As a mother to a boy who learned to play music by ear, this was dear to my heart. At the age of four, my son picked out the tune to Star Wars on a plastic piano. That was the beginning. Groups like these bring music to kids of all backgrounds. My son performs with one of the volunteers for this program and hopefully will help in the future. Music is the common language in the world.
During after school hours on Monday and Tuesday afternoons you can hear the pounding of drums, rhythm of guitar, magical vocals and the occasional harmonica trailing down the halls of Martin Luther King Elementary School. Each week The Alabama Blues Project shares the rhythm and magic of music with students who apply for the program, conducted in the schools by Anna Jenks, headed by Paula Demonbreun and made possible with talented local volunteers.
“We are lucky to have talented local musicians with unique teaching styles. We can always use more help though, as we would love to see this expand,” Anna explained. The program currently runs for ten weeks in the Spring.
The program begins with a class where the kids learn blues history, particularly Alabama blues.
Music theory is introduced before they begin on instruments.
Not only do they learn history of music all the way from the Blues to the current styles they hear and sing today, but they implement math concepts through beats and measure. The kids bond together through their common interests and grow in confidence as they learn to perform.
There is emphasis on stage presence, which helps with confidence that they can carry throughout their lives. When they complete the first section of the course, they are then able to select their instrument of choice as the focus of the program.
“We allow them to change instruments during the middle of camp if they request. Better to keep their interest in the musical arts than to lose interest and a valuable musical skill,” Anna explained. “The biggest value the kids walk away from Blues camp is a love for and better appreciation of blues music.”
BJ Reed tells the kids, “The Blues are the ROOTS!”
The program provides the instruments, and welcome donations. The website makes it easy for you to make monetary donations!
In the drumming area, the kids used drumsticks on white paint drums to practice their rhythm. Dave Crenshaw, the percussion instructor, turns 10 gallon buckets over and the students create uniform poundings of sounds. The students learn to count complex rhythms but also to improvise early in his sessions.
“One of the children, Mykian, who is ten, has really taken to the drums. He is a natural,” Anna explained.
Mykian beams as he practices on volunteer Dave Crenshaw’s full set of drums. He is in the Advanced Band, and attends the camp through another school. To see him play is motivating to anyone witnessing the magic of music.
The Camp has had visiting musicians such as Willie King, Little Jimmy Reed, Eddie Kirkland and Carroline Shines.
Mike Battito is in charge of the Advanced Band which practices simultaneously with the camp.
B.J. Reed, who also volunteers in area schools, leads the kids in vocals and cheers them on, encouraging them to step out of their comfort zone.
Dave Crenshaw teaches drums. College students also get involved in the program. Dana, a college volunteer has been working with the current group.
At the end of the Spring After-School Blues Camp the budding musicians perform in front of family and friends to share their new discovered talents.
The Advanced Band participated in a performance at the Transportation Museum March 15th and will be performing in Tuscaloosa’s Got Talent in April.
Go to alabamablues.org to see how you can get involved or donate to this incredible cause with
local roots. You may call 205-752-6263 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more
Photos and Story By Allison Adams