School Programs

By Jimmie Jones, MVBS Education Committee Co-Chair

Mississippi Valley Blues Society Blues News, February 2000

After a lot of hard work by the Education Committee on blues artist residencies, the first of three residencies by Patrick Hazell for the week of Nov 29-Dec 4, 1999, was a rousing success. Serving more than 2300 Quad Citians at no charge, Patrick was scheduled for two workshops or concerts each day at elementary, intermediate and high schools, colleges, retirement centers and concert halls. Hazell was escorted by a member of the Education Committee. I will discuss the five events I covered during his stay.
Patrick's audience at Williams Intermediate School in Davenport consisted of a surprisingly large amount of students (they have a much bigger music program than anticipated!) and a few teachers. Patrick began his workshop by telling his students how he got into the blues while at the same time accompanying himself with blues piano and harp. He said that when he was eleven, his brother had been studying piano under a teacher who had been with the New York Symphony but appeared to spend more time teaching the blues than classical music. Among the records that Patrick's brother brought home was a boogie woogie piano recording by the Kansas City legend, Pete Johnson, who had worked a lot with the bartender and blues singer, Joe Turner. The music on that recording changed Patrick's life forever.
Learning that there were a number of students in the school jazz ensemble, Patrick told them that in order to play jazz it was essential for musicians to know the blues
and have a blues feeling when they play. Patrick talked about the many hours he spent practicing as a youngster and thanked God that his parents were kind enough to put up with his practicing. Patrick also talked about some of the blues artists he listened to.
Patrick's workshop at Black Hawk College on Monday obviously made a connection with the students, because Edgar Crockett, Music Educator, and his students invited Patrick to their Wednesday night jam session at Sessions club in Rock Island. Although Patrick declined to sit in at the jam session, he did express an appreciation for the talents of some of the musicians.
The audience at Adams Elementary School, Davenport, consisted of the entire student body and faculty. The younger kids were seated on the auditorium floor, while the older students were seated in the balcony. As Patrick played the blues, some of the kids kept time by waving their arms wildly, some by waving their legs and others by nodding their heads. The highlights for the kids came towards the end of the workshop when Patrick proceeded to display and demonstrate his enormous harp collection. He began with the smaller ones showing how high and how low they could be played. The harp, gradually got bigger and bigger with some over a foot long. As the time got close to the end of the workshop, Patrick began asking did he "have time for one more?" Each time, seven hundred voices answered, "YES!" After Patrick demonstrated the last large harp (which costs over "a million dollars"), he played a harp he had hidden in his mouth.
The Patrick Hazell performance at the Quad City Arts Center on Friday evening occurred in conjunction with the Fall '99 Gallery Hop and a reception for the Iowa Caucus of Women in the Arts. Over 300 people mingled in and out of the gallery. A showing of works by many wonderful artists decorated the performance by Hazell. In addition, since the event was during the evening, many of our very own MVBS volunteers, members and directors were able to attend with their friends and families.
On Saturday, Patrick performed for inhabitants of two retirement centers. The audiences at the Colona House in East Moline, and Friendship Manor in Rock Island were quite receptive to Patrick's blues and especially enjoyed his renditions of "Georgia on My Mind" and "As Time Goes By". (I neglected to mention that Patrick pointed out how any song could become a blues song depending on who is performing it. For example, Ray Charles might sing a country and western tune, but it will still sound like the blues!) After the performances, Patrick had to go out to his van to get his CDs and cassette tapes for several in the audiences. A very friendly and cooperative Bernadine Brumas, host of the Colona House event, was the first to buy and even asked for Patrick's autograph.
At the conclusion of each performance, audience members were asked to complete a questionnaire/evaluation. Faculty members at some of the younger schools were even asked to do some follow-up work with their individual classes. The Blues Society suggested a variety of ways to do so and asked that the information be shared with MVBS. We are still receiving thank you letters and wonderful pictures from all the children that came to see Patrick.
This residency was an all-around success and MVBS is eager to continue this educational effort with our next residency in February. And to think that we could not have done it without the assistance of the Iowa and Illinois Arts Councils, as well as the Holiday Inn-Davenport…..THANK YOU for "Keeping the Blues Alive!"