British music fan Tony Moore, currently in Indianapolis, interviews Chicago School of Blues director Bonni McKeown and teaching artist Larry Taylor on the heritage of Chicago blues, and how to pass it on.
Chicago School of Blues: Reviews
Utne Reader in January 2012 reprinted summer 2011 article on Chicago School of Blues, originally in Mindful Metropolis. American Routes and PBS picked it up on blogs:
"...Poverty and high crime rates can often deter students from furthering their education. What also needs to be considered is the internal damage done to children when they are negatively affected by their circumstances and have no way to express their feelings. Chicago School of Blues solves this issue by encouraging students to express themselves through music. It was a pleasant surprise to see how many students took them up on their offer. Community members of well embraced the Chicago School of Blues program, seeing it as a way to expose students to their history in a fun and interactive way."
The children had a great time singing the blues with you ! Thanks so much!
“We want to give your children the blues.”
In what may initially seem a backwards idea, The Chicago School of Blues has couched a message of positivity that combines the history, music and movement associated with the blues. The traveling program has been bringing this message to Chicago area schools, cultivating the self expression and freedom that is so often lost with shrinking arts budgets.
In the process, they are preserving an art form that is forever woven into the historical fabric of the city.
"The blues group has been really exciting. The kids love it. It gives them an opportunity to get over their stage fright and also be exposed to some music that their parents and themselves maybe haven’t had the opportunity to hear.” (At Donoghue Chicago School of Blues did a 10 week workshop in 2009 and a school-wide assembly in April 2010.)
"Excellent show. The Chicago School of Blues boosted the morale of both students and staff: It was fun to see them react. I think the movie Cadillac Records made kids aware of the blues." (After assembly in October 2009)
"Last week Rock for Kids hosted a two-hour workshop at Buddy Guy's Legends. The organization hooked up with Chicago HOPES, a branch of Chicago Public Schools that tutors children living in shelters. Chicago HOPES brought 115 children and mothers from Chicago shelters to Legends, which donated the space. "Barrelhouse singer-pianist Bonni McKeown tutored the children on blues lineage, playing with a band that included blues guitarist Ray Allison, bassist Carl Copeland, saxophonist Abb Locke and drummer West Side Wes. The kids in the audience were ages 1 to 15."
"The Chicago School of Blues is doing an outstanding job in educating our children in one of America's great musical art forms. Keep-Blues-Alive, pass it on to the next generation."
"For all who work with children, CSB's blues workshops help open the door so both the and their students can return to responding from an honest place of innocence. As Taj puts it, a place where there is no fear of judgement of others or of themselves. This is where pure potential exists and freat things are possible. They remember who they are."