Blues comes alive at Dunn school
Grammy Award-winner performs, educates
To begin with, the assembly area at a Dunn school became a performance area and a center for learning Tuesday when a Grammy Award-winning blues musician gave students a hands-on demonstration of his art form and to illustrate a unique way of learning.
Michael Dyson, known throughout the country as “Mr. Blue Shoes,” performed in two shows at Harnett Primary School. He first entertained kindergarten and first-grade students and held a similar program for students in the second and third grades. Mr. Dyson, based out of Dallas, performed several songs on his blues guitar, interacting with students throughout the program. In addition to this, he invited two students from each class at the school on stage to participate with him.
The Mr. Blue Shoes program is about more than just music, it has history, culture and arts education thrown in as well. Some of his topics typically include West African culture, famous musicians and early 20th-century history. He specifically featured tunes crafted by Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Willie Johnson on Tuesday. To demonstrate that both were blues legends who performed and became stars despite being vision impaired.
Harnett Primary School music teacher Susan Busch said she often does a unit each year on the blues.
Harnett Primary School music teacher Susan Busch said she often does a unit each year on the blues. This year she was looking for something different and used the internet to find Mr. Blue Shoes. “I checked him out on the internet, and I liked what I saw,” Ms. Busch said. “I wanted to give my students a way to learn about the blues up close and personal.”
She ran into an obstacle just before making the final arrangements. “It is expensive to bring him, so I wasn’t sure what I was going to do,” Ms. Busch said. “I applied and one day I got a letter saying they would pay for the program.” Later, she continued to research the idea and ran across the Keeping The Blues Alive grant program. It is administered by blues great Joe Bonamassa who helps fund the programs. “I looked into it and found the program would pay for him,” Ms. Busch said. “It is amazing that they did this for us.”
Ms. Busch was singing, dancing and clapping alongside students throughout the program including doing the Hokey Pokey to the tune of Mr. Blue Shoes’ guitar. Students eagerly interacted throughout the program.
She is already thinking about having a similar program next year. “I’m thinking I want to bring him back,” Ms. Busch said. “The students really seem to enjoy it.”
She will be competing with schools around the country for Mr. Blue Shoes’ time. In addition, Mr. Blue Shoes keeps busy while performing throughout the year and has performed in front of 350,000 children in more than 1,200 performances. As recently as Saturday he performed at schools in Texas.
Mr. Dyson is the co-founder of The Blue Shoes Project, a nonprofit dedicated to introducing young audiences to living blues legends. In addition, he has expanded the reach of his program outside of schools, also. That included performing for students who were ravaged by Hurricane Harvey that slammed the Houston area in 2017, displacing children and their families with record rainfall and flooding.
Keeping the Blues Alive Foundation is a 501c3 organization that donates to a school in need of music instruments, supplies, sheet music, and more every week! Your donation helps us to keep music in schools, while preserving blues heritage. Without your support, we would not be able to reach as many students around the country. We are grateful for your generosity.
To date, KTBA has reached over 60,000 students. If you would like to help us to continue to grow, click here to donate! All donations are fully tax-deductible!
Thank you for keeping music education in schools!