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Blues in The Schools 101

February 8th, 2022

by David Klockau

“Blues in the Schools” is an MVBS educational and community outreach program that brings an average of four prominent Blues artists to Quad-Cities area schools each year to teach Blues music and the culture that inspires it. Blues in the Schools reaches an average of 4,000 Quad Cities area students each year. This program was initiated in 1990 as a way for area music educators to incorporate Blues history into their lesson plans with an interactive presentation by a working Blues artist. 

The very first Blues in the Schools program was organized and presented by Rock Island native and international Blues touring and recording artist, Michael “Hawkeye” Herman. The Quad-Cities area, which sits on a musical “crossroads” where the river, rail, and road meet, has produced a very rich American music history, as the birthplace of nationally known musicians, Bix Beiderbecke and Louie Bellson in particular. In addition, QC natives, Francis Clay, a recipient of the MVBS River Road Award, Muddy Water’s Drummer, and Pat Patrick, one of the founding members of “The Jazzmobile” which connected with inner-city youths in the QC area and taught how to learn and play music.

“I appreciate the Mississippi Valley Blues Society for making these opportunities possible for my students and the students of the Rock Island Milan Community School District.  It is wonderful to live in a community that values the fine arts.” 

Mara Goodvin Music educator, Ridgeway Elementary, Rock Island, IL, and MVBS Educational Committee member

“One of the primary missions of the Mississippi Valley Blues Society is to introduce the Blues to our Quad Cities area students to understand and appreciate this uniquely American art form which is the rootstock of all popular music”, “And if this encourages a young person to take up an instrument, then this is an even greater benefit”

– Steve Brundies, MVBS Founding Member

All the funding, coordination, and planning involved in bringing national Blues artists to Quad-Cities area schools are provided by the MVBS Educational Committee, in cooperation with local music educators. These Blues artists in residence typically perform one public performance in the area which is also funded by MVBS.

In 2020, in response to pandemic-suspended in-person teaching, the MVBS initiated a virtual Blues project. This MVBS-produced video production features a duet by working Blues musicians Hal Reed, and Kevin Burt, as they perform Blues music and provide dialogue on the roots and evolution of Blues music and African American culture, which is offered free to any K-12 music educator requesting a link through the MVBS website, mvbs.org.  As a result, thousands of students in 37 states across the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand were provided a unique learning opportunity. In addition, the MVBS also contracted with Robert Jones, Sr. a nationally recognized Blues educator, historian, and musician to provide a series of educational videos available to any K-12 music educator through MVBS.

Posted in Feb 2022

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