Blues In The Schools

BITS History

From the inception of CIBS, Blues Education has always remained a priority for the membership. In October 1994, CIBS created a Blues section at the Forest Ave. Public Library and has donated resources over the course of several years. In February 1997, CIBS booked 1993 KBA award winner for Theatre, Guy Davis, to perform his award–winning theatrical performance “In Bed with the Blues: The Adventures of Fishy Waters” at North High School and DMACC in honor of Black History Month, as well as a spot at the Court Ave. Winter Blues Fest that weekend.

After nearly six years of planning and fund-raising, in September 1998 CIBS was finally able to present its first true Blues in the Schools program, a residency program for 20 students at Moulton Elementary taught by 1997 KBA award winner for Education, Fruteland Jackson, assisted by local musicians “Chicago Rick” Lussie & Rob Lumbard. After 7 class days involving 2-4 hours of instruction per day in blues history as well as technique and performance on guitar and harmonica, the program culminated with a lunchtime performance in the Capitol Square lobby featuring a song that was not only performed by the class, but written by them as well. In addition, Fruteland presented brief “Blues 101” programs at four other area schools.

In September 2002, CIBS presented its 2nd BITS endeavor, again bringing in Fruteland Jackson, this time for a two-week residency at Harding Middle School and assisted by Des Moines harmonica player “Jammin’ Jimmy” Schieffer. The program concluded again with a lunchtime Capitol Square performance. Two students from the Moulton program 4 years earlier were back to participate again at Harding. Additionally short programs were presented at 6 area schools as well as an all-ages presentation at Blues on Grand.

The third edition of CIBS’ BITS program took place in June 2007 involving a group of students at the Scavo campus, and this time taught by two artists-in-residence, Iowa City’s Kevin Burt and Iowa Blues Hall of Fame Inductee Dartanyan Brown, assisted by Maxx G and fellow IBHOF members George Davis and Sam Salomone. This time around, the program’s conclusion was a performance on the U.S. Cellular stage at the Des Moines Arts Festival.

CIBS is again reviving its BITS efforts in 2014 with a bit of a change in focus. As opposed to bringing in an artist-in-residence, an expensive proposition that has limited the frequency with which the program can be presented, we are creating a core group of interested area musicians, some of whom are professional music educators, and developing a core curriculum which can be adapted to classes of varying duration and age levels in the hope that we can present multiple opportunities throughout the year in the near future. Our first such program will be held at East High this spring.

BITS Contributions

Tax-deductible donations to support CIBS’ education programs can be made to the Carol Thomas Memorial Endowment Fund by clicking on the DONATE button in the right-hand column or mailing to:

Central Iowa Blues Society
PO Box 13016
Des Moines, IA 50310-0016

Carol Thomas Memorial Endowment Fund

carolthomasCarol Thomas was a long-time blues singer and keyboard player, a founding member of the Central Iowa Blues Society, and served as the Newsletter Editor for CIBS’ Blues Crier from 1992 until her death in 1997 from cancer. Carol was loved and is missed by all who had the privilege of knowing her. In her honor, the Central Iowa Blues Society has established the Carol Thomas Memorial Endowment Fund. Monies collected are dedicated to youth educational programs.

Since its establishment, the endowment fund has been the primary funding mechanism for CIBS’ Blues in the Schools programs. Many people may not be aware that the Winter Blues Fest in turn provides a substantial portion of the funding to the Carol Thomas Endowment.

As part of the sponsorship package since 2005, the host hotels have donated a percentage of bar sales from the event to the fund. CIBS would like to recognize and thank the Hotel Fort Des Moines and the Downtown Des Moines Marriott for their contributions to CIBS’ educational efforts.

Webster-Wagner Scholarship

Lynette Webster and Jeff Wagner have both been instrumental to the success of the Central Iowa Blues Society from its inception through its first 20 years. Lynette has represented CIBS as its President for 9 years (1998-2001, 2004-2007, 2010-2013) in addition to 4 years as Vice President, 1 year as Treasurer, 4 years as Secretary and 2 years as Production Coordinator. There is little doubt that Lynette was the heart and soul of CIBS throughout that time. After having spent 3 years as CIBS Treasurer and 3 years as President, Jeff became the managing owner of Blues on Grand. In that capacity, “Dr. Doubt” became ineligible to hold elected office in CIBS, however he continued to serve as Chair of the Finance & Fundraising committee until 2013. Jeff is also a former member of the Blues Foundation Board of Directors. In recognition of their years of service, and in culmination of a goal of the society since its inception, the Central Iowa Blues Society is proud to announce the establishment of the Webster/Wagner Scholarship to assist in the education of a young person showing an interest in or aptitude for America’s original musical art form.

2007 Blues In The Schools Photos

The third edition of CIBS’ BITS program took place in June 2007 involving a group of students at the Scavo campus, and this time taught by two artists-in-residence, Iowa City’s Kevin Burt and Iowa Blues Hall of Fame Inductee Dartanyan Brown, assisted by Maxx G and fellow IBHOF members George Davis and Sam Salomone. This time around, the program’s conclusion was a performance on the U.S. Cellular stage at the Des Moines Arts Festival.