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