Blues In the Schools
Blues In The Schools (BITS) is an arts program fostered by The Blues Foundation of Memphis, Tennessee. Various affiliates such as BLUSD, which is a California 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, are delivering performances, workshops, and lesson plans designed to expose and inspire our youth to the power and cultural significance of this uniquely American musical form. Our schools have been greatly impacted by significant budget/program reductions for the arts in general and music in particular – this deficit of basic arts education only serves to emphasize the importance of in-school programs like BITS.
BITS is funded by BLUSD and its members, artists, volunteers, various granting organizations, school budgets, community organizations, and PTA groups. BITS is actively seeking corporate sponsorship for program development and expansion.
Primarily through live music and storytelling, singers and musicians relate elements of the blues to American and African-American culture and history, while delivering concepts of audience involvement, rhythm and teamwork, music appreciation, and even the therapeutic effects of music. The presentations entertain and demonstrate how the blues is fundamental to popular American music. Underlying messages of: the importance of personal expression; racial tolerance and understanding; truth telling; freedom from oppression; and, creatively transforming life’s challenges into personal growth are conveyed to the student audiences through this rich material.
BLUSD draws on a pool of San Diego and visiting blues musicians for its live BITS shows. To foster continuity and academic quality, BITS developed a Presentation Guide for its leaders. Orientation and reference materials, and a Lesson Plan are provided to educators in advance of each BITS performance, and a special Activity Sheet is given to each elementary student following the program for fun and review. A complimentary BITS-logo refrigerator-magnet is also provided.
Teachers are encouraged to be creative and connect blues appreciation to specific topics within American History (post-Civil War events, the African-American experience, 20th Century Industrialization and Urbanization, blues cross-over from “race identified” to “All-American” music in the 50’s and 60’s,) as well as to other academic areas such as Communications, Fine Arts, Music Appreciation, Social Studies, and Geography. Credentialed and certificated professionals are developing grade-level specific classroom material that supports California state educational standards and thematic units of academic subject/content areas with particular relevance for the school populations and cultures of San Diego.
Teachers, PrimeTime suppliers, hosts of other music programs for students — if you’d like to learn more about our wonderful program, and how it can help inspire your students, contact:
Janet Blair, BITS Program Director, at gro.dsulbnull@STIB.
You can download these documents in PDF format for additional information:
BITS Program Flyer (Current Version)
BITS Program Flyer (Version 2.6)
- BITS (Blues in the Schools) Contact
- Janet Blair, BITS Program Director
BITS artist volunteers are some six dozen local, professional blues musicians. Eleven BITS Band Leaders draw from this talent pool of artists to organize the gigs. BITS Leaders and Artists generously accept only small honorariums for their participation in BITS gigs. See current listing below.
BITS organization volunteers currently include:
Cindy Laurence who receives gro.DSULBnull@STIB emails, distibutes pre-presentation packages to the schools, and leave-behind materials (BITS logo magnets and Blues Activity Sheets) to the Leaders. Cindy would like to bring our Lesson Plan exercises into the classrooms as a prelude to the school’s BITS presentation.
Deb Mech, Education Advisor turned up at BLUSD on the same day Rand De Mattei took over the program, supported his desire to add curriculum content and materials per California Educational Standards, and brought professional education credentials and experience into the BITS mix. Deb has since contributed to the content of BITS materials in general and is the primary author of the Current Lesson Plan: Beats & Rhythms. Deb is also a blues vocalist, is currently taking the lead in promoting BITS to PTA organizations, and is warming-up to create an evaluation approach to better assess and communicate the effects of our program on students.
Cathy Hammond is our most recent BITS staff volunteer. She is also a blues vocalist, and headed up the effort to add accessories to our guitar package grant giveaway.
This BITS team is forming to better interact with the school staffs, BITS artists and sponsors; to develop collaborative efforts with schools and music programs; and, to help plan and communicate BITS program goals.
BITS Artists and Leaders
A sample of the BITS Artists and Leaders who perform during the School Year:
- Heine Andersen – guitar
- Missy Andersen – vocals
- Alicia Aragon – vocals
- Tim Atkins – guitar, vocals – BITS Leader
- Scottie Blinn - guitar, bass, vocals
- Steve Bulger – harp, vocals – BITS Leader
- Mike Bullard – bass, vocals
- Steve Burns – guitar, vocals
- Charles Burton – guitar, vocals
- Brian “Nucci” Cantrell – drums
- Tim Cash – bass, guitar, vocals
- Roger Daschle – bass
- Tony Davis – drums, vocals
- Rand De Mattei – harp – BITS Leader
- Jerry “Hotrod” DeMink – guitar, bass, vocals – BITS Leader
- Dan Diaz – guitar
- Lance Diekmann – harp, vocals
- Marty Dodson – drums
- Taryn Donath – keyboard, vocals
- Brad Engstrom – bass
- Dominic Enjambre – keyboard
- Victor Franklin – bass
- Harmonica John Frazer – harp, drums, vocals
- Dana Garrett – sax, vocals
- Walter Gentry – sax, vocals
- Joey Hager – drums
- Dwane Hathorn – drums
- Hank Hiskes – bass
- Marc “Twang” Intravaia – guitar
- John January – guitar, bass, vocals
- Nathan James – guitar, vocals, harp
- Pete Johnson – trombone, harp, vocals
- Kurt Kalker – drums
- Brad Karow – drums
- Ric Lee – drums
- Mike Lee – harp, vocals
- Eric Lieberman – guitar, vocals – BITS Leader
- David Lingren – bass
- Michele Lundeen – vocals – BITS Leader
- Bill Magee – guitar, vocals
- Marco Marrewa – guitar
- Michael McGinty – keyboards
- Michael Minor – drums
- Larry Morgan – bass, vocals
- Sue Palmer – keyboards
- Danny Perez - bass, vocals
- Andre Perreault – harp, vocals
- Len Rainey – bass, vocals – BITS Leader
- Fuzzy Rankins – guitar, vocals
- “Sugaray” Rayford – vocals – BITS Leader
- Mike Reilly – guitar, vocals
- Jeff Ross – guitar
- Troy Sandow – harp, bass
- Al Schneider – drums
- Hal Smith – drums
- Tom Stewart – drums
- Dane Terry – harp, vocals
- Billy Watson – harp, vocals – BITS Leader
- Thomas Yearsley – bass