The Alabama Blues Project (ABP) is partering with internationally renowned bluesman Willie King to present a six-week long Blues in the Schools Artist Residency at Aliceville Middle School in Pickens County, Alabama. Pickens County native Willie King has twice won the Living Blues Magazine Blues Artist of the Year" award and is the recipient of an Alabama State Council on the Arts (ASCA) Fellowsip award.
His annual Freedom Creek Festival, held at his home in Old Memphis, Pickens County, on the last weekend in May, is now in its 10th year and attracts national and international audiences and extensive media attention. Recently King was thrilled to be the recipient of a Proclomation from the City of
Aliceville in recognition of his record as a good citizen and outstanding ambassador of the blues.
The teaching team is completed by blues singer/guitar player, Debbie Bond, and harmonica player, Rick Asherson, who are both members of Willie King's band, The Liberators."
The unique residency is made possible by the Black Belt Arts Initiative, a grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts that targets underserved schools in the Black Belt Region of the state. Aliceville Middle School, like so many of the Black Belt schools, currently has no art or music instruction as part of their regular curriculum.
Bond, who is also Director of the Alabama Alabama Blues Project, developed the innovative blues music and history curriculum that is being presented to the entire school in 18 sessions each week of the program.
The interdisciplinary curriculum is a balanced mixture of performance, lecture and participation. It teaches the history of the blues from its African roots through slavery times and Reconstruction, to modern Chicago style blues and combines this with hands-on music instruction in harmonica, singing and percussion. The end of the program will be celebrated with a final performance at the school where students will be able to entertain their audience with some of the musical skills they have learned.
Bond says, It is so wonderful that these children from Pickens County can learn first hand from an outstanding blues artist, from their own back yard, like Willie King. He is someone who has truly lived the history we are teaching, starting with his early experiences of sharecropping and a homemade, one-string guitar. He is an inspiration for students who see that someone who came from such an impoverished background can transcend his life challenges and become an amazing and internationally acclaimed artist."
Executive Director of the Alabama State Council on the Arts, Al Head, sees the blues as a very significant cultural tradition rooted in the Black Belt region. The Alabama Blues Project is one of our model organizations in the state and has made such a positive impact on the students," says Head. We are very proud of the work that they have been doing and excited to be able to present it to the youth of the Black Belt."
The final performance with be at 8 a.m. and at Aliceville Middle School and the public is invited. For more information please call the Alabama Blues Project at (205) 752-6263 or Olivia Parsons or Principal Johnny Johnson at Aliceville Middle School at (205) 373-6900.
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