Acoustic Columbia showcase to sing out for Blues in the Schools

Come to The Blue Note this Saturday to help kids learn about blues music.

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When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday
Where: The Blue Note
Tickets: $3

Math, science, writing and history were not the only subjects we learned as kids — we could also look forward to learning how to sloppily pump out an A major scale on the trumpet or xylophone.

Now, music education isn’t as prominent as it once was, and the Roots N Blues N BBQ Foundation believes that simply won’t do.

You may have been to one of the great annual Roots N Blues N BBQ Festivals held in downtown CoMo. But this week, you can get a taste of some summer blues music while benefitting the foundation’s music education cause, Blues in the Schools.

The singer/songwriter showcase, Acoustic Columbia, will feature nine different mid-Missouri musicians, who will each play a half-hour set. All proceeds from the show will go towards teaching kids about the history and importance of blues music.

Thumper Entertainment, the group that usually produces the Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival, has many positive things to say about the Blues in the Schools cause.

“A lot of kids growing up have sports, but if you don’t have sports, sports, you really need something else to latch onto, and music and art are really special in that regard," Thumper Entertainment spokesperson Betsy Farris says. "These programs are the first to be cut from these schools… [Blues in the Schools] is hopefully helping to promote the arts and culture, and break down those barriers to bring the kids together and give the gift of music.”

Blues in the Schools is a music education program that began in Columbia in 2007, starting with just one elementary school. The program brought in a music educator, blues musician TJ Wheeler, to teach the students the history of blues and how the genre has affected culture. Additionally, students learn about good communication skills, and get to write a song that they ultimately have the opportunity to perform at the Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival.

The performance is free to the public but donations are accepted to raise money to help further the program, which the superintendent of the Columbia Public School District integrated into the curriculum this year.

“It’s a program that expanded to 11 elementary schools last year, and this year we’ll hopefully have enough funding to be able to provide the program to all of the elementary schools,” Farris says. “We’ll also be at West Middle School, and hopefully be able to bring the program to the high schools as well.”

Audience members can also sponsor kids for just $25 through the Roots N Blues N BBQ Foundation to give the gift of music.

Young students aren’t the only ones to hopefully benefit from the showcase, however.

One of the performers, Ben Green, has been playing as a solo artist in the area for nearly 20 years.

“At 19, I picked up the guitar, and kind of took to it like a duck in water," says Green, a local, deep roots blues songwriter. "I ended up releasing my first CD when I was like 24. And from there I wrote a lot of stuff that was gospel-based, and almost all of it was acoustic. For me, blues is just a connection to gospel music; it hit home a lot more cause I grew up singing in church a lot.”

Green represented the MO Blues Association in a regional competition in Jefferson City in 2009, and ultimately the International Blues Challenge in Memphis later that year. He also has four albums out, but isn’t necessarily as well-known as he should be.

“There hasn't really been an opportunity to spotlight some of these talented musicians as individuals and songwriters themselves,” The Blue Note spokesperson Pat Kay says. “The general public may not be aware of them, and in some cases might be surprised to discover that some have written songs they're already familiar with from listening to other area bands.”

The showcase should ultimately be a good time for anyone and everyone who wants to attend.

“We just really want to encourage people to come out, have a great time, discover some really wonderful local artists, and help give the gift of music,” Farris says. “It’s really a twofold win… As a fan you really get to experience something really cool, but you also get to give back.”

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