This Blues in the Schools mural at the Columbia Academy of Music in Columbia, MO features art from elementary students (credit Parker Eshelman/Columbia Daily Tribune
Kai Strauss Band from Germany entertain pupils of St. Anne’s Primary, Keighley, West Yorkshire, UK as part of the Bronte Blues Society BITS
Blues artist Fruteland Jackson works with Marietta Middle School students in Marietta, Ohio
A Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival’s Music in the Schools concert in Fredericton, NB, Canada
Rock Bridge Elementary Blues in the School Day concert in Columbia, MO
Music is a natural healer so why not begin with the roots. Education plays a huge part in sharing the history, the music, the value, and the excitement of blues music. Through interactive performances, introduction to the historical roots of the blues and expressing one’s self through this genre, thousands of lucky recipients, young and old, have reaped the rewards of a blues educators’ love.
For instance, there are hundreds of Blues in the Schools programs. Some are offered by independent artists and others are a part of individual blues societies. The programs themselves can vary from one-hour assemblies during or after school, to artists in residency for periods of a week and up, impacting elementary school kids to college-age young adults. Most are interactive, encouraging “hands-on” participation. Students learn about various styles, tempos, and instruments of the blues genre, call and response, history and impact, improvisation, live performance, etc. Developing confidence and how to express themselves through the blues is encouraged.
Some Blues in the Schools programs also offer summer blues camps where students have the chance to get more in-depth guidance and encouragement to learn and share their skills. Many programs are designed to allow students the chance to perform in concert at the culmination of an artist residency or camp.
There are various individual programs like the Alabama Blues Project, Harmonikids, Fernando Jones’ Blues Kids of America, the Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Foundation, Seattle’s Experience Music, the Sir Charles Blues Lab, Fruteland Jackson’s “All About The Blues,” the House of Blues SchoolHouse Program, Blues Heaven Foundation, the B.B. King Museum Delta Interpretive Center – plus stalwarts Billy Branch, T.J. Wheeler, Michael “Hawkeye” Herman, Nat Dove and so on. The Blues Foundation’s Generation Blues is an expansion of their Blues in the Schools program and offers scholarships. “The most effective BITS programs utilize a classroom curriculum that affects many students and disciplines,” say the Blues Foundation.
There are various types of workshops for kids at many blues festivals throughout the year like at the Ottawa BluesFest, Blast Furnace Blues, the Dusk ’til Dawn Blues Festival, Safeway Waterfront Festival, Tall City Blues Festival, Eureka Springs Blues Festival, Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival, and the list goes on.
Whether learning about the many facets of African-American history, how blues relates to one’s life, or telling a story through song, there is no denying the ultimate rewards of blues education on so many levels. “The blues are the roots,” said Willie Dixon… well I say, “our kids are the fruits.”
Each year, the Blues Foundation presents Keeping the Blues Alive (KBA) Awards to individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the Blues world. One of these awards honors educators: dedicated, passionate souls who have devoted countless time and energy, and no doubt, love, into the education of blues.
The roots of the blues are planted and nourished around the globe. The 2015 Keeping the Blues Alive Award for Educator went to Jerzy “George” Kossek of Katowice, Poland. Kossek, a nationally and internationally recognized educator, blues theorist, and blues promoter has actively promoted blues music in Poland over the past three decades.
For the complete list and some detailed background on the fine folks who have received the KBA for Educator, click here.
If you could share some more on this subject we’d love to hear from you! Please drop us a note and help us expand our list of educators so that we may share with others. I’m also a performer and Blues in the Schools program leader in San Diego, California and I can attest that there is nothing like seeing a child’s face and demeanor light up when introduced to the roots and the fruits of the blues.
Here’s to an inspiring month!
Your ever-grateful e-Guide Editor,
Photo 1: This Blues in the Schools mural at the Columbia Academy of Music in Columbia, MO features art from elementary students (credit Parker Eshelman/Columbia Daily Tribune)
Photo 2: Kai Strauss Band from Germany entertain pupils of St. Anne’s Primary, Keighley, West Yorkshire, UK as part of the Bronte Blues Society BITS
Photo 3: Blues artist Fruteland Jackson works with Marietta Middle School students in Marietta, Ohio
Photo 4: A Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival’s Music in the Schools concert inFredericton, NB, Canada
Photo 5: Rock Bridge Elementary Blues in the School Day concert in Columbia, MO