Listening for Students in Mississippi

By
Allen Bush
April 8, 2009
Kendra Savage and Travis Calvin received scholarships to attend Berklee's summer program in 2008.
Photo by Allen Bush

This summer, two Mississippi teens will spend five weeks in Boston. Berklee is collaborating with the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale and the Robert Johnson Blues Museum in Crystal Springs to award two full summer scholarships worth more than $7,000 each to talented and deserving teens from music programs offered by each institution. This is the second time that Berklee has collaborated to engage young musicians who represent Southern music traditions and aim to expand their sound with a contemporary music education.  

One teen from each institution will receive a full scholarship to Berklee's Five-Week Summer Performance Program, July 11–August 14. They'll be among 900 high school students from all over the world who sharpen their playing or singing skills in private lessons; directed ensembles; and concert performances in jazz, rock, funk, pop, and r&b. They will immerse themselves in musicianship and theory courses, and attend lectures and demonstrations in songwriting, music synthesis, and music business, among other choices. 

Teens from the Delta Blues Museum's after-school arts and education program will audition for one scholarship on April 16 at the museum.  The winner will be announced on April 18 at 4:30 p.m. on the Delta Blues Museum stage during Clarksdale's annual Juke Joint Festival. Instructors at the museum's program, who are local musicians, teach students to play the blues on instruments of their choice, utilizing the oral tradition, recorded music, video, books, and handouts. Students progress from basic playing to working as a band and mentoring younger classmates. 

The Robert Johnson Blues Museum will host a talent showcase for teen vocalists and instrumentalists from Copiah County and surrounding areas on April 19 at the Crystal Springs High School at 6:00 p.m. Among the judges will be Tyler Bilbo, a noted hip-hop/gospel singer from the area. The deadline to enter the showcase is April 16. For applications, call Stephen Johnson, vice president of the Robert Johnson Blues Museum, at 601 672-3243. Applicants must be between the ages of 15 and 19. A special presentation will be made to the winner on stage at the museum's annual Blues Jam in Chatauqua Park, May 9.

Last year's recipients were vocalist Kendra Savage, from Brandon, a contestant in the Robert Johnson Superstar Talent Showcase, and Travis Calvin, a guitarist from Clarksdale and a member of the Delta Blues Museum's after-school program. Calvin also received a $10,000 scholarship to attend Berklee after an additional audition at the college. He plans on entering in 2010.