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Blues Conference Brings Musicians, Musicologists to Campus

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

Visit here for a complete schedule of events, or here for a complete list of presenters.

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.”

For more information, please contact Mitchell and Collins at or visit