Artist In Residence

 

A First Taste Of Blue
Lima pupils introduced to American art form

By BETH L. JOKINEN
Lima News, Lima OH.


LIMA — The music had barely started and pupils at Lima South Middle School were tapping their feet and nodding their heads. “Are you just going to sit there,” Geneva Red stopped playing her blues harp for a moment to say. Pupils didn’t need much urging to start clapping and moving a little throughout the rest of the blues song. “You need to make some noise,” Red said. “Loosen up a little bit and have some fun. That’s what the blues is all about.”
   The 15 pupils did loosen up as Red and her guitarist/drummer, Jackie “5 & Dime” Wolworth, introduced them to the blues of DeFord Bailey, Sonny Boy Williamson I and Big Walter. By the time the hour-long session was over, the pupils were not only making noise and having some fun. They were playing the 12-bar blues on their own harmonicas. “It is really cool to see how quickly you can get it to them and get them excited about it. That’s what’s important,” Red said.
   Red and Wolworth are working with South and St. Gerard Catholic School pupils throughout the week. The two residencies will culminate with a joint performance at 10 a.m. Friday in the Lima Senior High School Auditorium. The duo will also perform under the name of The Delta Fireballs for free at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Allen County Museum.
   Red grew up in Chicago, where she attended a blues festival as a teenager. She’s been performing professionally since 1996. “I just started developing my record collection,” she said. “I was just drawn to the harmonica. It just sounded so cool.”
   A few of the pupils said Monday they have played a toy, plastic harmonica, but that was the extent of their experiences. Red said the harmonica is an underestimated instrument, largely because it was originally a novelty. “But, I will spend the rest of my life trying to master this little thing,” she said. “We’re not even scratching the surface here, but we are giving them the basis so after this week, hopefully some of them will take that with them.”
   Monday’s program included some history of the blues and the harmonica, but within 30 minutes, pupils had their harmonicas and were playing. Red said even more important than teaching pupils about the harmonica, is teaching them about the blues in hopes that they will listen to it more. “What I really want to instill in them is that at the basis of all popular music today is the blues,” she said. “We wouldn’t have the back beat that we dance to without the blues.”

 

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