A Visit From Pacific Northwest Blues in the Schools

by Julie LeMay

Julie LeMayBlues in the Schools is a fund-raising organization dedicated to providing educational music programs for schools. It hires blues musicians to teach the history of the Blues to young students, as well as teach them to play musical instruments. They help students to develop self-confidence by providing venues for them to perform. Most of their programs are conducted during “prime risk hours” (3 pm–5:30 pm) as an After School Program to provide a positive alternative activity for kids.

Jamming With Blues in the Schools

Curley, Annette and a student have a jam session with guitar, rhythm instruments and drums

Blues in the Schools musicians Curley Cooke and Annette Taborn visited the Louis Braille School on January 25.

A bit reticent about the two visitors at first, the children soon heard the soft strumming of a guitar by Curley Cooke. Before long, they were swaying and rocking back and forth to the rhythm of the music.

When Curley began singing “Going Fishing,” the children clapped and stomped along with the music as Annette Taborn joined in with the harmonica.

During the hands-on time, the boys plucked and listened to the various sounds of Curley’s guitar. They tried out their skills by strumming and also getting a tactile sense of the instrument by touching the guitar to get a feel for its shape.

Curley then played “Freight Train,” after which he asked what songs the children liked to sing. Martin gladly offered to sing a song they sing each day at school, making him giggle with pride.

Drums of different sizes and a calabash were gathered, and each child played along with Curley and Annette as Curley sang “Bo Diddly” and Annette accompanied him on the harmonica.

What a raucous sound ensued as the children enthusiastically played on their instruments.

Annette explained that the blues were sung after a crisis was experienced, and that the singing of the songs made one happier. She then sang “Backwater Blues” and demonstrated how the harmonica works.

To the children’s delight, each received his own harmonica, and after a brief lesson on how to hold the instrument, and a few practice “blows,” they were on their way to an exciting new adventure, making a cacophony of sounds for several minutes.

After the children settled down a bit, the session was brought to a close with Curley singing “Every Day” and the ever popular “Hound Dog.”

It is from the blues that all that may be called American music derives its most distinctive characteristics
James Weldon

Julie LeMay is a regular volunteer at the Louis Braille School