In its third year, the Spa City Blues in the Schools (BITS) program, sponsored by the Spa City Blues Society, is working hard to “keep the Blues alive” in the next generation of musicians. BITS is a program that focuses on the Blues genre, teaches history related to blues music and includes musical performance skills. The students learn to play or enhance their skills on an instrument of their choice with vocal coaching included.
Blues in the Schools meets in the student center at National Park College in Hot Springs on every other Sunday from 2:00-5:00 PM. The Blues in the Schools program is open to all youth grades 7-12, with no skill requirements beyond being willing and eager to learn.
Under the leadership of Sherree Hughes, student musicians are mentored and taught by local musicians in their chosen instrument, and then given the opportunity to perform. The BITS band has taken part in several local events including performing for the last two years at the Hot Springs Blues & BBQ Festival and this year at the Hot Water Hills Art and Music Festival. In addition the BITS Kids have performed at venues such as Jim’s Razorback Pizza. Members also traveled to the Rentiesville Dusk til Dawn Blues Festival in Oklahoma last September. In January they performed for the second year on Beale St. during the annual International Blues Challenge Youth Showcase in Memphis Tennessee. Friday evening with a standing room only and playing to a packed house the Spa City Youngbloods took to the stage at Club 152 on Beale Street to share their unique take on Blues classics such as Messin’ with the Kid, Sweet Home Chicago, Crossroads, and John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom. The Youngbloods also debuted an original song- music and lyrics composed by the youth band members- titled “Get Out” as their set finale. The way the band adhered to traditional I, IV, and V, 12 bar blues form in their composition is testament to the focus on Blues tradition and history that the kids have received as part of the well-rounded musical education provided by the Blues in the Schools Program.
The International Blues Challenge and Youth Showcase were produced by The Blues Foundation. Youth blues bands from every part of North America and from around the globe converged on Hard Rock Cafe on Beale Street Friday morning (1/29/16) to take part in a workshop that brought together up-and-coming youth blues musicians to learn about stage presence, traditional blues performance techniques, and how to cultivate the friendships and networks that will keep their careers moving in the years to come. The youth musicians were given the opportunity to perform on stage with fellow ‘Blues Kids’ that they did not know in a jam session led and directed by Fernando Jones who is on the faculty at Columbia College and is the founder of Blues Kids of America.
An added note to the credit of the Spa City Blues in the Schools program is one of the BITS members, Ethan Kuntz, recently made it through the Little Rock auditions and received a ticket to Hollywood on the popular TV show, American Idol. Ethan is now working with Wes Jeans to further develop his musical talent and will be playing some solo shows and festivals, including Eureka Springs Blues Weekend on Father’s Day weekend.
Efforts are underway to help support the program and provide instruments for members who cannot afford them. The Spa City Blues in the Schools Spa City Youngbloods are holding a benefit dinner & show on May 14 at the Low Key Arts Building in Hot Springs. (118 Arbor) The BITS band, Spa City Youngbloods, will be performing a set of classic Blues songs, along with their original song, “Get Out”.
For ticket information, to find out more about the Spa City Blues Society’s Blues in the Schools program, or to offer other program support, please contact Sherree Hughes via the Spa City Blues in the School's Facebook page - facebook.com/SpaCityYoungbloods.
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