David Berntson and Dick Vallandingham with the BlueSKool kids by Liz BerntsonThey may have only gone to the crossroads to catch the school bus, and the darkest indigo lyrics they’ve sung are likely about not getting what they wanted for Christmas, but that won’t stop a number of local kids from learning about playing and singing the blues Saturday during the Blues Skool Program at the Mississippi Valley Blues Fest.

“BlueSKool is one of the best things we ever came up with,” said Stan Furlong, a member of the Mississippi Valley Blues Society and an organizer of the event. “It’s important because we don’t want people in the future to be ignorant of the source of their music.”

The kids will learn the history and musical qualities of the music form, about its convenience and charm for everyone from cowgirls to cotton pickers to nascent bluesmen of the ‘20s-‘30s, and along the way kids will be led in blowing harp, singing, coming up with their own blues nicknames and dancing the funky chicken and the twist.

“The kids get free harmonicas and lessons at BlueSKool,” Furlong said. “Everybody except the Taliban loves music and younger people seem to love it more than their elders.”

And that’s nothing to sing the blues about.

Performing in the BluesSKool area on Saturday, July 2:
1:30 pm Kevin Burt : For over 20 years, Coralville’s Kevin “B.F.” Burt has been electrifying audiences throughout the nation, dispelling the myth that true Blues has no roots in Iowa. Kevin has written and published a classroom harmonica method book called Just Play It: An Introduction to Blues Harmonica. Besides playing at the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival and other Midwest Blues festivals, Kevin has performed at the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife (Washington, DC).

2:45 pm Winter Blues AllStars : This band was formed after the members participated in the Winter Blues Camp hosted by the River Music Experience in December, 2015. These 7 musicians were selected by the instructors and have been practicing weekly, and performing at various venues since January. The band consists of the following members: Kaleb Dykema (17) has been playing the guitar for 9 years and also performs with two other bands. Sylvia Friedhof-Cruz has been singing for the past 9 years, and participates in show choir at school. Konnor Kirkbride (16) has participated in the Moline Boys Choir, Center for Living Performing Arts Center in Rock Island, Rock Island High School Chamber Choir and Drama Club. Sam Barber (17) has been playing the guitar for 6 years and this was his first Winter Blues Camp. Quinn Branch (17) has been playing the bass for 3 years and is involved in band and Jazz band at school and also plays in another band. Sam Petri (14) also participates in Jazz band, marching band and show choir pit at school. Keval Wagher(12) has been playing the piano for 8 years, trumpet for 3 years and guitar for 2 years.

4:00 pm David Berntson : Originally from Galesburg, IL, this Tulsa OK Blues Club founder, prevention educator, and drug/alcohol counselor continually shares his enthusiasm and passion for the Blues with young people and adults. David is an endorsee for Hohner harmonicas and has taught harmonica classes through adult continuing education at Tulsa Community College for over 15 years. He also teaches children’s harmonica classes for the Tulsa Parks and Recreation Department. David’s BlueSKool session features free harmonicas and lessons for all the kids!

For more info on Blues Skool and other events at the fest, check out www.mvbs.org.

Sean Leary is an author, director, artist, musician, producer and entrepreneur who has been writing professionally since debuting at age 11 in the pages of the Comics Buyers Guide. An honors graduate of the University of Southern California masters program, he has written almost 30 books including the best-sellers The Arimathean, Every Number is Lucky to Someone and We Are All Characters.