Artist In Residence

 

Blowin' The Blues
Blues harpist inspires young audience to stardom

By CLAYTON MONTEZ
Walworth County Sunday, Delavan, WI.


LAKE GENEVA
The fifth-graders at Central-Denison Elementary School want to show you they've got what it takes to be rock stars. Well, it might be a while following their initial crash course lessons from famed jazz harmonica musician Geneva Red. But their slam-dunk performance before a packed gymnasium of amazed and proud parents and friends Thursday, Feb. 23 gave no clues that some or most of them never even held a harmonica before that week.
   The musical affair was billed as "Artists in Residence: Geneva Red and Jackie 5 & Dime - Known as The Original Delta Fireballs - and the 5th Grade Blues Harp Players." During Geneva Red's three days at Central-Denison, she taught 120 youngsters basic blues harmonica techniques along with some blues music style and history.
   On the surface, harmony, rhythm and melody were the keynotes that occupied the students' attention while they practiced for and delivered the standing-ovation performance. Yet, many may realize that Geneva Red brought a richer, longer lasting legacy. Her love for her chosen profession infected her apprentices with a passion to express their own voice in a way that the music touched them.
   "Long after the music is played, these youngsters will remember the circumstances that raised them to another level: with courage, focus and tenacity to openly express their creative individuality," said school principal Samantha Polek.
   The audience may have noticed the flamboyant, and perhaps bold demonstrations, by the young speakers Taylor Stynes (Pink Cat), Isiah Caban (Ice Cold), and Megan Wright (The Funkey Monkey) while crooning out the words to the song, "Need My Baby"; or follow the gyrations of Chris Ponsonby (Smokey), Nicole Petrie (Acting Monkey 23), and Ciara Olsen (Allie Blues) belting out "Old Helena Blues"; and finally, muse over Jake Gritzner (Crack the Hack), Josh Harmon (Black Bandon), and Stephanie Espinosa (Lil Violet) as they bellowed stanzas from "Vacation from the Blues".
   Is there some magic formula for overnight success? Geneva Red might say there is no hocus pocus to stardom But a simple recipe for success involves a commitment towards a goal and a reliable compass to get there. Ergo, mix a star performer and a dash of popular music with eager young minds, each one equipped with a user-friendly instrument, and you've got the makings of an incredulous music recital that can bewitch an audience.
   Kudos to the Hohner Harmonica Company and the Braden Dental Center that helped to make it a successful program by supplying all the youngsters with keepsake harmonicas and sponsoring the program.
   Geneva Red is one of a few accomplished female instrumentalists performing on the blues harp today. She was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois where her  parents engaged her in their theatre troupe as a performer from the time she could walk. Red learned how to play the harmonica by listening to old recordings of blues legends like Sonny Boy Williamson, Sonny Terry, Little Walter and James Cotton. She formed her band, Geneva Red & the Roadsters in 1996. In addition to her own songs, she emulates her favorite musicians like "Rice" Miller, The King Biscuit Entertainers, The Jelly Roll Kings, Slim Harpo, Juke Boy Bonner, and Dr. Ross. her accomplice, Jackie 5 & Dime (Jack Wolworth), plays guitar and drums--sometimes at the same time--to deliver a foot stompin', energetic rough and tumble style that is as easy to listen to , as it is to dance to.

 

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