Arkansas State University
fax (870) 972-3069
Links to News Releases
Public activities at ASU
Faculty and Staff
3rd annual 'Blues in the Schools' program to be
held in West Memphis
NOTE: The special performance by the
New Orleans Jazz Ramblers Monday night, March 31, at 7 p.m., has been
cancelled due to inclement weather.
March 25, 2008 --
Arkansas State University’s Arkansas Folklife Program will sponsor
the third annual "Blues in the Schools" project in West Memphis schools Monday-Tuesday, March 31-April 1. The two-day event
kicks off with a special performance by members of the New Orleans Jazz
Ramblers Monday, March 31, at 7 p.m. at the West Memphis Public Library.
Admission is free. At 9 a.m. on Tuesday, April 1, Essie "the Blues Lady"
Neal and the New Orleans Jazz Ramblers will be musicians in residence at
West Memphis Christian School, this year’s host school for the program.
Essie Neal, of Sweet Home, Arkansas, shares her love of the blues with
audiences of all ages through the Arkansas Arts Council’s Arts on Tour
program. She is also the 2003 winner of Little Rock’s Over-40 Revue, has
performed in the 2002 and 2003 telethons for the United Negro College
Fund, and has performed as a featured artist at the King Biscuit Blues
Festival in Helena, Arkansas.
The New Orleans Jazz Ramblers, famous in their hometown for their
authentic New Orleans jazz, were blown to Memphis by Hurricane Katrina.
Band leader and saxophonist Stephen Foster has played with numerous jazz
legends, including Duke Ellington, and is a noted musical educator.
Members of the New Orleans Jazz Ramblers include Joy Foster, Warner
Williams, Bryan Cayolle, Joe Sellmansberger, Dr. E. Ron Horton, Jim
Mahanah, James Sexton, Antonio Murphy and Rashienne Webb.
Presenters include Dr. Mike Luster, director, Arkansas Folklife Program;
Dr. E. Ron Horton, director, ASU jazz studies program; Dr. Gregory
Hansen, assistant professor of English and Folklore at ASU; Simon
Hosken, event organizer and Heritage Studies graduate student at ASU;
and Caroline Redfearn, director, West Memphis Public Library.
Dr. Horton currently performs on trumpet with the New Orleans Jazz
Ramblers in addition to directing ASU’s jazz studies program. He says,
“I am really proud to be a part of the ‘Blues in the Schools’
Program. This is the best possible way to introduce the arts to
students; it will have a real impact on their way of thinking and their
education. We will be combining history and music in a manner that will
bring art to life for those students. On Tuesday, we will combine
regional musical history with one of the best jazz bands in the
country. I know that this program will have a long life, and I hope that
it will be used as a model for other parts of Arkansas and the nation.”
The "Blues in the Schools" annual programs are supported by Arkansas
State University’s Department of English and Philosophy and that
department’s Delta Blues Symposium,
as well as the Heritage Studies PhD program, all housed within ASU’s
College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Additional grant support is
provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.
with grant support from the National Endowment for the Arts.
ASU’s Office of Admissions and the Division of Student Affairs also
provide support for the program. Tammy Fowler, director of Admissions,
says, “We value the Mississippi Delta and its people, and we want to
support the preservation of this region’s rich musical heritage.”
The event is geared toward students from grades 7-12 throughout the
region. Last year, some four hundred students attended, and according to
Simon Hosken, roughly the same number of students will participate this
Hosken’s involvement with “Blues in the Schools” began in his practicum
in ASU’s Heritage Studies PhD program, an interdisciplinary doctoral
program that is the only one of its kind in the nation. “This year’s
program,” says Hosken, “is all about taking the blues home.” Hosken goes
on to say, “I would argue that West Memphis, Arkansas, is more of a home
to the blues than Memphis. The importance of this program for West
Memphis cannot be understated. This is an opportunity to convey the
history of West Memphis to some of the city’s children and help to
preserve some of the rich heritage of West Memphis in the development of
For more information, contact Simon Hosken at (901) 921-4112 or via
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Space is still available for school groups interested in attending this
year’s program; to attend with a school group, contact Lynette Bankston,
guidance counselor, West Memphis Christian School, at (870) 400-4000 or
via e-mail at email@example.com.