Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, recently gave a presentation at the “Blues Got A Soul” Technology Conference sponsored by the Jus Blues Music Foundation. The conference was held July 31, at the Horseshoe Casino & Hotel in Tunica, Miss.
The purpose of the conference was to share information, resources and emerging opportunities related to the blues music industry. Herts’ presentation, titled “Blues in the Delta: Tourism, Education, and the Creative Economy,” provided an overview of The Delta Center’s work with the International Delta Blues Project, the Mississippi Blues Commission and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area.
“I invited Dr. Herts to present at the conference because people in the blues industry need to know about the important work that The Delta Center and Delta State University are doing,” said Charles Mitchell, director of the Jus Blues Music Foundation. “Dr. Herts talked about Delta State’s International Conference on the Blues that is coming up in October. He also talked about the Mississippi Blues Trail and the Benevolent Fund that provides support to musicians who have kept the blues alive.
“The Blues has contributed so much to our world artistically and economically. Our conference attendees were glad to learn that Mississippi has such a fund available. Many of these artists are aging and in poor health. Some have gotten bad financial advice during their careers. Sources of financial assistance like this are critical to our industry.”
Other topics discussed at the conference included legal concerns for musicians, international opportunities for blues artists, blues radio syndication formats, and history and social healing purposes of the blues. Presenters included professor Sandra “SANA” Foster of Clark Atlanta University, entertainment attorney Jonathan Mason, radio personality Rojene Bailey and music business expert Allen Johnston.
The conference was held in conjunction with the 15th annual Jus’ Blues Music Awards held at Bluesville, a state-of-the-art performance venue inside the Horseshoe Casino & Hotel. The event honored important blues and soul artists and music professionals who have contributed much of their lives to advancing and promoting blues music and culture.
Honorees included Kenny Neal, Betty Wright, Fred Wesley, Lucky Peterson, Martha High and Vaneese Thomas, daughter of Stax Records legend, Rufus Thomas. Also, various artists performed, including 16-year-old Mississippi Delta-based Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, who recently played for President Obama and the First Lady at the White House.
“Both the conference and the awards program were educational and informative,” said Herts. “The conference provided practical information as well as scholarly insights about the blues. The awards program provided an opportunity to hear the stories of blues artists, their contributions and their accomplishments. I met so many visitors from other states like Illinois, Georgia, Florida and even California. This event definitely generated tourism activity in the Mississippi Delta region, so it is great that Jus Blues chose Tunica as the place to host it. Hopefully, they will continue to host it right here in the Delta, the home of the blues.”
The mission of The Delta Center is to promote greater understanding of Mississippi Delta culture and history and its significance to the world through education, partnerships and community engagement. The Delta Center serves as the management entity of the MDNHA and is the home of the National Endowment for the Humanities “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshop and the International Delta Blues Project. For more information, visit http://www.deltastate.edu/academics/delta-center-for-culture-and-learning/.
The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area is a partnership between the people of the Mississippi Delta and the National Park Service. The MDNHA was designated by U.S. Congress in 2009 and is governed by a board of directors representing agencies and organizations defined in the congressional legislation. More information about the MDNHA, including the complete approved management plan, is available at http://www.msdeltaheritage.com.