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.

A few examples of our recent work:

  • Free workshops (blues harp, Cigar box guitars, bottle neck slide, singing, etc.) at all of our yearly Utah Blues Festivals. The City Weekly named our Cigar Box guitar workshop “The Best Festival Workshop of 2017”! This year’s festival is Saturday June 16, 2018.
  • We received a matching grant from the Salt Lake Arts Council (SLAC) in 2017 and worked with the five middle schools in SLC. We worked with 450 kids over a two day period. These were social studies (8th grade) classes and we provided a history of blues (the link to slavery, migration, development of music, etc.) and its importance as a uniquely American art form. We also gave each student a free harmonica and taught them how to play 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.
  • We received a grant from the Park City Education Foundation to conduct a program for all 400 6th grade students at the Ecker Hill Middle School. The program was developed around a book (Echo) being read by all students in their English literature class. We used both an assembly and classroom setting to conduct these programs. We were warmly received by the kids and faculty and received high marks for integrating parts of their reading assignment into the program.
  • We are currently working with Rowland Hall on after school programing for our Cigar Box guitar making workshop, slide guitar workshop and blues harp workshops.
  • 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.