Along with receiving an exceptional audio education, The Blackbird Academy students are offered the opportunity to partake in trips to two of America’s most renowned recording destinations. The walls of the studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and Memphis, Tennessee can practically speak, or in this case, sing. Regardless of talent or skill, we can all learn from the past. In visiting these legendary studios, students get a firsthand look into where artists such as The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, Al Green, and many others laid down some of the most influential tracks in American history.

Learning about the origins of recording and how it has changed over time is an important aspect of The Blackbird Academy’s curriculum. Understanding the history of audio technology allows our appreciation for music to be much greater. To be in the same place where The Rolling Stones recorded “Wild Horses” pushes our appreciation even further. That place is Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama; just one of the many historical places you will visit on your trip to Muscle Shoals. Some say it’s the river that brought life to the studios and the amazing music created there. Others will point to the man who started it all, Rick Hall, owner of FAME Studios. This is where it all began and where your journey will commence. Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and even Alicia Keys have all recorded here.

However, part of what made the studio great was its incredibly talented group of session players, also known as The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, or The Swampers. After many great successes under Rick Hall, The Swampers grew tired of not working for themselves. Long story short, they took their talents elsewhere, starting Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and eventually moving into a larger building, now owned and operated as Cypress Moon Studios. To learn more about this incredible story and the music made there, check out the documentary “Muscle Shoals.” Here is a video that highlights a few of the things students get to experience on their trip!



It is nearly impossible to talk about the history of American music without mentioning the home of blues, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll: Memphis, Tennessee. Much like in the case of Muscle Shoals, all roads seem to derive from one person. That individual, who is recognized for discovering the likes of Elvis Presley, Howlin’ Wolf, and Johnny Cash, is Sam Phillips. All current music is influenced by the records and artists before our time. There is no debate about the immense influence Phillips has played in the current state of the music industry. Artists are still being driven by the history in Memphis, with more recent hits like “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars having been recorded at Royal Studios. To get an idea of the Blackbird Academy’s trip to Memphis, please watch the video below.


There’s no denying that these are places where the energies from the greats still linger and a place you must experience to understand fully. Sometimes the importance of how we got to this point in the state of today’s music is overlooked. At The Blackbird Academy, its importance is cherished and celebrated, giving students an appreciation for the past to make great records in the present and future.