Mississippi Scholars Pursue Gospel

By 
Allen Bush
April 22, 2009
Clarksdale's PJ Walker and Shelley Ritter, director of the Delta Blues Museum.
2008 summer scholarship recipient Kendra Savage, Demetrius Williams, and Steven Johnson, vice president of the Robert Johnson Blues Museum.
Photo Allen Bush
Photo by Allen Bush

Two Mississippi teens—PJ Walker, from Clarksdale, and Demetrius Williams, from Brookhaven, both 18—will spend five weeks this summer in Boston, studying at the prestigious Berklee College of Music on full scholarships valued at $7,000 apiece. They'll join teens from all over the world for Berklee's Five-Week Summer Performance Program.

Both auditioned at sites in Mississippi where Berklee has twice partnered to support young musicians with summer scholarships.  Walker is a student of Delta Blues Museum's After School Arts and Education program in Clarksdale. Williams auditioned at an annual talent showcase in Crystal Springs organized by the Robert Johnson Blues Museum.   

Walker is studying music composition at Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena, where he also directs a gospel choir. He teaches third-graders how to play the recorder at Mound Bayou Elementary School. A busy composer, he writes children's tunes, jazz and gospel music, and orchestral compositions, one of which was performed by a 15-piece ensemble. He also works in the gift shop at the Delta Blues Museum.

Williams won his scholarship in a talent showcase organized by Steven Johnson, grandson of the legendary Delta blues pioneer Robert Johnson, at the Crystal Springs High School. Williams plays the keyboard and sings. His career goal is to become a contemporary gospel performer and songwriter. Besides gospel music, he also writes r&b songs. Performing regularly at his church, Williams is now starting to play in clubs and other venues. On May 9, he'll perform at the Robert Johnson Birthday Blast, a free festival at Lake Chautauqua Park, in Crystal Springs.

To read more about each recipient, visit berkleeontour.com