For those singing the blues, Delta State University’s inaugural International Conference on the Blues can’t come soon enough.
Scheduled on campus for Oct. 6-7, this interdisciplinary symposium will be free to Delta State faculty, staff and students. Everyone planning to attend, Delta State affiliated or not, is asked to register in advance by following the registration tab here: www.deltastate.edu/blues.
The program will feature a full schedule of workshops, presentations and performances that take not only an academic approach to the blues, but also one that is accessible to even the casual blues fan. Topics of general interest to scholars and enthusiasts alike will include: African-American musical tradition and its influence on American music and culture; the blues; folklore; history; ethnicity; and the Delta.
Three feature speakers and performers are highlighted in the schedule, including GRAMMY Museum Executive Director Bob Santelli; GRAMMY-winning artist Alvin Youngblood Hart; and Scott Barretta, host of the “Highway 61 Radio Show” for Mississippi Public Broadcasting.
Santelli visits campus once again in great anticipation of GRAMMY Museum Mississippi, scheduled to open on Delta State’s campus next year. He currently leads the original GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles — a 32,000-square-foot facility devoted to exploring and celebrating the enduring legacies of all forms of music, the creative process, the art and technology of the recording process, and the rich cultural history of the GRAMMY Awards.
Previously, Santelli was vice president of education and public programs at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. In 2000, he joined the Experience Music Project as CEO and artistic director and guided the creation of more than 30 exhibits including the “Bob Dylan’s American Journey, 1956–1966″ exhibit.
A noted blues and rock historian, Santelli has authored and edited more than a dozen books, including “The Big Book Of Blues,” “The Bob Dylan Scrapbook,” and “Greetings From E Street: The Story Of Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band.”
As the featured guest artist for the conference, Alvin Youngblood Hart’s praises have been sung by everyone from Bob Dylan to British guitar gods Eric Clapton and Mick Taylor. Since the release of his 1996 debut recording, the all-acoustic “Big Mama’s Door,” Hart has relayed his eclectic musical message around the world. Based on the strength of his record debut and the allure of his live shows, Hart received five nominations at the 1997 W.C. Handy Blues Awards, and he received the award for Best New Artist. He also received two Living Blues Awards that same year.
In 2004, Hart received a GRAMMY for his philanthropic contribution to the compilation “Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster.” In 2005, Hart released the self-produced “Motivational Speaker,” a rock guitar free-for-all, paying homage to fallen and missing rockers like Phil Lynott and Sly Stone. In 2006, he collaborated with several Memphis area musicians in the Craig Brewer cult hit film “Black Snake Moan,” by both serving as a guitar tutor to the film’s leading actor Samuel L. Jackson, and recording a duet with the film’s female lead, Christina Ricci, for the film’s riveting soundtrack.
When not touring solo or plugged in with his revered rock trio, Alvin Youngblood Hart’s Muscle Theory, Hart enjoys researching, collecting, repairing and modifying obscure musical equipment.
Scott Barretta is an instructor of sociology at the University of Mississippi, where his courses include anthropology of blues culture. He is a writer and researcher for the Mississippi Blues Trail, the host of the “Highway 61 Radio Show” on Mississippi Public Broadcasting, and has a weekly music column in the Clarion Ledger. He is the former editor of the magazines Jefferson (Sweden) and Living Blues, which is published by the Center For the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. He has also written for magazines including Oxford American, MOJO and SingOut!, and was on the team that created the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center.
Barretta is a co-author of a recent 18-lesson blues curriculum published by the Mississippi Arts Commission, the editor of the book “Conscience of the Revival: The Writings of Israel “Izzy” Young,” and co-author of the book “Mississippi: State of Blues.” He is currently working on a documentary with Joe York on bluesman Mississippi Fred McDowell, as well as a boxed set of the field recordings of William Ferris.
The two-day International Conference on the Blues promises an exciting lineup of a number of blues experts and performers. Funding for the conference is provided by the Robert M. Hearin Foundation. Attendees are asked to pre-register and a full schedule of events is available at www.deltastate.edu/blues.