news

River kings visit campus

The Office of Student Life, Quality Enhancement Plan, the International Delta Blues Project, the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, and the Delta Music Institute partnered on April 11 to host Southern hip-hop artists and social activists Marco Pavé and Alfred Banks for two events open to the Delta State community and public.

These events were part of the sustainability mission of Delta State’s annual Winning the Race Conference.

Scott Barretta from the International Delta Blues Project moderated a lunch panel featuring Pavé and Alfred Banks. The discussion centered on the intersections of music, social justice and activism, as well as music entrepreneurship, the creative economy and regional musical influences. Later that afternoon Pavé and Banks performed a casual, lounge-style concert in the Union. 

Pavé, a Memphis native, and Banks, from New Orleans, have built solid followings in and around their respective cities and beyond. Pavé has been featured on Apple music, MTV, The Root and has delivered a Ted Talk on arts entrepreneurship. Banks has been featured on RevoltTv, BBC Russia, on several national tours, and has a song featured in a Volkswagen commercial. On their own, they both have viable careers, but in the summer of 2016 they decided to join forces and tour together through the River Kings Tour. Their 2016 efforts were so successful that round two will be an 18-city tour.

International Delta Blues Project, GRAMMY partner for free public film and music event

 William Bell acknowledges the audience for their standing ovation following his performance.

William Bell acknowledges the audience for their standing ovation following his performance.

The Delta Center's International Delta Blues Project at Delta State University recently partnered with GRAMMY Museum Mississippi to present a free, public event of educational film and live music.

The "Take Me to the River" community film screening is one of several Blues Leadership Incubator events that have been offered by the International Delta Blues Project. Blues Leadership Incubator events focus on economic opportunity related to Blues education and tourism in the Mississippi Delta. These events are free and open to the public through a generous grant from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation.

Nearly 150 guests from throughout the Mississippi Delta gathered at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi to see a 45-minute version of the critically-acclaimed documentary “Take Me to the River,” produced by Martin Shore and created at historic Royal Studios in Memphis. The film brings multiple generations of award-winning Memphis and Mississippi Delta musicians together, following them through the creative process of recording an historic new album.  “Take Me To The River” features Terrence Howard, William Bell, Snoop Dog, Mavis Staples, Otis Clay, Lil P-Nut, Charlie Musselwhite, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Yo Gotti, Bobby Rush, Frayser Boy, The North Mississippi Allstars and many more.

Martin Shore introduces his film Take Me to the River

After viewing “Take Me to the River," the crowd enjoyed live performances from The Hi Rhythm section (featuring Charles and Leroy Hodges), Stax Music Academy Alumni Band, William Bell, Frayser Boy, Al Kapone, and GRAMMY winner Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell, owner of Royal Studios. Boo Mitchell recently served as keynote speaker for Delta State's International Conference on the Blues during a Blues Brunch held at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi.

According to Frayser Boy, an Academy Award winner for Best Original Song, these performances are as much about education as they are entertainment.

“I come from a hip-hop background. I never really used live music in performances before I was invited to be a part of this project, “ he said. “But these guys have taught me more in a couple of years than the fifteen or so previous years I was working in this business. All these old guys - these guys that have spent their lives making music - they taught me to better understand where music comes from, and how important it is to our communities. Just as importantly, they are teaching me how to make a career out of this, not just a single record. To do that, I need to know where my music comes from and why it was made the way it was made.”

Attendees linger in the lobby of the museum and visit with the musicians following the performance.

To underscore the educational emphasis of the event, the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area was invited to open the program with oral history documentaries created by students from Delta Hands for Hope of Shaw, MS, and the Rosedale Freedom Project of Rosedale, MS. The students attended after-school workshops learning film and oral history skills through a grant from the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. The students interviewed and photographed Mississippi Delta residents to learn how music has influenced their lives.

“The Take Me To The River program was one of the best nights of music we’ve had at the Museum,” said Jane Marie Dawkins, Education and Public Programs Manager for the museum. “The artists, film and student projects all provided a very entertaining and educational experience. It meant a lot to us to showcase this music from our region, and it was an unforgettable night at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi.”

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 Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area and is the home of the International Delta Blues Project and the National Endowment for the Humanities “Most Southern Place On Earth” workshops. For more information, visit http://deltacenterdsu.com/.

Delta Center presents at Jus’ Blues conference for second year

 Dr. Rolando Herts (right) presented at the Jus' Blues Music Foundation's conference with CEO and founder Charles Mitchell (center) and GRAMMY-nominated blues legend Bobby Rush.

Dr. Rolando Herts (right) presented at the Jus' Blues Music Foundation's conference with CEO and founder Charles Mitchell (center) and GRAMMY-nominated blues legend Bobby Rush.

Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State, recently presented at the “Blues Got A Soul” Technology Conference sponsored by the Jus’ Blues Music Foundation.

This is the tenth year the conference has been held, and this is the second year that Herts has represented The Delta Center at the conference.

The event brought industry professionals and aficionados together to discuss cultural heritage preservation and legal issues pertaining to blues music. The conference was held at Horseshoe Casino’s Bluesville event venue in Tunica, Mississippi.

Herts’ presentation focused on blues heritage partnerships in the Mississippi Delta led by The Delta Center. He spoke about the International Delta Blues Project, including the upcoming International Conference on the Blues, a public screening of the film “Take Me To The River” at GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi, and Delta State’s new International Blues Scholars Program, an online blues studies certificate.

The conference also featured GRAMMY-nominated blues legend Bobby Rush and Atlanta based entertainment attorney Jonathan Mason. The event was moderated by Charles Mitchell, CEO and founder of the Jus’ Blues Music Foundation.

  Bobby Rush speaks to conference attendees before performing.

Bobby Rush speaks to conference attendees before performing.

“For a second year, I invited Dr. Herts to present at the conference,” said Mitchell. “The Delta Center and Delta State University are continuing to provide great leadership in blues education and awareness of the importance of blues culture. We were excited to learn more about the good work that these organizations are doing here in the Mississippi Delta to preserve blues traditions.”

The conference was held in conjunction with the 16th annual Jus’ Blues Music Awards. The awards honored various music professionals who have contributed much of their lives to advancing and promoting blues music and culture.

This year’s honorees included Sly Johnson, Ruby Andrews, Zac Harmon, Queen Ann Hines, King Edward, Chick Rodgers, Billy Branch, Big Bill Morganfield, Mud Morganfield, Eddie Cotton, Jr., and Clarksdale native L.C. Cooke, brother of soul legend, Sam Cooke. In addition, a special presentation was made to R&B legend Millie Jackson, the inaugural Millie Jackson Award.

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 Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area 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.deltacenterdsu.com.

Simple Share Buttons Adder (6.1.5) simplesharebuttons.com

International Blues Scholars Registration Opens

Delta State University is proud to announce the creation of the International Blues Scholars Program, a global online certificate program that is part of the International Delta Blues Project housed in the Delta Center for Culture and Learning. This multi-disciplinary approach to the study of the Blues includes not only in-depth examination of the musical form, but also a scholarly lens on its influence in art, literature, history, and economic development.

Registration for the program is currently open and will last until May 15. Tuition assistance is available for qualifying students.

The International Blues Scholars Program is an online academic certificate program available to students all over the world. Students may register for up to 12 hours of graduate or undergraduate level courses. Those completing all 12 hours will receive a Certificate of Completion from Delta State University.

Courses offered this summer include Sociology of the Blues, taught by acclaimed Blues scholar Scott Barretta who was recently awarded the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts for Mississippi Heritage, and Psychology of Hip Hop and the Blues, lead by Delta State professor Temika Simmons, a recent recipient of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning's Award for Excellence in Diversity. Additional courses are History of Rock n Roll, Blues Literature, and Modern American History: History of the 20th Century South.

Delta Center to present First Tuesday Blues session

Scott Barretta discusses the early years of Muddy Waters' career. To view the entire presentation, click here.

The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University will present a First Tuesday session focused on the International Delta Blues Project on March 15 at 12:10 p.m. in the Fielding Wright Art Center.

The session will have a special focus on the Blues Studies program that has launched at Delta State.

First Tuesday guests will be treated to a lecture from renowned Blues historian Scott Barretta, host of Highway 61 Radio and recipient of the 2016 Mississippi’s Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts for Mississippi heritage. Barretta will teach the Sociology of the Blues course for the International Blues Scholars Program, a new online undergraduate and graduate certificate in Blues Studies that is being offered during the 2016 summer session. The online program will be available to Blues students and aficionados around the world.

The Delta Center is the home of the International Delta Blues Project, an initiative aimed at advancing Delta State University as the academic home of the Blues. The project is funded by the Robert M. Hearin Foundation in Jackson and consists of the following components:

The interdisciplinary Blues Studies program that includes courses offered through various academic units at Delta State including music, languages and literature, social sciences and history, and the Delta Music Institute.

The International Conference on the Blues, an educational and cultural conference that has featured renowned and emerging Blues scholars, as well as award-winning Blues musicians.

The Blues Leadership Incubator, a series of lectures and workshops for the public and business community aimed at providing a deeper understanding of economic opportunity related to Blues tourism and the creative economy.

First Tuesday is sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences and is a program by the Art Department and the First Tuesday Committee. The events are normally scheduled for the first Tuesday of each month during the fall and spring semesters. First Tuesday features lectures, readings and presentations representing diverse perspectives in the arts and humanities. All events are free and open to the public.

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 International Delta Blues Project and the National Endowment for the Humanities “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshops. For more information, visit www.deltacenterdsu.com.

Bobby Rush and Super Chikan thrill BPAC crowd

Blues legends Bobby Rush and James “Super Chikan” Johnson teamed for a free concert at Delta State’s Bologna Performing Arts Center Tuesday night as the closing act of the university’s second annual International Conference on the Blues. The event, “The Storytellers featuring Bobby Rush and Super Chikan: Up Close and Personal,” was a stripped-down concert format that invited the crowd to experience the two renowned blues artists singing and telling stories about their lives, careers, the blues and the Mississippi Delta in distinctly personal ways. (Photo by Rory Doyle/Delta State University)

Bill Ferris and Dom Flemons present at Blues Conference

Dr. William Ferris, a widely recognized leader in Southern studies, African American music, and folklore, delivers the keynote address at the second annual International Conference on the Blues Monday at Delta State University. Ferris the Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the senior associate director of UNC’s Center for the Study of the American South. He is also adjunct professor in the curriculum on folklore. The conference continues Tuesday, ending with a free concert featuring Bobby Rush and James “Super Chikan” Johnson. For more information, visit www.deltastate.edu/blues. 


GRAMMY winner Dom Flemons (right) and Don Allan Mitchell, co-chair of the International Conference on the Blues, during one of the conference sessions on Monday. Flemons is the “American Songster,” pulling from traditions of old-time folk music to create new sounds. Having performed music professionally since 2005, he has played live for over one million people within the past three years. As part of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, which he co-founded with Rhiannon Giddens and Justin Robinson, he has played at a variety of festivals, spanning from the Newport Folk Festival to Bonnaroo, in addition to renowned venues such as the Grand Ole Opry. The International Conference on the Blues continues Tuesday. For more information, visit www.deltastate.edu/blues. ( Photos by Rory Doyle. )

Blues Brunch Panel Discussion

As part of the Blues Incubator programming, a Panel Discussion with the Mississippi Blues Commission occurred during the International Conference on the Blues. Introductions were made by Dr. Rolando Herts, Director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning and the panel was moderated by Dr. William Ferris, former Director of the National Endowment for the Humanities and current Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History at the University of North Carolina as well as the senior associate director of UNC's Center for the Study of the American South.

Panel members were musicians James "Super Chikan" Johnson and Bobby Rush, as well as Mississippi Blues Commission representatives Bob Arentson, Wanda Clark, Mary Margaret Miller, J. Kempf Poole, and Edgar E. Smith.

Bobby Rush and Super Chikan launch “Storytellers” tour at Delta State

 GRAMMY Award nominee Bobby Rush (left) and James “Super Chikan” Johnson will be featured in a free concert at the Bologna Performing Arts Center on Oct. 6 at 7 p.m.

GRAMMY Award nominee Bobby Rush (left) and James “Super Chikan” Johnson will be featured in a free concert at the Bologna Performing Arts Center on Oct. 6 at 7 p.m.

Blues legends Bobby Rush and James “Super Chikan” Johnson have teamed up to perform a free concert at Delta State University’s Bologna Performing Arts Center on Oct.6. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m, and the concert will begin at 7 p.m.

The event, “The Storytellers featuring Bobby Rush and Super Chikan: Up Close and Personal,” will be the closing activity for Delta State’s second annual International Conference on the Blues, which is part of the institution’s International Delta Blues Project.

The concert is free and open to the public through sponsorship from the IDBP and the BPAC.

“We are always pleased to present free programming for our community,” said Laura Howell, executive director of the BPAC. “This partnership with the International Delta Blues Project provides a great opportunity for access to these incredible blues musicians and the stories they have to tell.”

“Storytellers” is a stripped-down concert format that invites music lovers of all ages and backgrounds to experience two renowned blues artists singing and telling stories about their lives, careers, the blues and the Mississippi Delta in distinctly personal ways.

“This concert is about telling where I come from and where my people come from — the Mississippi Delta,” said Rush. “It is about sharing my life and the lives of people who came before me. It’s about impacting the lives of those who are coming after me.

“I am 81-years-old. Now that B.B. King has passed, I am the oldest blues singer in the world. I want to tell the story of where the blues came from, what it is about and where it should go. These are stories that need to be told. I want to educate people about this, and Delta State’s International Conference on the Blues is the place to start.”

Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, is thrilled to bring the talented musicians to campus.

“We are excited that Bobby Rush and Super Chikan chose Delta State, the home of the International Delta Blues Project, as the place to launch their tour,” said Herts. “This concert is part of a broader effort to promote Delta State, Cleveland, and the Mississippi Delta as leading destinations for Blues music and culture. We also are pleased that generous support from the Hearin Foundation and our partnership with the BPAC allow us to make this live concert event free for Delta residents and visitors.”

The “Storytellers” concert is featured on the live music performance schedule for the Bridging the Blues Festival, an annual series of September and October events across Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee celebrating the rich music and culture of the region.

A GRAMMY Award nominee, Bobby Rush is the winner of multiple Blues Music Awards including Soul Blues Album of the Year, Acoustic Album of the Year and Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year. Rolling Stone magazine named him “The King of the Chitlin’ Circuit,” a distinguished African American cultural heritage designation that pays homage to the Southern network of clubs, theaters, halls and juke joints that catered to black audiences during the racially segregated Jim Crow Era. Rush has recorded over 100 albums in his more than 60-year career. He continues to perform over 200 shows a year from Mississippi to Japan and headlines major festivals and concerts for upwards of 20,000 people a night.

James “Super Chikan” Johnson is the recipient of the Mississippi’s Governors Award for Excellence in the Arts and the recipient of the prestigious Artist Fellowship from the Mississippi Arts Commission. He is a native of Darling, Miss., a rural Mississippi Delta community located in Quitman County. As a boy growing up in the country, he was fascinated by his family’s chickens, thus earning him the nickname “Chicken.” His critically acclaimed debut album, “Blues Come Home to Roost,” featured songs about humorous and serious aspects of life in the Mississippi Delta. The album earned him awards for Best Blues Album and Best Debut Album from the 1998 Living Blues Magazine Awards.

For more information about the “Storytellers” concert, visit http://bolognapac.com/events/the-storytellers-featuring-bobby-rush-and-super-chikan-up-close-and-personal/.

For over 21 years, the Bologna Performing Arts Center at Delta State University has been bringing together artists and audiences to celebrate the arts and enrich the cultural life of the Delta community. For more information on upcoming performances, visit www.bolognapac.com.

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 is the home of the International Delta Blues Project and serves as the management entity of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. For more information, visit http://www.deltastate.edu/academics/delta-center-for-culture-and-learning/.

Mississippi Blues Commission names B.B. King Secretary of State of the Blues

 Blues legend B.B. King, Mississippi's Secretary of State of the Blues, surrounded by friends and admirers at the dedication of the "Kilmichael: B.B. King's Roots" Mississippi Blues Trail marker on Aug. 21, 2012 in Kilmichael, Miss. (Photo credit: Mississippi Blues Commission)

Blues legend B.B. King, Mississippi's Secretary of State of the Blues, surrounded by friends and admirers at the dedication of the "Kilmichael: B.B. King's Roots" Mississippi Blues Trail marker on Aug. 21, 2012 in Kilmichael, Miss. (Photo credit: Mississippi Blues Commission)

The Mississippi Blues Commission has designated music legend B.B. King as Mississippi’s Secretary of State of the Blues. One of the most renowned musicians in the world, King passed away in May of 2015.

Mississippi is the first and only state to recognize the contributions of a musician in this manner. The commission will be presenting the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center with a resolution for this recognition signed by Gov. Phil Bryant and the four living previous governors of Mississippi: Gov. William F. Winter, 1984-1988; Gov. Ray Mabus, 1988-1992; Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, 2000-2004; and Gov. Haley Barbour, 2004-2012. The resolution will be part of the permanent collection at the B.B. King Museum & Interpretive Center in Indianola, Miss.

The resolution will be presented at the International Conference on the Blues at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss. The conference, presented by the International Delta Blues Project and a diverse array of regional partners, includes a Blues Brunch featuring a panel discussion moderated by noted blues scholar Dr. William Ferris and comprised of members of the Mississippi Blues Commission. Blues legends Bobby Rush and James “Super Chikan” Johnson will also be in attendance. The presentation of the resolution will take place during the conference’s brunch event on Oct. 6 at 9:30 a.m. in the Delta Music Institute on Delta State’s campus.

“On behalf of the entire Mississippi Blues Commission, it is a privilege to honor B.B. King as our Mississippi Secretary of State of the Blues,” said J. Kempf Poole, chairman of the Mississippi Blues Commission. “Mr. King is one of Mississippi’s most influential sons, and with this designation I am proud to say that B.B. King has taken his rightful place at the head of the blues table.”

Known worldwide as “The King of the Blues,” King was considered one of the most influential musicians of all time. His artistic contributions and accolades are numerous and span decades. A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the R&B Music Hall of Fame, King received more than a dozen GRAMMY Awards between 1970-2010, including the GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award and a GRAMMY Hall of Fame Award for his historically significant recording “The Thrill is Gone.”

During the 1990s, he was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Medal of Arts, and the Kennedy Center Honors. During the 2000s, the Royal Swedish Academy of Music awarded him the Polar Music Prize, and President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. A recipient of honorary doctorate degrees from Tougaloo College, Yale University and Brown University, King was ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as No. 6 on its 2011 list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.

“Mississippi is known the world over as the birthplace of America’s music, and B.B. King is one of its founding legends and one of our state’s most treasured gifts to the music world,” said Gov. Phil Bryant. “For decades, our souls have been stirred by his talents. From juke joints to concert halls, there is no place his influence hasn’t reached. Deborah and I are saddened by B.B.’s passing. Mississippi has lost a legend. He is the king. The thrill is gone.”

Former Gov. Haley Barbour echoed Bryant’s sentiments.

  An emotional King is surrounded by Mississippi legislators in Jackson, Miss. as he is presented with a concurrent resolution naming Feb. 15, 2005, as B.B. King Day.    (Photo credit: Mississippi Blues Commission)

An emotional King is surrounded by Mississippi legislators in Jackson, Miss. as he is presented with a concurrent resolution naming Feb. 15, 2005, as B.B. King Day.

(Photo credit: Mississippi Blues Commission)

“B.B. King was a wonderful ambassador for Mississippi,” said Barbour. “The King of the Blues never forgot Mississippi was home, and he graced us often with his presence. He will be missed. Marsha and I had him for lunch at the Governor’s Mansion on a day he was honored by the legislature. He was warm and delightful, but I will never forget how he gave credit to the people that had helped him throughout his career. He had a big heart as well as big talent.”

The Mississippi Blues Commission is a body of 18 appointed commissioners representing major organizations and geographic/political regions supporting blues initiatives throughout the state. One of the commission’s major projects is ongoing governance of the Mississippi Blues Trail, which began unofficially with two preliminary markers placed in Indianola, which King adopted as his hometown. Highlighting the importance of his contributions, the first marker was placed at a corner where King played as a young man. The other was placed at historic Club Ebony, which is now part of the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center.

Continuous expansion of the Mississippi Blues Trail throughout the state, country and the world is a testament to the global influence of blues music and culture. The Mississippi Blues Trail consists of more than 170 markers throughout the state. There also are 14 out-of-state Blues Trail markers, two of which are located outside of the U.S. — one in Norway, commemorating the Notodden Blues Festival, and the other in France, commemorating the Cahors Blues Festival.

“Local and global tourism and cultural heritage influences of the Mississippi Blues Trail will be discussed during the Blues Brunch at the International Conference on the Blues,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, a member of the Blues Commission, and director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. “Members of the commission will participate in a panel discussion moderated by Mississippi Delta native and blues and southern studies expert Dr. Bill Ferris from UNC Chapel Hill. This is an appropriate venue for the Mississippi Blues Commission to pay homage to B.B. King, a local hero whose musicianship and life achievements have helped to put the Mississippi Delta on the international map as a blues heritage destination.”

The Mississippi Blues Trail has been made possible by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, Mississippi Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, AT&T, and the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University. The program is housed within and managed by the Mississippi Development Authority’s Visit Mississippi.

For more information, contact Mary Margaret Miller, bureau manager for Creative Economy & Culture at Visit Mississippi, at mmmiller@mississippi.org or 601-213-7300.

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 is the home of the International Delta Blues Project and serves as the management entity of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. For more information, visit http://www.deltastate.edu/academics/delta-center-for-culture-and-learning/.

International Conference on the Blues brings musicians, music scholars to campus

Blues-home-page-art.ashx_-e1443538954855.png

The Second Annual International Conference on the Blues promises to bring legendary entertainment and academics to Delta State University on Monday, Oct. 5 and Tuesday, Oct. 6, including GRAMMY award-winning Blues artist Dom Flemons, former National Endowment for the Humanities chairman Dr. William Ferris, an historic statewide proclamation honoring B.B. King and a free performance from GRAMMY-nominated Blues musician Bobby Rush and Mississippi Governor’s Award-winning Blues musician James “Super Chikan” Johnson.

The conference, which is still open for registration, 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.

Among the highlights of this year’s Blues conference:

* the bestowing of a statewide proclamation signed by all five living Mississippi governors designating B.B. King as the “Mississippi’s Secretary of State of the Blues”;

* a keynote address by Blues scholar and Southern culture historian Dr. William Ferris of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill;

* a master class and performance from GRAMMY winner Dom Flemons, known as the “American Songster”;

* events highlighting Blues music songwriters and performers including ‘Blues in the Round’ sponsored by Visit Mississippi;

* and “The Storytellers featuring Bobby Rush and Super Chikan: Up Close and Personal”, a free public concert sponsored by the International Delta Blues Project and the Bologna Performing Arts Center.

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

“This year’s International Conference on the Blues represents the power of the Blues to strengthen partnerships and to engage diverse communities on local, regional, national, and global scales,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning. “We appreciate the generous support of the Robert M. Hearin Foundation and other organizations that are making this conference possible, including Visit Mississippi, Entergy, Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, Bridging the Blues, Mississippi Blues Commission, BPAC, Mississippi Grounds, GRAMMY Museum Mississippi, the Dockery Farms Foundation and several other sponsors and partners. Through these relationships, Delta State University is empowered to offer an unparalleled educational and cultural experience to its students, faculty, and staff, as well as Delta residents and visitors.”

The second annual 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. The conference is being managed by a team of campus and community collaborators including the Delta Music Institute, the Department of Music, the Division of Languages & Literature, the Office of Institutional Grants, and Cleveland Tourism.

“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. “Either our presenters are alums of these schools, graduate students at these universities, or teach at the following institutions: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, George Washington University, The University of North Texas, the Lionel Hampton School of Music at the University of Idaho, the University of Oregon, Indiana University, Loyola University of New Orleans, Columbus State University, the New York City Public Schools, and Perm State University in Russia.”

Flemons who is known the “American Songster,” has performed music professionally since 2005 and has played live for over one million people just within the past three years. As part of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, which he co-founded with Rhiannon Giddens and Justin Robinson, he has played at a variety of festivals spanning from the Newport Folk Festival to Bonnaroo, in addition to renowned venues such as the Grand Ole Opry.

Ferris, a widely recognized leader in Southern studies, African American music, and folklore, is the Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the senior associate director of UNC’s Center for the Study of the American South. He is also adjunct professor in the curriculum on folklore.

The former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Ferris has conducted thousands of interviews with musicians ranging from the famous (B.B. King) to the unrecognized (Parchman Penitentiary inmates working in the fields). He has written or edited 10 books and created 15 documentary films.

“Bill Ferris is a personal hero of mine,” said Don Allan Mitchell, interim chair of the Division of Languages & Literature and co-chair of the International Conference on the Blues. “Every Blues class I teach, I have my students read his groundbreaking Blues from the Delta book, which is an essential text for any Blues scholar or fan.”

Mitchell said the appearance by Flemons expected to be an exciting part of the conference.

“Dom Flemons is known for his work with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, but he is also a walking American songbook, and his knowledge and expertise in playing the country Blues and classic Blues is phenomenal,” Mitchell said.

This year’s conference promises to build on the vision established for the event when it began last year, Mitchell added.

“We hope to establish a long-term and sustainable Blues musicology conference, and we especially want to foster the next generation of emerging scholars of the African American Blues tradition,” he said. “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 & Delta State prides itself on hospitality, so we think we are a perfect place to host such scholarly dialogues.”

For more information, please contact Mitchell and Collins at blues@deltastate.edu.

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 is the home of the International Delta Blues Project and serves as the management entity of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. For more information, visit http://www.deltastate.edu/academics/delta-center-for-culture-and-learning/.

Stolle to present blues lecture in Clarksdale

 Roger Stolle will present a lecture on blues entrepreneurship and the Mississippi Delta’s creative economy as part of Delta State University’s International Conference on the Blues Oct. 1 at 5:30 p.m. at the Coahoma County Higher Education Center.

Roger Stolle will present a lecture on blues entrepreneurship and the Mississippi Delta’s creative economy as part of Delta State University’s International Conference on the Blues Oct. 1 at 5:30 p.m. at the Coahoma County Higher Education Center.

Roger Stolle, owner of Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art in Clarksdale, Miss,, will present a lecture on blues entrepreneurship and the Mississippi Delta’s creative economy as part of Delta State University’s International Conference on the Blues.

The pre-conference lecture event will take place Oct. 1 at 5:30 p.m. at the Coahoma County Higher Education Center, a Delta State satellite campus located at 109 Clark St. in Clarksdale. The lecture is free and open to the public through a partnership between CCHEC and The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, which is the home of the International Delta Blues Project.

“I am so pleased to be working with the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University to offer this lecture at the CCHEC campus,” said Jen Waller, director of the Coahoma County Higher Education Center. “Roger Stolle has been a blessing to the Clarksdale community for years. He has used his passion, drive and skillset to promote the music that he loves. His story is inspiring and certainly worth listening to.”

The International Delta Blues Project features three components: the International Conference on the Blues, which will take place at Delta State’s main campus in Cleveland on Oct. 5-6; the Blues Studies minor, which has launched this fall semester at Delta State; and the Blues Leadership Incubator, which focuses on blues and economic development.

Stolle’s lecture represents one in a series of lectures and workshops that are part of the Blues Leadership Incubator. These lectures and workshops are designed to provide the public with a deeper understanding of the Mississippi Delta’s creative economy.

“Delta State is a regional institution that serves the Mississippi Delta through educational, cultural and economic development,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center. “This lecture will provide an opportunity for the Clarksdale community to learn more about how the International Delta Blues Project is doing this by engaging accomplished creative economy professionals like Roger Stolle to share their knowledge and expertise with Delta communities.”

After a successful 13-year marketing career in corporate America, Stolle moved to Clarksdale in 2002 to “organize and promote the blues from within.” He is the author of the book “Hidden History of Mississippi Blues” and co-producer of the films “M for Mississippi” and “We Juke Up in Here.” He co-founded several Clarksdale based music and cultural festivals including the Juke Joint Festival, the Clarksdale Film Festival, the Clarksdale Caravan Music Fest, and the Delta Busking Festival. He is also the recipient of the Keeping The Blues Alive Award and the Blues Music Award from the Blues Foundation.

“We in Mississippi — especially Clarksdale — were building a creative economy before there was even a name for it,” said Stolle. “When I moved to Clarksdale 13 years ago, we had live blues just two nights a week, one festival per year and one museum. Today, we have live blues seven nights a week, over half a dozen festivals and two museums. We also have a dozen new businesses downtown and at least 150 additional hotel rooms.”

Don Allan Mitchell, co-chair of the blues conference, and a Delta State professor, is excited to add Stolle to the conference schedule.

“Mr. Stolle’s bold business decision to open up Cat Head in 2002 is exactly the visionary, entrepreneurial thinking that we know will inspire our students at Delta State, as well as our wider Delta Community,” said Mitchell. “It is an honor that Roger is so supportive of the conference.”

In addition to catalyzing Clarksdale’s revitalization through blues music and culture, Stolle is a highly sought after marketing, public relations, and artist booking expert both locally and globally. He has worked with a wide array of clients including the Mississippi Blues Trail, and many blues record labels, festivals, and non-profit organizations.

He has also booked Mississippi bluesmen on numerous festivals and tours — taking Delta legends such as Big George Brock, James “T-Model” Ford and Robert “Bilbo” Walker to countries like Italy, Switzerland, the UK, France, the Netherlands, Norway and Brazil.

To register for attendance at Stolle’s lecture and for more information, contact Jen Waller via email at jwaller@deltastate.edu or phone at 662-645-3555.

To register for the International Conference on the Blues, visit the conference website at http://www.deltastate.edu/president/international-blues-conference/.

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 is the home of the International Delta Blues Project and serves as the management entity of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. For more information, visit http://www.deltastate.edu/academics/delta-center-for-culture-and-learning/.

Delta Center presents at Jus Blues Conference

 Performer Dorothy Moore wows the crowd at the "Blues Got A Soul" Technology Conference sponsored by the Jus Blues Music Foundation on July 31 at the Horseshoe Casino & Hotel in Tunica, Miss.

Performer Dorothy Moore wows the crowd at the "Blues Got A Soul" Technology Conference sponsored by the Jus Blues Music Foundation on July 31 at the Horseshoe Casino & Hotel in Tunica, Miss.

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.”

  Conference presenters included (l to r) Jonathan Mason; Allen Johnston; professor Sandra “SANA” Foster; Charles Mitchell, director of the Jus Blues Foundation; Dr. Rolando Herts; and Rojene Bailey.

Conference presenters included (l to r) Jonathan Mason; Allen Johnston; professor Sandra “SANA” Foster; Charles Mitchell, director of the Jus Blues Foundation; Dr. Rolando Herts; and Rojene Bailey.

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.

Markusen to highlight Clarksdale at Winning the Race conference

 Dr. Ann Markusen, director of the Arts Economy Initiative and the Project on Regional and Industrial Economics at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs, will facilitate a Lunch and Learn community session at the Coahoma County Higher Education Center in Clarksdale as part of the Winning the Race conference.

Dr. Ann Markusen, director of the Arts Economy Initiative and the Project on Regional and Industrial Economics at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs, will facilitate a Lunch and Learn community session at the Coahoma County Higher Education Center in Clarksdale as part of the Winning the Race conference.

Dr. Ann Markusen, director of the Arts Economy Initiative and the Project on Regional and Industrial Economics at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, will facilitate a Lunch and Learn community session in Clarksdale as part of the Winning the Race conference at Delta State University.

As part of Delta State University’s engagement with the Mississippi Delta region, the institution’s Winning the Race conference has invited Markusen to speak at a pre-conference event March 30 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Coahoma County Higher Education Center, a Delta State satellite campus located at 109 Clark Street in Clarksdale.

The free session is open to the public with joint sponsorship from the city of Clarksdale, the Coahoma County Tourism Commission, Clarksdale Revitalization, Inc., Crossroads Cultural Arts Center and the International Delta Blues Project at The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University.

To register for attendance, contact The Delta Center via email at hmiller@deltastate.edu or by phone at (662) 846-4311.

Markusen will also present two sessions on creative placemaking and the creative economy during the Winning the Race conference at Delta State on March 31. One of the sessions will focus on Clarksdale.

In 2014, Clarksdale Revitalization, Inc. received a highly competitive $350,000 grant from ArtPlace to create the Crossroads Cultural Arts Center. The center will preserve the region’s rich history of art, writing and music, with a focus on African American contributions to the arts. Plans for the center include an art gallery, as well as performance and retail spaces.

“Being awarded an ArtPlace grant is a powerful indicator that a community has the right elements for harnessing the power of the creative economy,” said Markusen. “The Lunch and Learn community session will help citizens and stakeholders to understand what creative placemaking is about and the opportunities that it presents for socioeconomic inclusion and diversity in Clarksdale and throughout the region.”

Clarksdale Mayor Bill Luckett is looking forward to hosting the experienced lecturer.

“The renewal of Clarksdale’s downtown has happened through realizing the cultural assets and developing the creative economy that was already working into an engine that is still picking up steam,” said Luckett. “We are thrilled that Dr. Markusen is bringing her expertise to Clarksdale. We look forward to her imparting from her experience, which we can use as we continue to develop our creative economy.”

Markusen is principal of Markusen Economic Research and is professor emerita and director of the Project on Regional and Industrial Economics and its Arts Economy Initiative at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. She holds a foreign service bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and a master’s and doctorate in economics from Michigan State University. She has taught at Colorado, California Berkeley, Northwestern and Rutgers universities.

The Lunch and Learn event also will serve as an inaugural workshop for the Blues Leadership Incubator under Delta State University’s International Delta Blues Project, which is funded by the Hearin Foundation. The Blues Leadership Incubator is a series of workshops and seminars designed to build awareness of opportunities for Delta residents to engage with the creative economy.

“This event will help to promote community awareness of how blues and other African American art forms are key drivers of the Delta’s creative economy,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center. “We look forward to Dr. Markusen educating both residents and visitors in Clarksdale and at Delta State about how creative placemaking and the creative economy are opportunities for diversity and inclusion throughout the region.”

“Blues tourism has become a major economic driver for Clarksdale and the Delta,” added Lee Aylward, lead coordinator for the International Delta Blues Project. “Clarksdale literally is ground zero, the crossroads of blues tourism in the Delta with its many Mississippi Blues Trail markers and rich, living blues culture. The Blues Project’s support of the Lunch and Learn event is timely.”

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 Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area and is the home of the International Delta Blues Project. For more information, visit http://www.deltastate.edu/academics/delta-center-for-culture-and-learning/.

The Coahoma County Higher Ed Center is a partnership between Delta State University and Coahoma Community College. Its mission is to expand educational opportunity for the people in Coahoma County and surrounding counties by offering classes and events that will encourage personal development and promote a higher quality of life for all people in the Mississippi Delta.

Follow all Winning the Race conference updates at http://www.deltastate.edu/winning-the-race/.