BRADFORD - “The blues are the roots and the other musics are the fruits.”
Although originally said by legendary Blues musician Willie Dixon, it was also the message that the Darke County Center for Arts brought to Bradford Elementary School as part of their “Mr. Blue Shoes” program.
Mr. Blue Shoes, who also goes by Michael Dyson, is a Texas blues musician who specializes on introducing young audiences to music history. In just under an hour, his show covered topics ranging from contemporary music’s roots in West African culture to its development over the course of the 20th century.
This week Dyson will be travelling to each Darke County school district to perform traditional American blues music and educate students on its importance. The show features a mix of slides of both local and national blues musicians while integrating silly songs to keep the kids entertained.
Dyson saw a need to educate a younger audience on the rich history of the Blues after noticing a lack of emphasis on the genre in modern society. He then developed an act for the specific purpose of engaging students and planting a seed that will hopefully remain for some time.
“Basically I’m making the learning experience fun for them. They’re learning this content in their classrooms, but it just doesn’t always stick, because it’s not being put in a format that every kid responds to,” said Dyson. “But kids respond very well to music.”
In 2011, Dyson reached the milestone of reaching more than 100,000 children through his programs.
To engage his bright audience of fourth and fight graders on Tuesday, Dyson regularly jumped down from the stage, invited singalongs and audience participation, and even let the kids touch his electric guitar.
Perhaps the class’ favorite moments on Tuesday was Dyson’s original rendition of the song, “The Wiggle Bounce,” which used smooth blues grooves to invite students to, what else, wiggle and bounce.
Bradford Elementary Principal Tracy Trogdlon emphasized the importance of children hearing and seeing music being played by “cool” adults, hopefully going on to inspire them into other musical programs well into adulthood.
“It’s nice to see a young, energetic performer come in and teach kids how fun music can be,” she said.
DCCA’s Arts in Education sponsors include The Ohio Arts Council, Target, DP& L Company Foundation, Vectren, Greenville Federal, Maid Rite, The Andersons, Edison State Community College, Darke Rural Electric Trust, BASF, Family Health, Litman-Thomas Agency, Mercer Savings Bank, The Ketrow Foundation, Lydia E. Schaurer Memorial Trust, Harry D & Esther Stephens Memorial, DCCA Memberships and each local school district.