Blues In The Schools

2016 Blues In The Schools, May 10/11  Westminster Secondary School

London Free Press News Blues in the School's coverage

Each year the Great Lakes Blues Society proudly presents Blues In The Schools (BITS), a program mainly for elementary school students, in London and the surrounding area.  The program educates students about Blues music, and in so doing, African American history, through a variety of world class Blues artists and educators. These include Billy Branch (one of the founders of BITS) Reverend Robert Jones and Terrance Simien, as well as local and other Canadian artists, such as Chris Murphy and Rick Fines and Suzie Vinnick.

With the assistance of generous sponsors and energetic volunteers these Blues artists take the students on a magical journey which is both educational and entertaining, an experience that will never be forgotten. To top this off, all of this is given at no cost to the students or school! We believe we may be the only Blues Society that does this. This is a feather in the Not-for-Profit Great Lakes Blues Society’s cap!

There is a cost to all of this. We cannot provide this programming without our members and sponsors. Memberships are our main source of funding and are the life blood of The Great Lakes Blues Society. Please join, and be part of this exciting group!!

The Great Lakes Blues Society is a responsible music preservation group based in London that produces Blues events throughout the calendar year. Each event is a fundraiser for BITS and/or a community partner. In our short history, we have raised more than $100,000 for local charities and invested more than $30,000 in our Blues in the Schools programs. Here is a brief history of our previous events.

The evolution of Blues In The Schools programming in the London area: Music history has a new face. BITS is fun and interactive for the students. The Great Lakes Blues Society is proud to be the driving force behind this program.



On Tuesday, May 11 and Wednesday, May 12, 2016, Westminster Secondary School had the Blues. London's own Great Lakes Blues Society once again presented our award winning Blues In The Schools program.

This year we were very pleased to be invited into Westminster SS to use their auditorium for our presentations which ran the mornings of May 11th and 12th.  Attending were students from Westminster and seven local area grade schools who were bussed in from their respective schools over the 2-day event.  The grade schools in attendance were Aberdeen, C.C. Corrothers, Glen Cairn, Lorne Ave, Rick Hansen, Victoria, and Woodland Heights, public schools.  In total 1,002 students and teachers took part in our BITS program this year.  We presented Mr. Mark 'Bird' Stafford from Toronto who is a harmonica player and educator of renown reputation. The upstairs room of Chicago's blues club is named 'The Bird's Nest' in his honour.

In addition to the two morning classes, Mark put on a harmonica work shop for the Westminster music students on Tuesday afternoon.  On Tuesday evening, he also be put on a work shop at the new 765 Old East. (formerly the Town & Country Tavern) in their newly renovated back room. Accompanying him for the evening session was Mr Teddy Leonard on guitar.  The evening workshop was open to the public and free for all to attend.

The Great Lakes Blues Society is very proud to continue to put on our BITS program, and we do so at absolutely no charge to the schools or students, we cover the costs 100% including bussing of students from other schools, and to our knowledge we are the only Blues Society in Canada which covers 100% of the cost. This is achieved with the assistance of our membership, profits from our shows, 50/50 draws and generous donations from corporate sponsors.



Once again we had the great Reverend Robert B. Jones in London to perform for approximately 1,000 students.



Legendary Chicago blues master Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues presented our 2010 Blues in the Schools program. Billy Branch is a 40+ year veteran of the Blues stage and is one of the founding fathers of Blues In The Schools. Billy and his band performed four blues music history lessons to approx 700 elementary, high school and college students!



Acclaimed Canadian folk/roots music artists Rick Fines and Suzie Vinnick teamed up to present the history of roots music and it’s relevance to North American pop culture. Rick and Suzie performed four London and Woodstock shows to more than 1,400 elementary grade students.



Reverend Jones returned to London to perform six shows – approximately 1,300 elementary students and more than 1,000 high school students attended the sessions.



Reverend Jones returned to London and area to perform four shows at various locations – approximately 1000 elementary students and more than 1,000 college and university students attended the sessions.


OCTOBER 2006 – CREOLE FOR KIDZ and The History of Zydeco

Terrance Simien and The Zydeco Experience, an all-star band of legendary zydeco masters from Lafayette, Louisiana, performed two shows at Althouse College (UWO) – more than 1,200 elementary school students in attendance.


MARCH 2006 – BLUES IN THE SCHOOLS (Our inaugural year)

Reverend Robert B. Jones is an acclaimed blues historian and has been awarded the prestigious “Blues with a Feeling” Award – a recognition bestowed by The Blues Foundation in Memphis for his lifetime of work in music history education. Reverend Jones performed four shows at various locations – some 900+ elementary students and more than 500 Fanshawe College music students attended the sessions.