This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Four-time Grammy award-winning group Boyz II Men returned to their old stomping grounds Tuesday, performing a private concert at their alma mater, the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts.
But before they took the stage, in a pre-show press conference, member Shawn Stockman had encouraging words for CAPA students, who just a week earlier had protested the School Reform Commission’s decision to cancel the teachers’ contract.
“Keep protesting,” Stockman said.
“The more people that are bringing this to a head, where the public can’t ignore it, the better. These teachers need it, the kids need it, and the city needs it, whether they believe it or not.”
Boyz II Men performed at their old high school for more than 300 CAPA students and SiriusXM subscribers as part of the satellite radio station’s “Up Close & Personal” series. The broadcast of this performance, which is set to coincide with the release of their new album Collide on Tuesday, will feature renditions of their hits and upcoming singles, as well as recollections of the past as SiriusXM host Cayman Kelly invites the band members to explore their origins and popularity through the New Jack Swing era.
To the audience, filled with many students dreaming about their own big break, the performance was an exciting look at where their professional careers could go.
“It’s pretty awesome [to have them here],” said Jordana Schwartz, a theater student. Schwartz participated in last week’s protest against the School Reform Commission’s vote to cancel the teachers’ union contract, but on this afternoon she and a few dozen other students donned SiriusXM shirts and ushered guests to their seats.
Mariel Furry, an instrumental music student who also participated in the protest, said the evening was less about bringing attention to the ongoing financial crisis in the District and more about just having a good time.
“I feel like this concert is more for enjoyment than bringing attention to any cause,” Furry said.
Despite the group’s visit having little to do with the current crisis, members of Boyz II Men had a lot to say about the effects of District cuts on programs like art and music.
“It’s a struggle. Every year, schools in Philadelphia get cut, music and arts programs get cut,” said Nathan Morris. “The deficits are enormous, and we have to find ways to keep [these programs].”
“Nowadays, with the music people listen to, we can see that there’s no music education. We can listen to what’s being put out and realize that nobody’s teaching them anything,” he said.
During the concert, Boyz II Men performed such hits as “Motownphilly” and “End of the Road.” Besides answering questions from Kelly, the band members offered industry and music advice, and even brought up on stage a beat boxer for some improvisation.
“Philadelphia’s a very musical city, and it’s very important that we preserve this for children,” said Stockman, who is a judge on NBC’s The Sing Off.
“Philadelphia wouldn’t be what it is if it wasn’t for the music. We need to preserve that history, and what we’ve built from it.”