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Testimonial from Tracy Martin – Director of Music at Canyon Springs High School

BITSTestimonial from Tracy Martin – Director of Music at Canyon Springs High School

As a music teacher, I (like many music teachers) take pride in training my students in a variety of musical styles to thoroughly develop their musical expertise. Yet we often fail to celebrate one of the most recognizable forms of American music still performed to this day: the blues. Our students know the blues when they hear it and some have even grown up with it. Within the plethora of musical styles that must be mastered and taught in the public school system, this essential genre often falls to the bottom of the priorities list.

Ken Harris and the Boise Blues Society were there to help. Through their Blues in the Schools program, they arranged for a custom-selected blues band to perform for my students, including specialized instrumentation so that each student would have a professional to collaborate with. Their presentations and activities for each class were individualized based upon students’ level of mastery and included a variety of content matter from historical context to musical theory. My students were encouraged to stand up and join in with the performers and it was a great moment when some of my shyest students came out of their shell to play or sing their solo. Whether you have a thriving program with hundreds of students or a K-12 music class at a rural school, the Blues in the Schools program will captivate your students and have them humming the blues for weeks to come.

Tracy Martin
Director of Music – Canyon Springs HS (Caldwell)

Blues in the Schools at Canyon Springs High School in Caldwell

Blues in the Schools at Canyon Springs High School in CaldwellBITS

Review by Ken Harris

On February 18, The Boise Blues Society showed up bright and early for “Blues In The Schools” at Canyon Springs High School in Caldwell.  We were there for 3 classes: Guitar, Choir, and Jazz Ensemble

Our presenters were:

Ken Harris-piano, harmonica, vocals
Mike Witmer-bass
Leif Skyving-harmonica,slide guitar
Bob Peters-drums
Carmel Crock-vocals
Marv Jonesi-guitar
Phil Garonzik-tenor sax
Jack Gardner-trumpet
Ron Gardner-videographer

In the Guitar class, after the band played 2 introductory songs, Marv demonstrated a series of simple guitar licks that the students all practiced on their individual guitars.  Then Leif gave a slide guitar presentation and invited two students up to give it a try on a second slide guitar he had brought.

For Choir, the band played a blues song and Carmel got out in the midst of the students, had them all stand up and then got them to sing some simple blues riffs in 3 part harmony.  Several students also tried some scat singing with the band.

In the Jazz Ensemble, the students split up for individual instruction with Bob, Phil, Jack, Ken and Mike to work on their parts on “Watermelon Man.” Jack did double duty working with two student trumpeters. At class’s end, all the students and presenters played “Watermelon Man” together.

We look forward to returning to Canyon County soon!

For information on bringing “Blues In The Schools” to YOUR school, FREE OF CHARGE, call Ken Harris at #440-4590.

Blues in the Schools Program

After a successful Fat Tuesday fundraiser in February of 2005, we implemented our first Blues in the Schools (BITS) program in February 2006 and are now in the midst of our eighth year of programming.  Typically, BITS presentations are guided by board members along with BBS member guest musicians who combine their expertise to present a bit of history of the blues.  Often the students jam with the presenters.  Read about the program below.

Boise Blues Society “Blues in the Schools” Program

Introduction: The Boise Blues Society is a non-profit organization of blues music supporters that has been in existence for over 20 years in the Treasure Valley.  Part of our mission to “promote and preserve blues music” includes providing blues musicians to give an introduction to  blues music in a program entitled “Blues in the Schools” (B.I.T.S.).  This program is part of our outreach efforts and is provided at no cost to the schools that participate.  Over the years, the Boise Blues Society has conducted Blues In The Schools programs in Boise, Meridian, Idaho City and Mountain Home. We know in these times of tightened budgets it is often the arts that suffer the most.  The Boise Blues Society would like to help bring a little music, and the lessons that go with it, back into the schools.

Background: Blues is at the core of all modern American music.  Except for Native American music, the blues is the first pure American music to have developed in this country.  As blues musician and songwriter Willie Dixon says so succinctly:  “Blues is the roots and everything else is the fruits.”  It comes from the oral tradition of folk music and as such reflects the issues and feelings of the people playing and singing it.  In this way it is the history of those who produced it.  Through the blues, students can feel what happened in those times and through reflection and discussion can see how those lessons pertain today.

Program: The program is flexible and can be tailored to the age of the students and the particular learning objective being addressed.  For instance, in a music class we would spend more time talking about and playing the music.  On the other hand, if the program were to be part of a social studies or history unit we would spend more time talking about the history of the music as we performed songs.  In a literature unit we could discuss the poetry of lyrics and write verses to create a new blues song.  The possibilities are numerous.  We will work with the faculty to cater to their curriculum needs and the sophistication of the students.  All programs are interactive to varying degrees.

Process: If you would like your school to be involved just contact Ken Harris, president of the Boise Blues Society at 208-440-4590 and we will be happy to work with you to bring the blues to your students.  We don’t require any special accommodations–blues musicians travel light and are used to working under all kinds of conditions!

Testimonials:

“Thanks to the Boise Blues Society for coming to Jefferson Elementary. The presentation was educational and energetic. We appreciated the focus on learning about the instruments and the history of the instruments. We were pleased that students at Jefferson were exposed to a genre of music that many of them had not heard before.” – Joan Bigelow, Principal

Read another testimonial from Tracy Martin, Director of Music at Canyon Springs High School.