poster image -- silhouetted musicians “Standing in the Shadow of Motown”The documentary “Standing in the Shadow of Motown” tells the story of the label’s largely unheralded studio musicians, the Funk Brothers.

Music students get schooled in harmonic history

Students of music in the School of Creative Arts could have been stymied when the pandemic shut down live performances, but instructor Shahida Nurullah found a workaround.

An instructor of voice in the jazz and pop styles, she requires her students to attend professional concerts and submit written reports. When social distancing made that impossible, she turned to the next best thing.

“I gave them a list of films and documentaries about legendary musicians to watch and write reports on instead,” she explains.

The list included:

  • 20 Feet from Stardom, which depicts the behind-the-scenes experiences of backup singers;
  • Standing in the Shadow of Motown, which recounts the story of the label’s studio musicians, the Funk Brothers;
  • the 1988 documentary Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser;
  • another 1988 documentary, Let’s Get Lost, on Chet Baker;
  • What Happened, Miss Simone? a biography of Nina Simone;
  • Buena Vista Social Club, the 1999 film on Cuban music;
  • Lightning in a Bottle, an homage to the blues;
  • three entries in the “American Master” series: Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me, Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, and The World of Nat King Cole;

as well as any documentary on Louis Armstrong.

All the films are available through streaming services.

—Susan McKee