As part of their Black History Month studies, students in Beth Zerkowski’s Whitehurst Campus music room have been learning how to create and perform a blues song.
The blues is a melancholic music of Black American folk origin developed in the rural southern United States toward the end of the 19th century. The later urban blues gave rise to rhythm and blues and rock and roll. It typically is composed in a 12-bar sequence that cycles over and over and often includes solo improvisations or melodic lines from accompanying musicians.
After learning about the fundamentals of the Blues’ rhythms, words and sounds, students composed a 12-bar lyrical verse – about wearing mix-matched socks to school. Following, Zerkowski led students in saying the words to a Blues rhythm and later added in boomwhackers, mallet percussion instruments and a keyboard. Students also were invited to sing behind a plexiglass shield and perform riffs on class instruments. The result was a melodious and clever first-try at the complicated, soulful art of singing the Blues.