In collaboration with local libraries, this is a family focused 12 week course. Activities include learning about Blues history, utilizing library resources as well as experiencing guest artists demonstrations. In this course, attendees may learn how to play the harmonica, compose a Blues song and even how to design and build a one-string pork 'n' bean guitar. It's great family fun and it's free to the public. Below is a story taken from the May/June, 2003 issue of The Jackson Area Blues Society Newsletter.
Blues and Books
By Ken Schluckebier
Blues and Books. What do they have in common? Well, maybe lots of things, but the important one is that for a limited time only, you can find them both at the
Carnegie branch of the Jackson District Public Library. The books are always there, of course, but for a single Tuesday evening each month, January through April, so are the Blues. Cindy Hayden and Tom Fuller of the Mojo Phoenix Blues Band are bringing their widely acclaimed and highly entertaining program of harmonica lessons to the Library’s Clare H. Sergeant auditorium.
Local newspaper and television reports have made much of Cindy’s unique harmonica program in area hospitals and schools, and when the opportunity arose to
participate in a class at the library, I couldn’t pass it up. Lots of other people felt the same way, and several dozen would-be Blues harpists showed up for the first session in January. We were hooked, but good; nearly everyone returned for the second
session in February, along with some new participants who were enticed by the
stories of their friends and family members to come and experience the fun for
themselves. It was a motley group, some experienced musicians, some beginners; and ages ranging from babes too young to walk to senior-citizen babes who get around with the assistance of a walker.
Here’s the scene:
The lights go down and a sensuous voice intones, “In the beginning, there was
silence….” From out of nowhere, the bass guitar picks up a steamy groove and the voice continues, “….Then came the Blues.” Next comes a smokin’ harp, wailing like a homesick angel who was knocked so far into next week that she’s looking both ways for Sunday, showing us all what we can aspire to if we pay our dues, man, and practice, practice, practice!
By this point, Cindy had our
attention, and our primordial mojo was beginning to work! She proceeded to teach us the fundamentals of caring for the new harps, which each participant received, courtesy of the nice folks at the Jackson District Library. Before the first session was over, we had learned the major scale and written the first verse of our very own Blues song! One participant
discovered that he is apparently “left-tongued,” a physiological condition not previously known to medical science, and
probably not even known within the musical community. He persevered, nonetheless, and like the rest of us, had more fun that evening than is generally acceptable in a public library.
Cindy gave us several demonstrations of the harp-blower’s art, and Tom performed a song that he wrote especially for this
occasion, “The Library Blues.” There was an abundance of rhythm instruments for the children of all ages to experiment with and to use to accompany the premier performances of our own Blues songs. One of the incidental advantages of this
experience was the opportunity to hear Tom’s bass work out from under the drums and guitar that normally accompany him when the full band performs.
Some years ago Charles Schulz wrote a “Peanuts” cartoon wherein Linus told his pal Charlie Brown that universal
happiness could be had if every child was issued a banjo at birth. I think that if Mr. Schulz were still with us he could be persuaded to modify that sentiment: world peace, as well as universal happiness could likely be achieved if everyone
attended one of Cindy and Tom’s harmonica programs!
If you didn’t think that the Blues could make you feel good, you need to attend one of these programs. If you do, be sure your smile is in good shape and working properly beforehand, in fact, I recommend a solid regimen of smiling exercises for several days before attempting a feat of this magnitude. If you don’t, there is a possibility that you could suffer a serious
second or third degree strain to your face. That may be
conducive to feeling more Blues, but if you do it Cindy’s way, under controlled conditions, and under the supervision of a professional, you can experience all the pleasure and avoid the pain.