In an interview with HipHopDX, producer Drumma Boy revealed the inspiration behind the James and Christopher Gholson Scholarship Fund, an annual scholarship awarded to students majoring in Woodwinds or Commercial Music at the University of Memphis. Collaborating on the annual award program with his father, a retired professor and professional clarinetist, Drumma Boy explained the motivation to pass on the family’s musical legacy.
“That was really my father, just trying to pass his legacy [on],” Drumma Boy said during an interview that premiered in the DX Daily today (September 10). “He saw my connection with kids and the impact that I make with the youth and was like, ‘We should do a scholarship together for students who are capable, “A” and “B” students, coming out of high-school who are looking for scholarship opportunities playing clarinet.’ So it’s a clarinet scholarship, just to pretty much, like I said, pass on my father’s legacy, to pass on the musicianship and to be one of the first Black scholarship available at University of Memphis.”
Drumma Boy’s father, Dr. James Gholson Jr., became the first African-American professor at the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music in 1972 according to a University of Memphis newsletter published in 2012. Gholson retired from his post as the as the principal clarinetist for the Memphis Symphony Orchestra in May of 2012 after earning the position nearly forty years prior. Speaking with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra’s website that year, Gholson explained his commitment to the arts and early ambitions to become a professional musician.
“I thought in high-school that I wanted to be a musician,” he said. “By college, it was a very serious goal. But it requires extreme dedication to pursue a career in the arts.” Not speaking directly to the scholarship fund that bears his name, Gholson added, “Everyone should have exposure to the arts and to music.”
In a statement included in the school’s centennial newsletter, Dr. Gholson detailed his own motivation to establish the fund. “We wanted to support the music school and impact literacy levels for the local community,” he said. “As committed champions of the arts who always magnify Memphis music on and off campus, we recognize that music students are usually strong readers as they develop their sight-reading skills. In strengthening this basic skill [of reading], we hope to support higher levels of retention.”
Drumma Boy himself attended the University of Memphis as a Music Business major prior to his commercial success as a producer.
The James and Christopher Gholson Scholarship Fund is awarded once a year to recipients “in good academic standing, having a minimum GPA of 2.5” according to the University of Memphis’ website. Applicants are required to write an essay about their own “affinity for the needs of under-represented or under served communities,” “the importance of reading speed and comprehension and its relationship to music and academic success,” and their “commitment to enhancing their reading speed and comprehension.”