LIMA — Before the performers for Pickle’s Blues Extravaganza take the stage today and Saturday, students at Liberty Arts Magnet had the opportunity to show off their talents at the first Blues Fair Thursday at Allen County Memorial Hall.
Fourth- and fifth-graders performed songs in the auditorium, while eighth-grade students displayed both art and research projects centered on various aspects of the genre.
“We really upped the ante in terms of content,” art instructor Mike Huffman said. “I think Blues in the Schools is still an evolving piece, and we were able to evolve it a bit farther this time.”
Part of this evolution came as a result of other disciplines coming together in this project to offer an interdisciplinary education experience.
“We had social studies and language arts teachers who really put their backs into it and were able to really integrate the content,” Huffman said. “It gave us the piece we were missing before.”
Students used a variety of methods in their presentations, from building art projects to creating films and slideshows to even writing original blues music. This subject had much to offer students when it came to how to study it, according to Huffman.
“It’s a good area of content,” he said. “It’s broad and it’s deep. You can work with the historical context of it, you can work with the language side of it, and obviously there is a visual element as well as the musical side. It’s very open-ended.”
For eighth-grade students Kaley Stemen and Xandra Badertscher, participating in the Blues Fair was an eye-opening experience. For Stemen, she had very little familiarity with blues music going in.
“I had heard of blues, and that’s about it,” she said. “But I learned that the blues influenced a lot of the music we listen to today. I know it influenced soul, gospel, jazz and some country music.”
“I really grew up with blues, because my dad always listened to it,” Badertscher said. “But I actually never really knew that there were multiple forms of blues. I never really noticed the difference. So this was really interesting for me.”
Through their research, both students were able to gain a new appreciation for this type of music.
“It’s very emotional music,” Stemen said. “I really love the music of B.B. King and Muddy Waters. They have a really good feel.”
“It feels like I know more about it now, so I can appreciate it more,” Badertscher said.
While pleased with how this first fair went, Huffman emphasized that the organizers want to take the time to fine tune this event before launching into a new blues-related initiative.
“I think we need two or three years refining this point of the evolutionary chain, and then I think we’ll be ready to jump,” he said. “We’re trying to create innovators. We don’t want people coming to us saying, ‘Are we going to do what my brother did three years ago?’ No, it will be their turn to be creative.”