Scholarships in the Delta

By 
Allen Bush
April 12, 2008

This summer, two Mississippi teens will spend five weeks in Boston, learning how to take their musical talents to new heights. Berklee is collaborating with the Delta Blues Museum, in Clarksdale, and the Robert Johnson Foundation, in Crystal Springs, to identify talented and deserving teens from the after-school music programs offered at each institution. This is the first time that Berklee is partnering with institutions in Mississippi to actively engage young musicians who represent an area of the country that is rich in blues heritage and legendary, American music tradition.

One teen from each institution will receive a full scholarship to Berklee's Five-Week Summer Performance Programfor high school students, July 12-August 15, where they will take performance, music theory, and music technology classes, and choose from songwriting, music synthesis, and music business as electives. Both winners will be recognized publicly at music festivals in coming days: April 19 at the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, and May 10 at the 2008 Blues Jam, produced by the Johnson Foundation in Crystal Springs. Teens will be chosen at auditions in the days leading up to both events.

Qualifying teens from the Delta Blues Museum's after-school arts and education program will audition for one scholarship on April 17, at the museum. These students have demonstrated rich musical talent in the program where they learned to play the blues on instruments of their choice from instructors who utilize the oral tradition, recorded music, video, books, and handouts in a classroom at the museum. The students progress from learning the basics of playing music to working together as a band and eventually to mentoring younger classmates. A presentation will be made to the scholarship winner on April 19 on the Delta Blues Museum stage during Clarksdale's annual Juke Joint Festival.

At the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation, homegrown talent from Copiah County have been competing in a monthly talent showcase for a spot in one of three age categories in the Robert Johnson Superstar Talent Showcase Finale at the Crystal Springs Middle School on April 28. The winner from category two, comprising six teens between 13 and 19, will be named the Robert Johnson Junior Superstar, and receive the scholarship to Berklee this summer. A presentation will be made to the winner on stage at the Blues Jam in Chatauqua Park on May 10, following a performance at the Robert Johnson Hall of Fame Banquet the previous evening, in Jackson. Watch video of the the showcase winners at robertjohnsoncreativearts.com.

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