FAIRHOPE — Last Friday morning, Fairhope High School students were treated to an hour-long music clinic hosted by the Alabama Blues Project as part of a countywide celebration of Blues Week. Roughly 1,800 students participated in clinics offered …
FAIRHOPE — Last Friday morning, Fairhope High School students were treated to an hour-long music clinic hosted by the Alabama Blues Project as part of a countywide celebration of Blues Week. Roughly 1,800 students participated in clinics offered at nine schools throughout Baldwin County. During the clinic, students were educated on the foundational elements of the blues, and given an opportunity to play alongside professional musicians.
Blues musicians explained to students how poverty, combined with a propensity for music, often led them to create their first instruments. Students were treated to a demonstration of a one-string diddley bow and other primitive instruments once used by them and other early blues players.
The Alabama Blues Project showcases select Alabama blues musicians in educational programs and public performances with the intention of educating people on the role of the blues in the development of American popular music.
“This program offered students the opportunity to see music from a business perspective,” said Rob Allen, band leader at FHS. “They were given insight into the world of working musicians. I think it’s important for students to experience music directly from the people who created it.”
Blair Zaricor attended the clinic at FHS. He said he learned a lot.
“I was really surprised to learn that rap, hip-hop and other popular modern music all had their roots in blues,” he said.
In addition to the clinics, students were given the opportunity to participate in a jam session held at Fairhope High School. The jam, which took place after school hours on Friday, gave students another opportunity to spend time with the musicians.
Ten students were also selected to join Willie King and the Liberators on stage at the 5th Annual Fairhope Music Festival on Saturday.
One of the students selected for that privilege, Hannah Schrubbe, said she was thrilled to have the opportunity to jam with skilled musicians.
“It’s so exciting,” she said. “I haven’t done much blues stuff.”
Schrubbe played drums under the guidance of Liberators drummer, Willy J. Williams.
“I was impressed with this group’s ability to improvise,” said Debbie Bond, one of the musicians leading the clinic.
None of the students chosen to play or sing were given sheet music. They were expected to follow along by ear and instinct only. This is difficult to do, she said.
Rick Asherson, the Liberators’ keyboard and harmonica player, said Fairhope High students stood out; they were “very strong musically.” Most kids, he said, freeze when put on the spot to be creative.
The clinic — made possible through a grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts — was an extension of the Fairhope Music Festival.
Debbie Quinn, Fairhope City Council member, co-chairs the festival with Debra Garlo. Quinn visited the clinic held at Foley High School on Thursday, where she was surprised to see more than 250 students in attendance.
“It was terrific,” said Quinn. “A lot of energy and a lot of participation. This is a unique opportunity for these students. Blues are at the heart of all the music we have today. It’s where it all started.”
About Willie King
King’s debut album, “Freedom Creek,” on Rooster Blues Records, received a number of awards, including “Living Blues” magazine’s Best Blues Artist of the Year, Best Song and Best Cover Art.
He has been nominated for the W. C. Handy Traditional Male Artist of the Year, and has been inducted into the Howlin’ Wolf Hall of Fame.
In 2006, he was nominated for the Traditional Album of the Year and Traditional Blues Male Artist of the Year in the Blues Foundation’s Blues Music Awards.
King’s talent also extends to film. He first appeared in Martin Scorsese’s movie “Feel Like Going Home,” and now he is the focus of Visible World Films’ soon-to-be released DVD, “Willie King Down in the Woods.”