The Delta Center for Culture and Learning’s venerable summer workshop, “The Most Southern Place on Earth: Music, History, and Culture of the Mississippi Delta,” recently received further praise from the National Humanities Alliance (NHA), the official advocacy organization for the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH). Alumni participants surveyed by the NHA consider the free weeklong professional development for K-12 educators as invariably helpful and often revelatory. Read More
Delta State University’s 5th Annual International Conference on the Blues will celebrate the region’s connections to the art form by honoring blues legends and investigating gospel music’s links to it. The event takes place Sept. 29-Oct. 2 on the campus of Delta State.
September 30-October 2, 2018
The fifth annual International Conference on the Blues promises to bring legendary entertainment and academics to Delta State University from Sunday, Sept. 30 through Tuesday, Oct. 2. Events include a Morganfield Family Reunion for the extended family of the late Delta blues legend and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner McKinley “Muddy Waters”’ Morganfield, and a performance by Grammy nominee Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and Orleans Avenue.
The conference, which is still open for registration, brings together blues scholars, musicologists, blues enthusiasts, and fans from all over the United States in a place known as the center of Delta blues music and history. In addition, registrants may purchase tickets for Trombone Shorty’s Tuesday evening concert at the Bologna Performing Arts Center. Highlights of this year’s blues conference include:
- The pre-conference Gospel Roots Family Day
- The Morganfield Family Reunion, a tribute to Muddy Waters and his family’s legacy in Mississippi, Chicago, and beyond
- A presentation on the German origins of the American Folk Blues Festival, which brought Mississippi’s blues to world stages during the 1960s, by former German ambassador to Azerbaijan Herbert Quelle, who is now the German consul in Chicago, and a noted performer and musicologist
- A keynote address by religion and southern culture historian Charles Reagan Wilson
- A master class and presentation from former New Orleans Jazz National Park director and Sting sideman Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes
- A presentation by noted Blues scholar Elijah Wald on the uncensored roots of the blues and Jelly Roll Morton’s legacy
- A “Spirit of the Blues” gospel showcase by the Coahoma Community College Gospel Choir, under the direction of Dr. Kelvin Towers, who will make some musical connections to the field work of Alan Lomax and the Cultural Equity Archive
- “Blues in the Round” event, hosted by DMI Director Tricia Walker, sponsored by Visit Mississippi
- A free Morganfield Family Reunion Concert at the Courthouse on Monday Night, featuring Joseph Morganfield, “honorary cousin” J.J. Thames, and other members of the extended Muddy Waters family, as they pay tribute to the iconic Mississippi Delta Blues Performer, Muddy Waters
- And a conversation with Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue; as they make Louisiana Blues connections to the greater Mississippi Delta region
The fifth annual conference is the work of the Department of Music, Division of Languages and Literature, the Delta Music Institute, and The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, and is made possible by generous funding from the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, the Chisholm Foundation of Laurel, Mississippi; Association for Cultural Equity, City of Cleveland; Visit Mississippi/Mississippi Development Authority; National Endowment for the Arts; and National Park Service Lower Mississippi Delta Region Initiative.
“I always marvel at the variety of scholars that our conference attracts,” said Dr. Shelley Collins, a professor in the Department of Music and co-chair of the International Conference on the Blues. “Some of the universities represented by our presenters include The University of Virginia, The University of Pennsylvania, Rhodes College, Fairfield University in Connecticut, York College of the City University of New York, West Chester University, University of Lorraine (France), University of Lille (France), and University of Paderborn (Germany).
“We have established a sustainable blues and African American musicology conference, and we especially want to foster the next generation of emerging scholars of the African American musical traditions,” Co-Chair Mitchell adds. “Yes, the Mississippi Delta has a legacy tied to the Delta blues, but the blues has become a world-wide music, and we want to examine all genres of the blues and its ever-present global influence. We know that Cleveland and Delta State prides itself on hospitality, so we are a perfect place to host such scholarly dialogues.”
The fourth annual International Conference on the Blues at Delta State University is shaping up to be the best yet. This year’s lineup features GRAMMY winner Aaron Neville and has a two-part theme: Mississippi Delta native John Lee Hooker’s centennial birthday celebration in conjunction with GRAMMY Museum Mississippi and an exploration of ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax’s collection of Mississippi Delta blues and gospel recordings.
The conference is scheduled for Oct. 1-3.
The unique symposium brings together blues scholars, historians and fans from all over the United States in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, a place known as the epicenter of blues music and history.
To register for the conference, visit https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07ee79rfch3347d1e5&oseq=&c=&ch=. CEU credit is available for educators.
Among the highlights for this year’s schedule are:
- an opening reception and tour of the John Lee Hooker exhibit at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi
- a keynote breakfast featuring Alan Lomax scholar, Dr. John Szwed of Columbia University, New York City
- a free, open-to-the-public John Lee Hooker tribute concert at Bolivar County Courthouse in downtown Cleveland featuring a trio of the next generation of great bluesmen, Jontavious Willis, Marquise Knox and Kingfish Ingram
- an open mic “Blues in the Round” event at Mississippi Grounds coffee shop in downtown Cleveland
- a lunch conversation with Aaron Neville
- a blues-related film festival in the Sanders Theater at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi
- a presentation by renowned blues photographer Dick Waterman
- free admission to GRAMMY Museum Mississippi with paid conference registration
- a closing concert performance by Aaron Neville at Delta State’s Bologna Performing Arts Center with tickets ranging from $25-$50 and a special 10 percent discount for conference registrants
“As the academic center of the Delta blues, Delta State is proud to host and sponsor this year’s blockbuster blues conference,” said Delta State President William N. LaForge. “With all the superb programming that is scheduled, this conference will not disappoint and is one not to be missed.”
In addition, the conference will announce a project funded by the National Endowment for the Arts that will bring Alan Lomax’s collection of Mississippi recordings back home to the region in partnership with the Association for Cultural Equity at Hunter College.
As part of celebrating this exciting new partnership, the conference will feature keynote speaker Dr. John Szwed. Szwed won the 2006 GRAMMY Award for Best Album Notes for “Jelly Roll Morton: The Complete Library of Congress Recordings,” a box set based on Lomax’s interviews with jazz great Jelly Roll Morton. Szwed is considered a leading authority on Lomax’s life and work. He is the John M. Musser Professor Emeritus of anthropology, African American studies and film studies at Yale University and an adjunct senior research scholar in the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University, where he previously served as the center’s director and professor of music and jazz studies.
“We are honored to have Dr. Szwed and representatives from the Association for Culture Equity join us this year to announce our Lomax Mississippi Collection partnership,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center. “We look forward to making early recordings of Delta-based blues and gospel singers available to their families and the communities that they called home.”
GRAMMY Museum Mississippi will be the site for much of the conference, including a specially curated exhibit on John Lee Hooker.
“When the initial conversation began for our museum to be the site of this year’s conference we were thrilled,” said Emily Havens, executive director of GRAMMY Museum Mississippi. “Our goal has always been to help give a better understanding of Mississippi’s role in music, and it makes complete sense for us to work with this conference to expand that mission.”
The conference is part of the International Delta Blues Project, which is funded by the Robert M. Hearin Foundation and is based at The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State. The conference is being managed by a team of campus and community collaborators including The Delta Center; the Delta Music Institute; the Department of Music; the Division of Languages & Literature; the Office of Institutional Grants; Cleveland Tourism; Visit Mississippi; the City of Cleveland; and Bolivar County.
Over 30 papers will be presented during conference sessions.
“I always marvel at the variety of scholars that our conference attracts,” said Dr. Shelley Collins, a professor in the Department of Music and conference co-chair. “With the conference focusing on both John Lee Hooker and Alan Lomax, we’re thrilled to have received a record number of paper submissions this year.”
Numerous opportunities to enjoy live music will also be available at this year’s conference. Monday night will feature a free concert in downtown Cleveland by Jontavious Willis, Marquise Knox and Kingfish Ingram. On Tuesday, Aaron Neville will be interviewed during a lunch conversation, and later that evening, he will perform at the Bologna Performing Arts Center. Conference registrants are eligible to receive a 10 percent discount on ticket prices for this special closing concert.
“Jontavious Willis, Marquise Knox and Kingfish Ingram playing John Lee Hooker songs and their solo and original sides is such a great tribute to both the past and future of the blues,” said Don Allan Mitchell, conference co-chair. “Their average age is 23, and their superb advocacy for blues, as especially relevant to modern African American culture, will especially resonate with our diverse audiences. And Aaron Neville — the man is a music legend and his experience, knowledge and talent will be such a great addition. With a record number of paper and presentation submissions for this year’s conference, and a first-rate lineup of both artists and scholars, there is nowhere to go but up.”
Follow all conference updates at http://www.internationaldeltabluesproject.com/conference.
Delta State University is now accepting proposals for papers, presentations, lecture-performances, workshops, panels and clinics for the 4th annual International Conference on the Blues, to be held Oct. 1-3, 2017.
To celebrate the centennial of John Lee Hooker’s birth, the conference committee is soliciting manuscripts and presentations on Hooker’s music, life and influence. In addition, the conference is seeking presentations and papers on the legacy of ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax, and especially his fieldwork in Mississippi.
Topics of general interest to scholars and enthusiasts are also welcome, such as the African American musical tradition and its influence on world music; call and response as metaphor; black music and the American Civil Rights Movement; African American history in the Delta; African American folk life; and the genres of blues, jazz, gospel and soul music.
Topics of an interdisciplinary nature are also encouraged. Papers are invited from ethnomusicologists, musicologists, scholars, authors, performers, blues enthusiasts and independent researchers.
Additionally, to support young and emerging scholars (graduate students, recent masters, doctoral graduates and junior faculty), the Luther Brown Prize is awarded to the outstanding young scholar paper.
All presentations will be a maximum of 20 minutes in length, with an additional 10 minutes for discussion, and should address a general audience.
Proposals must be submitted online via www.deltastate.edu/blues. Applicants are ask to include a description of the presentation, audio/visual equipment needs and biographical information for all presenters. Please note that not all A/V requests will be granted. Presenters agree to appear at the conference at their own expense, which will include registration fees.