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
Fried steak and pork shops. Field peas. Barbecue chicken tenders. Lima beans. Turnip greens. Baked beans with hamburger and barbecue sauce. Corn bread. Sweet tea and peach cobbler. Filling-up on the Ranchero’s lunch buffet on Rt. 161 at the edge of town, I’m now ready to commune with Clarksdale, Mississippi. This is the day when one teen from the Delta Blues Museum will be called to the stage to accept a summer scholarship, and when the town rolls out the annual Juke Joint Festival. Continue reading
I’m Allen Bush, director of Berklee’s public information office, and, at the moment, bridge-builder to Mississippi. I’m here in the Deep South this weekend to find teen musicians or singers and award them scholarships to Berklee’s five-week summer performance program. My partners will be the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, and the Robert Johnson Blues Museum, in Crystal Springs. Continue reading