BITS (Blues in the Schools) HITS THE ROAD
D. C. and Selby Minner tour schools in HIGH SCHOOLS in Kansas
City and ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS in the Davenport - Quad Cities Iowa
November 2000 was a good and busy time for D. C. and his
BITS program. He and Selby headed north with their drummer
Daniel Williams for two weeks just before Thanksgiving. The
MISSISSIPPI VALLEY BLUES SOCIETY has an extensive
program of presenting Blues to schools - in it's tenth year
- and it was exciting to get up there and be part of it.
They have performers in the schools for a week every other
month and one full month a year. They also host a
highly respected Blues Festival on the banks of the
Mississippi annually - some rate it third in the nation
behind Chicago and Helena.
kids were great, as always. Mostly
first thru sixth grades. Rock Island Illinois Principal Mr. Osborne
wrote us later that ours was "by far the best assembly we've ever had
at Longfellow. You wouldn't believe the excitement you created by
donating your 'gold and diamond' ring ....Again, thank you for providing
this wonderful opportunity for the Longfellow students.".
'So how does Blues in the Schools go?... What exactly do you do?'',
you may well ask. Fair enough. Kids love the electric guitar. And they
know this music, they just don't know it as Blues. D. C. asks them "Do
you know anything about Blues or Rhythm and Blues?" They usually say "Noooo".
We say "well - we think maybe you do!", and proceed to play Johnny
B. Goode. The hands immediately go up -"Chuck Berry!!" We
follow that with Stand By Me, My Girl, Lean On Me, Blue Suede Shoes,
etc. They know all these songs. So D. C. tells them "I think we have a
problem here - you said you didn't know any Blues, but you know all of
these songs. I think we have a problem with labeling. What kind of music
did you think this was before today?" The answers come back 'Rock',
"Country".....So we give credit where credit is due, to the Blues
and R & B.
With all this music the wiggling characteristic which is of every
elementary school (!) announces they want to move around. So we tell
them they can get up and dance as long as they stay right on that little
spot in front of their seat.... We then break into a Blues version of
Hokey Pokey or Itsy Bitsy
Spider. Redoing their songs in a Blues style gives them a very
clear idea of what we're talking about; it's fun for them also. They
dance. Maybe then it's time for them to "get a chance to shout in school
- would you like that?" "Yes" comes back across the room, I line
out the words and we break into a resounding version of Hey, Hey, The
Blues Are All Right. You can imagine 300 or more kids singing their
heads off in a gym(!).
D. C. wears 12 rings on his right hand when he does a show. They are
quite glittery, a fact not lost on kids who can be pretty materialistic.
So he tells them "I have a bunch of grandkids, and before I left home to
come up here they told me they needed shoes. They want some tennis
shoes, and they want some good ones; they have to be worth at least
$50." He goes on "I haven't got any money (always a snicker or laugh at
this point) but I sure would like to trade a good pair of sneakers for
one of these rings .... anybody want to trade?" Hands go up,
shoes get waved in the air -- oh yes, they're ready for that! So then we
talk about it a little while longer, and point out that maybe they need
to look a little harder at the deal. We know the value of their shoes,
maybe they need to find out what the rings are worth. "How much?" they
ask. D points to one and says "Two dollars and fifty cents - but this
one is worth more; I got it for $3.00!" Cries of "Fake " can be heard
across the audience.. "No, not fake," D. C. says, "have you ever heard
of a costume? You wear a costume at Halloween, don't you ...well, I
don't wear this earring in my ear to the grocery store ...or all of
these rings...this is my costume I wear onstage when I play." Finally he
gets to the point that you have to be careful about strangers making
deals that seem too good to be true. If they seem too good, they
probably are. And to prove his point that these are not diamonds and
gold rings, a student is chosen from the group to pick a ring off of D.
C.'s hand, and take it to the principal. A gift to the school to be
given later by the principal to some winning student; in a raffle or
maybe a writing contest.
Before we go we always sing one slow Blues - usually The Blues Ain't
Nothin' But A Good Girl Feelin Bad. We remind them that
Europeans consider this music America's greatest contribution to world
culture. Also that there would be no jazz or Rock as we know it today if
the Blues hadn't come first. Lead guitar solos come from the Blues after
We met a lot of wonderful people in Iowa and Illinois. Thanks to Joe and
Katherine, Denise, Jimmy and everyone!
An exciting addition to the tour were the two stops in KANSAS CITY,
coming and going. Joni Mayberry of the KC BLUES SOCIETY set up
three performances. We jammed with the jazz band classes of
Reggie Mays and Clarence Smith at the Schlagle and Paseo Arts High
Schools. The Mayfield Towns Memorial Project (recently written
up in the Blues Foundation's Newsletter) has had these kids performing
at the KC Blues Festival and doing other things. Well - I'm happy to
report that the Kansas City tradition of long jamming horn solos is in
good hands. The kids were not timid about improvising, each taking
several solos in turn. (Count Basie's band used to jam all night, many
tunes taking 45 minutes!!) It was great; characterized as "magical" by
We also had a long and productive afternoon at the North KC
Detention Center. D's quite a motivational speaker, with a lot of
street experience. At risk kids are one of our favorite groups. They
have the Blues, and they know it. They're usually pretty smart and
creative too. Smart enough to know when they're bored, and creative
enough to do something about ... just something 'outside of the box' of
acceptance, is the only problem. So we speak of finding your passion in
life...a way to express that creativity that will work for them
and not against them. The full afternoon confirmed again my contention
that teaching guitar in the normal school curriculum would catch some of
these kids that are falling through the cracks of our educational
system. Their teacher Brenda said she plays some guitar, and would
try to put a class together when she saw their interest. Joni Mayberry
said she would try to scrape up some guitars. They already let Blues
Festival goers attend the show free if they show up with instruments to
donate to BITS. Up till now they usually get horns.
Kansas City is a real Blues town, running over with talent.
Jammed at the Paradox Club with D. C. Bellamy.
Also at the Grand Emporium. Met
Lady B - Brenda - who played flute, sang great Blues and is the
sister of OKC's Bluesman James Walker. Wendy Neutzler
- who helped us get Linda Shell here at Dusk 'til
Dawn 3 years ago - interviewed us live and pushed our new CD
MORNING TRAIN on her AM Blues show on KKFI. They
feature over 40 hours of Blues programming a week - just
imagine!! It was red carpet treatment all around. Our
hats off to Joni Mayberry!
Since this trip both DC Bellamy and Lady B
have played the Dusk til Dawn Blues festival - both were
highlights of the Fest.
scroll down and read about DC and Selby at Tahlequah High
School in Feb, 2005
DC and Selby
Minner have been doing Blues in the Schools (BITS)
work since the 70's and have been on the roster of the
Oklahoma Arts Council since 1990. Both as Touring
Artists (fee supported Assemblies and Concerts) and
Artists in Residence, a 20 hour / week program
which puts kids onstage -in the band! Fun!
New experiences build confidence and courage which cross
over from music to any new thing they may later try.
Sadler Arts sings
Please call with questions
Selby (918) 473-2411
or email firstname.lastname@example.org
song list of 50
tunes from which the kids choose includes: Blues
Suede Shoes, Dancing in the Streets, Lean On Me, Hey,
Hey, The Blues Is All Right, Johnny B. Goode, Mustang
Sally, Pretty Girls, Respect, Proud Mary, Rock Around
the Clock, Stand By Me, Standing on Shaky Ground, Sweet
Home Chicago, The Thrill Is Gone, Lets Do The Twist, We
Are Family, Give Me One Reason To Stay Here, Hokey
Pokey, Itsy Bitsy Spider.....
Press of interest...
Two articles on our work in ALTERNATIVE
Locust Grove Learning Center
INTEREST IN THE ARTS
KEEPS KIDS IN SCHOOL
by Cody Bannister, printed in
the Ardmoreite, May 1 1998
With only three day's rehearsal under their belts,
students at the Take Two Academy (Ardmore OK) took the
stage with blues musicians D. C. and Selby Minner as
they sang, danced and played percussion alongside the
"These kids will work hard
for something they want to do," said D. C. guitarist and
leader of Blues On The Move. "I tell them play equals
fun, so when you play and instrument, you're supposed to
be having fun."
The Minners travel the country from
California to Martha's Vineyard, putting on shows with
the help of school students. They use music as a
teaching method. Math is used to keep the beat, Reading
and English in the lyrics, and physics in the sound
According to Bob Haynes, director of
alternative education, alternative academies require one
arts and education project pre year. Last year the
school put on a play. This year it went for something
"Lots of youngsters labeled 'at risk' are
interested in the arts, whether it be drawing, poetry or
music," Haynes said. "This is and attempt for children
to perform who might not have qualified for it in other
Haynes said students in the Take Two program
were often left out of school functions because of
discipline problems. ...
"There are two things musicians look for --
wealth and immortality." D.C. Said. "I've been playing
music for 45 years and haven't got rich yet. Now I'm
trying to cash in on immortality by getting kids focused
on music. If any of these kids get started in blues,
they will remember that old black man who came to the
school and showed them how it was done, and I'll be
alive as long as they remember me."
The music works it's
magic at Dusk til Dawn Blues Fest
FAVER SINGS THE BLUES:
ARTISTS SHARE SOUNDS, HISTORY W STUDENTS
by Lola Taylor, Guthrie News Leader
Guthrie student Jennie
Stewart stood on the tips of her toes, strained her
neck, and still her mouth could not reach the
microphone. She tried to find a different angle, coming
around the side of the microphone in an attempt to find
just a bit of amplification. No luck.
The introductory music reached it's
crescendo. The first verse was upon her. She closed her
eyes, threw back her head and did the only thing she
knew how. She belted out "Proud Mary" from the depths of
her soul, wailing as if she deserved the title "Miss
Expecting a muffled, inaudible sort of
whimper, the crowd immediately quieted to listed to
Admittedly, Stewart is an amatuer blues
artist, trading secrets with Faver students who have
dabbled in the trade for merely days. But she's talented
and spunky, an attribute that delighted D. C. and Selby
Minner, her mentors for the week.
It is titled 'Blues in the Schools', the
Minner are touring the state in order to educate and
introduce students to 'America's First Art Form'
(sic: 'A music Europeans recognize as America's greatest
contribution to world culture'')
The Minner's project is entering it's second
year at Faver where they returned to teach their craft
to students ready and yearning for musical guidance and
itching to strum and sing.
Performing since Tuesday for the students,
the Minners have attempted to introduce the finer points
of blues, if not by instruction at least by osmosis.
When not dazed by sheer talent or deafened by
the echoing electrical guitar, Faver students learned of
history, legends, inside jokes, the source of 'original'
tracks, and about 'faking it'.
And, if they really listened, beyond D.C.'s
good natured wisecracks and the muffle of whispering
peers, they got a philosophical lesson on life.
"To be good at anything, you have to practice
and practice. It's like that in anything you do," D.C.
said into a microphone that didn't seem to amplify.
D.C. played in the corner the entire week
with a slouching hat that seemed to beg for a darkened
smoky lounge and the company of soulful artists
The corners of his mouth curled in a smile as
he plucked the electric guitar. He was truly happy;
happy to play and happy to accompany the amateur yet
inspiring voices of Guthrie students testing their
talent and octave range.
He was known to offer advice, stopping the
music entirely at one point to offer constructive
"You're too flat," he said.
"You've got to do something with your voice.
Listen to the rhythm and the beat, and then start singin',"
He didn't want perfection, only a
distinguishable rhythm and students willing to try
despite the inevitable squeak, squeal or twang.
There was one contingency, however. For the Friday
performance, participating students had to choose
a blues selection.
"No Snoop Doggie Dog. I'm not playing
anything that barks," he said.
There were giggles, no groans from the crowd.
For the next two days, students wrestled with
lyrics, laughed, learned from mistakes and turned to the
Minner's for any last minute advice.
And then there it was, spoken magically
between "Born to be Wild" and "Rockin' Robin" - the
cardinal sin of music.
If concentrating upon the jingling
tambourines it was easily missed, but for those leaning
in and reading lips, it was decipherable.
"Never stop in the middle of the song. It's
the absolute worst thing you can do." D.C. said.
"Whatever you think is a mess-up, may not even be
detectable by the audience. So whatever you do, keep
Relying on professional instruction and
natural talent, the students braved the bare stage of
"I'm not nervous at all," said Faver student
Johanna Rowley."I just want to get out there. It's just
fun, no pressure."
DeVean Thomas shared Rowley's calm. "I've
been singing all my life. This is what I've wanted to do
ever since I was a little kid," Thomas said
With passion and confidence, the group
stretched their vocal chords for a small but energetic
And when the concert ended and the auditorium
emptied, a few lingered, posing as cleanup crew
for a spotless stage - perhaps secretly hoping the music
would once again play.