Noe Socha turned 20 on his trip to Mississippi, though his birthday was the dimmest of the highlights from his trip. Noe is a deep devote of the blues and the Mississippi musicians whose music has transcended generations and oceans to influence a kid from Capri, Italy, who started out playing classical music on his guitar. This was his first trip down South and every time he stepped out of the van to explore another historic landmark, he tapped into something spiritual coming up from the grounds where Robert Johnson, Tommy Johnson, Honey Boy Edwards, B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and Albert King once roamed with their guitars.
The Berklee Mississippi Exchange Band headed to the Delta Blues Museum’s outdoor stage, ready for their first set of the day. It would be during the Juke Joint Festival debut by a Berklee group when the summer scholarship winner would be revealed. Both contenders, with family members and close friends were stage side, waiting, smiling politely, keeping cool. The two young women in all of their composure made an impression, and were an example to emulate when, suddenly, we realized that there were no drums or backline on stage.
I can’t imagine what the two young women have been thinking since their scholarship auditions at the Delta Blues Museum on Thursday. Jacquline Gooch and Paula Thompson, students from the Delta Blues Museum’s Arts & Education Program, were both outstanding. Gooch, 19, accompanied herself on a guitar with a sliver of worn wood below the sound hole that looked like a scar. I imagined the hours she’s played her instrument, writing her own songs and learning others. Thompson, 15, stood with the microphone in hand and sang for a small audience of family and museum staffers. Kyleen Thomas, 12, another museum student, played bass while instructor Daddy Rich played guitar for Thompson. Rich, museum gift shop manager Chris Coleman, Berklee professor Lenny Stallworth and I judged the two singers and multi instrumentalists. It’s hard to choose one of them when there are two talented and deserving hopefuls. Continue reading
Year three. The principal mission of the trip to the most Southern place on earth remains the same: finding two young musicians qualified for the Five-Week Summer Performance Program and awarding them full scholarships. What is new, is that now I have company down here. No longer is it just I, Allen Bush/Berklee PR guy/deep fan of Mississippi music and culture, but now a team of students, faculty and another administrator. Continue reading
In between sets by the Delta Blues Museum’s Arts and Education Program and Grammy-winning Delta blues legend Honeyboy Edwards, I had the chance to catch-up with a couple of people who had spent time on Berklee’s campus.