When you think of the Mississippi Valley Blues Society, our annual Mississippi Valley Blues Festival may come to mind - a three-day festival held in July on the banks of the Mississippi River that some critics say is one of the finest blues fests in the country. While we're very proud of our festival and the fact that we've been able to present it for over twenty-five years with an all-volunteer organization, it is certainly not all that we do. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Davenport, Iowa serving Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois with a variety of programs that go on throughout the year that keep us busy and help support our mission.
Blues in the Schools
The Mississippi Valley Blues Society has one of the most active Blues Education programs of any Blues Society in the country. Each year, the Blues Society plans and coordinates 4-9 weeks of Blues in the Schools programming. This includes 4-5 week-long artist residencies and one month-long summer residency. A typical week-long residency includes 15 performances and workshops in schools, libraries and/or community centers in the Quad Cities and surrounding areas. All performances are free, and expose a wide segment of our community to blues-related music and the rich history and heritage of that music. Some of the artists who have participated in our Blues in the Schools program include David "Honeyboy" Edwards, John Jackson, Billy Branch, Henry Butler, Willie King and the Alabama Blues Project, Hawkeye Herman, Rev. Robert Jones, Rich DelGrosso and Fruteland Jackson. Our summer artist residencies provide a hands-on participatory experience for area youth that allows them to learn to work together to create music. These residencies culminate in a blues performance by participating youth.
Educational programming is also included in the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival. BlueSKool encourages children to carry on the blues tradition through hands-on lessons with blues performers. Children learn to play the blues, ask the experts questions, listen to them share their experiences and even share the stage with a blues great. BlueSKool isn't limited to just kids. Young and old alike can share in the experience of BlueSKool. In addition, eight free workshops at the Blues Fest give adults the opportunity to learn from blues masters.
Blues Anthology Project
The MVBS Education Committee conceived of and produced a 127-page blues anthology and accompanying CD that is intended to be an introduction for readers whose knowledge of the blues may be limited. Now in its third printing, the anthology has been distributed free of charge to area high schools and colleges for use in courses and placed in area school and public libraries as reference material.
The anthology consists of a collection of chapters by educators, historians, and performers that will hopefully encourage readers to further explore the blues. The content includes chapters on Memphis and its role in the history of the blues, Louisiana Blues, the Blues in St. Louis, and many other topics. The accompanying CD provides examples of the music and performers discussed in the book and greatly enhances the overall impact of the project. Copies of the anthology can be obtained for $25.00 from the Mississippi Valley Blues Society. A $3.00 shipping & handling charge will be added to copies delivered by mail.
Iowa Blues Challenge
The Mississippi Valley Blues Society works together with the Central Iowa Blues Society and other blues societies throughout the state to plan and present the Iowa Blues Challenge, a state-wide competition for blues bands and solo/duo acts. Winners of the Iowa Blues Challenge go on to compete at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, and also perform at the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival.
Heard a great blues band lately? The Mississippi Valley Blues Society supports local blues bands and creates outlets for nationally recognized musicians to perform in the Quad Cities throughout the year. Through special performances at local venues, the MVBS brings many blues shows to the Quad Cities and surrounding communities that people otherwise would not have the opportunity to see.
Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
It all started in 1985 with the Blues Festival. Over twenty-five years later, the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival is considered by many festival attendees and major blues magazines to be among the top blues festivals in the country. Held in picturesque LeClaire Park, on the banks of the Mississippi River in Davenport, Iowa, the Fest has a decidedly down home and non-commericial feel to it that lets fest-goers sit back, relax and enjoy an incredible lineup of blues talent. The list of past and present Fest performers reads like a virtual Who's Who of the Blues. Many featured performers have received Blues Music Awards and nominations; others have received Grammy Awards.