Blues in the Schools
In 2000, the West Michigan Blues Society presented its first Blues in the Schools project at Sherwood Elementary School. Sherwood's principle Judy Freeman was very pleased with the program and noted "our students not only learned music appreciation and history but were surprised to find that their favorite rap musicians have borrowed heavily from the blues and even played with blues musicians as evidenced by the duet they heard between B.B. King and Heavy D on Keep it Coming which appears on B.B. King's Deuces Wild CD."
Sadly, due to severe budgets cuts at both the state and local levels to the school systems and budget restraints within the West Michigan Blues Society, we were unable to produce another Blues in the Schools program until 2005.
We're very proud to report that in 2005 we successfully produced a Blues in the Schools program in not only one school, but four! Comments from Mr. Howard Macon, principal of Campus Elementary School, were very positive. He stated that "This progam is needed in more schools". Grand Rapids Press columist John Sinkevics and staff photographer Becca Leonard attended the premier program. John stated that "It was an excellent presentation" and wrote an article with photos for the Grand Rapids Press.
Thanks to underwriting from Old Orchard Brands LLC with matching funds from the West Michigan Blues Society, the efforts of Tim Richards in contacting and coordinating the school presentations, plus the expertise and historical knowledge of musicians Jimmie Stagger and David "Dr. Hamfat" Marin, we succeeded in getting back on track with our program.
After the overwhelming response we received in 2005, we doubled the amount of presentations from four to eight for the 2006 school year, added a slide show that runs during the entire presentation, and incorporated several new vintage instruments.
In the 2007 school year we increased the number of schools to a new high of twelve, and will hopefully add more in the future.
We have completed the 2012 school year and are already planning for next year, but we did decided to cap the program at ten schools.
In 2013 Dr. Hamfat left the fold and harmonica guru Hank Mowery stepped up to fill the void. We'd like to thank David for all his efforts throughout the years and wish him the best.
With the changing of the guard we decided to reinvent the entire program to freshen it up for both us and the schools. With an entirely new set of artists and songs plus an expanded slideshow, we believe we have crafted the best presentation to date.
In 2015 we were awarded a grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs administered by the Lowell Arts and made some minor changes to the program that we felt made for a smoother presentation.
If you'd like to help with our program's expansion, you can send your tax deductable donation to:
WMBS Blues in the Schools, P.O. Box 6985 Grand Rapids, Mi. 49516-6985
To see photos from our BITS presentations please go to the photo area of the website.