis leaders.”

The evening promises to be an experience to remember with three music legends under one roof along with jazz enthusiasts, music lovers and supporters of the work that the Memphis Challenge performs on behalf of this city’s emerging leaders.

To arrange interviews with featured performers and/or key Memphis Challenge staff or alumni, please send inquiries to

Event Information:

  • When: Friday, Dec. 7, 2018; 6:00pm VIP Reception, 6:30pm Silent Auction, 7:00pm Concert
  • Where: Halloran Centre for Performing Arts & Education, 225 S. Main Street, Memphis, Tenn.
  • How: Tickets start at $75 to $225 and may be purchased on Ticketmaster

Performer Bios:

Johnny Britt

Marvin Gaye and Miles Davis never performed together on the same stage … but imagine if they did … Singer/ Trumpeter Johnny Britt, inspired by Marvin and Miles, has brought the influence of these two giants into one conceptual album titled, Marvin Meets Miles, Vol. 1. In 2017, Johnny Britt scored big with his trumpet appearances in Oscar and Golden Globe award-winning film La La Land and the Oscar-nominated film soundtrack Hidden Figures.

Signed to Motown Records as the founder/creator/lead singer of his group Impromp2, this multi-talented singer, songwriter, producer, trumpeter, arranger, composer and educator in the entertainment industry has toured the world and recorded with some of the biggest names in the industry. Johnny received his break after studying music at the prestigious Conservatory of Versailles just outside Paris. He has since worked with the David Bowie, Quincy Jones, Luther Vandross, Josh Groban, Jennifer Lopez, Maxwell, John Legend, Common and more. He is also a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame group Little Anthony and The Imperials. His new release “So Hot” was released on October 24.

Lila Hood

Lila Hood is a captivating electric violinist, recording artist, string arranger, and music educator who now resides in Los Angeles. Born in Memphis, she is dedicated to increasing diversity in classical music. While a student at Georgetown University, Lila was selected for the New York String Seminar Orchestra, where she received mentoring and coaching from premier violinists. She became a founding member of the Howard University String Quartet and a student at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music. During her career, Lila has performed for the Jamaica Ocho Rios International Jazz Festival, Shakhar and Andrea Bocelli, recording artist Dennis Graham and his son, Drake, Blues Alley Jazz Club, L.A. Fashion Week, and the Ebony Fashion-Fair Anniversary. Recently, she performed on a track with Lady Gaga for the movie, A Star Is Born and headlined the West Adams Jazz Festival.

After participating in classical performances, Lila felt a strong desire to explore different musical genres, including jazz, blues, rock, reggae, soul, Afro-Cuban, Latin, and hip-hop—setting the foundation for her debut project, The Blue Violin, and her current project, Dreamcatcher EP. Fulfilling a desire to give back through music, she established The Blue Violin Foundation to teach violin and piano to students from urban communities who would not otherwise be exposed to classical music.

Dr. Bill Hurd

Dr. Bill Hurd is a welcome feature at any Memphis venue catering to jazz fans. His mastery of the alto and tenor saxophone is reminiscent of Coltrane and his virtuosity on soprano and baritone sax is equally impressive. Hurd has recorded with Kirk Whalum, Isaac Hayes, Maurice White, Greg Curtis, Phil Perry, Kevin Whalum, J. Blackfoot, and Wendy Moten and with fellow legendary Memphis musicians like Floyd Newman, Rod McGaha, Rick Braun, and Lester Snell.

He is also known as Dr. William C. Hurd, a practicing Ophthalmologist. In addition to his medical degree, he has an MBA from M.I.T. and a B.S. in engineering from Notre Dame (where he was an All-American captain of the track team and named Notre Dame’s 1968 Athlete of the Year). Furthermore, Hurd has patented inventions of medical devices relating to his work as an eye surgeon.

About The Memphis Challenge

In 1989, Joseph R. “Pitt” Hyde piloted The Memphis Challenge (MC), at East High School, with 20 students.  Now spanning three decades of inspiring and developing future Memphis leaders, MC has a tradition of raising awareness in ways that are creative, impactful and student-focused. The nonprofit has impacted more than 900 students of color, through its senior program, by attracting the attention of admissions counselors at top-tier colleges and universities across the nation.

In 2014, The Memphis Challenge program was expanded with the creation of the 9/10 Movement program. To date, more than 300 ninth and tenth graders have been introduced to the skills and knowledge needed to perform at a high level of academic achievement and community leadership.

In 2016, the experiential Tell Me A Story project was created.  Students across all cohorts have written and illustrated eight children’s storybooks, along with an anthology of poems. Today, these students are published, authors. In 2017, students created three short films and two podcasts about the struggles the youth of Memphis face every day. This year, 2018 the students created four Zines, grassroots independent publications with social justice as its theme showcasing art and prose in honor of  MLK50.

Today, more than 50 percent of its alumni remain in or return to the city, to once again call Memphis home. They are attorneys, corporate executives, health care professionals, and educators as emerging leaders, they represent the best and the brightest.