Posted in GAP News, Mississippi Art News

ArtsEdge: Blues Journey

This week’s featured lesson from ArtsEdge, the Kennedy Center’s educational media site, explores the story of the Blues AND highlights the Mississippi Delta! This interactive feature is available on their Multimedia section. Learn more after the jump!

Blues Journey

Out of the hardships of Black Americans at the turn of the 20th century came the blues, a music that helped ease their suffering.

Visit the full page to hear 4 different audio recordings on the topic!

The story of the blues travels from the coasts of Africa, through the cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta, across the hills of Appalachia, to the streets of Chicago and beyond. The roots of blues can be found in slave songs, spirituals, and field hollers of the American South; its sound can be heard in early rock-and-roll, and in today's alternative and hip hop landscapes. Journey with us to learn about the influences and impact the blues has had on musical culture, and how it has been brought to life on stage at the Kennedy Center.

  • Got Them Blues: A History
    As black slaves toiled in the fields, they often sang to communicate with each other and pass the time. These work songs, spirituals, and field hollers formed the basis of blues music as it became an important sound of the American South in the early 20th century. In the 1930s, faced with extreme poverty and laws that discriminated against and segregated them, thousands of African Americans migrated to northern cities, taking the blues with them— where both the songs and the singers adapted to their new urban environment.
  • A Blue Melody, a Shufflin’ Beat
    Blues is a vocal and instrumental form of music based on the use of blue notes—a note that is sung or played at a lower pitch than the rest of the song that gives the blues its characteristic, often sad sound. The lyrics usually have a predictable rhyme, and the music also has a repetitive pattern that typically follows a twelve-bar structure. While the blues may tackle serious subjects, it also brings joy to the singer and audience.
  • Spreading the Joy
    The blues sound was captured by Alan Lomax, who was among the first to record folk songs in the 1930s. Because of Lomax’s recordings, people across the country could hear the unique music of blues artists like Huddie Ledbetter (“Leadbelly”) and Muddy Waters for the first time. In addition to Lomax’s work, the rise of the commercial recording industry (particularly Chess Records) and advances in recording technologies allowed blues to have a wider distribution and as a result, gain a larger audience.
  • A Lasting Legacy
    Blues musicians who moved north tailored their music to reflect their new urban surroundings. Acoustic guitars gave way to electric; drums and standup bass rounded out the sound. This “new” blues had a huge impact on modern music – influencing early rock and roll artists like Elvis Presley and 60s British artists like the Rolling Stones. Today, the innovative adaptations of the blues can be heard in the music of artists as diverse as Cat Power and Gnarls Barkley.

via ArtsEdge: Blues Journey



The mission of the Greenville Arts Council is to promote the rich cultural heritage of the region and stimulate and encourage cultural activities, arts appreciation, arts education, and the creative works of artists. Some of the responsibilities that help define the Greenville Arts Council as the primary promoter of the arts in our area include offering art classes to children and adults, organizing community events, presenting an ongoing series of free exhibits featuring visual artists from the area and the state, and coordinating educational programs which teach arts-integration in local schools. The Greenville Arts Partnership between the Greenville Arts Council, the Greenville Public School District and our three community arts partners, Delta Center Stage, Delta Symphony Association and the Delta Children’s Museum, is focused on full arts integration in the GPSD elementary schools. Plentiful research documents the value of the teaching in and through the arts to help students understand core academic concepts on a deep level. The partnership was the first in the state of Mississippi accepted into the Kennedy Center Partners in Education Program in 2003, joining over 100 other partnerships between school districts and arts organizations across the country. The partnership provides professional development for teachers, arts experiences for students and resource and referral on arts integration issues. Professional development has been provided in two ways, through workshops with Teaching Artists from the Kennedy Touring Roster and grade-level and/or discipline-specific professional development with our local staff. We present a series of model demonstration lessons to teachers in grades K to 6, demonstrating connections between Partnership free arts programming and required state frameworks. The partner arts groups present a series of live performances allowing each elementary child in the GPSD to attend at least once each year. The groups work with the Arts Council staff to develop accompanying curriculum-based educational material for distribution to teachers prior to each performance. Over the years, we have succeeded in providing basic arts integration training district-wide as well as in-depth professional development to allow groups of teachers to increase their level of mastery.