Blues In The Schools - Passing It On

In January of 2014, RCBS brought Tinsley Ellis to town for a show. He was also kind enough to participate in our BITS program, and the kids loved it:

Hello Ellen and Tinsley,

I would like to thank you both for the Blues in the Schools presentation to our students! While I was unable to stay and listen, the report I heard back from students was fabulous! Some came up to me personally to tell me how much they enjoyed the presentation/performance - and these were students I do not teach. My students went into great detail about the parts of the presentation they enjoyed the most, many of them commenting on the part where Tinsley showed the connection between the Blues and modern rock. Seems they really got that part and they enjoyed having things "click"...

Thank you again for the opportunity and I hope you got as much out of it as our students did!


Ms. Cluny Brown
VAUS History Teacher
Staff Development Planner
Highland Springs High School

The BITS committee has created several curriculums for teaching Blues In The Schools:

  1. A historical overview of the development of Blues in America, its African roots, and its influence on American popular music. This program could include live acoustic or recorded samples of the music.
  2. A blues improvisation session for instrumental ensembles. Band/Orchestra.
  3. A Blues Guitar workshop for schools that have guitar classes.
  4. A live blues performance is also an option for an assembly.

We've taught in Henrico Co. with great success. We're hoping to reach more schools in different districts this year. If you have any connection with schools public or private that would be interested, please have them contact us.

Our programs are available at no cost to the schools AKA free!

"Blues In The Schools" is...

Well, what exactly is it? In reality, there is no cohesive, nationally-directed BITS initiative that is an established program for schools grades K-12. It's more decentralized and individualized.

Does that mean it's not real? Absolutely not! There are many organizations that collectively support the BITS program. The Blues Foundation provides some direction to its affiliated Blues societies, and organizations like the House of Blues, the Seattle Experience Music Project and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have designed curriculum units and lesson plans that are ready to be plugged into any grade or discipline.

In 2006, RCBS applied for, and received, a Blues Music Foundation Grant from the Experience Music Project. Our grant application stated:

"The RCBS seeks to create a “blues package” that will include curriculum materials, recordings, documents and transcriptions, lyrics, and visual material to be used in the classroom by teachers in a variety of disciplines. Development, creation and distribution of these materials will be facilitated in collaboration with the curriculum coordinators in the Richmond region schools for humanities, social sciences and music and with selected teachers…"

And what exactly is the Blues Music Foundation? The Blues Music Foundation is a 501(c)3 charitable entity, created in 2003 at the behest of filmmaker Martin Scorsese and Experience Music Project, the non-profit, educationally-driven Seattle music museum founded by Paul Allen. While there are many activities that fund the Grants program, the bulk of the current revenue comes from sales and royalties of the 2003 "Salute To The Blues" concert, available on the DVD "Lightning In A Bottle."

So where does that leave us now? As you read this, RCBS continues to work with Commonwealth educators to create a well-rounded program that meets the Standards of Learning requirements and makes learning fun. That doesn't mean we members get to relax though - a stipulation of the grant is that we raise matching donations on a dollar-for-dollar basis. Thanks to the Richmond Forum for help on this. We all need to work together to support the BITS program.

If want you to help, please contact us.

Thank you for keeping the blues alive!