Blues in the Schools

Bringing the blues into the classroom exposing students to blues as an art form, while breaking down racial barriers and opening dialogue about cultural diversity.

Blues in the Schools (BITS) offers the opportunity for students of all ages to engage in multidisciplinary, whole-language learning using the study of music, math, language arts, history, anthropology, and sociology in a hands-on approach celebrating creative self-expression. By bringing the blues genre into the classroom, students are exposed to these traditional subjects, while breaking down racial barriers and opening dialogue about cultural diversity.

Research continues to provide solid evidence that the study of music promotes intellectual development. Science has shown that studying music assists children in developing neurophysiological distinctions that aid in literacy and can translate into improved academic performance. Most important to this development is active engagement in the music and class participation, each of which are central to Blues in the Schools programs. While participating in music activities, children enhance physical, language, social-emotional, and cognitive development. And Blues in the Schools program are much larger than simple music classes. They provide opportunities for children who might otherwise not have access to engage directly with a music that is historically significant and emotionally healing.

The Utah Blues Society has an active Blues in the School (BITS) program occurring within the State. Our programs utilize local and national educators, historians and musicians to deliver customized programs that meet that school’s individual needs. We have developed programs for Social Studies, English Literature, Music and Woodshop classes as well as several after school programs. Funding for the programs comes through grants as well as directly through the Utah Blues Society’s fundraising efforts. We try to focus on underserved communities/schools with these programs, as well as others that contract with us to conduct or bring national caliber BITS instructors to Utah.

A few examples of our recent work:

  • We completed, for the second year, a program for 420 6th graders at Ecker Middle School. The program (English literature) was centered on a book, Echo, they were all reading, where a harmonica played a central role to the story. We received a grant from the Park City Education Foundation to conduct this program and received over 150 thank you letters from the students on how much they enjoyed the program when it was over.
  • We received another matching grant from the Salt Lake Arts Council (SLAC) in 2018-19 and are currently working with 3 middle schools in SLC. A few of these are social studies (8th grade) classes where we provided a brief history of the importance of blues heritage (the link to slavery, migration, development of music, etc.) and its importance as a uniquely American art form. We also give each student a free harmonica and teach them how to play it, including a few blues licks! The importance of music in a kid’s life cannot be overstated and we received outstanding feedback from both the students, teachers and principal. One of our other programs is occurring in a wood shop class at Hillside Middle School where each student is building their own electric Cigar Box Guitar!
  • We are currently working with the Salt Lake Community Center on a Summer Camp for kids in the Salt Lake City area.
  • We continue to receive requests and develop relevant content for each program. Music is the soundtrack of our lives and the data is there on its influence on young kids. If you are interested in or want information about our BITS programing please contact us via email or directly at one of our UBS sponsored events.
  • All BITS participants (as well as any student 12 years or younger) are offered FREE tickets to attend our Utah Blues Festival each year in June and spend time in our Blues in the School tent letting attendees know the value of these programs.