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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/.

Delta State blues project receives large-scale funding

To further establish its standing as the academic home of the blues, Delta State University is proud to announce the creation of the International Delta Blues Project.

The three-tiered project will feature an International Conference on the Blues, development of a blues curriculum, and a Blues Leadership Incubator, which will align with GRAMMY Museum Mississippi.

“Delta State’s vision of becoming the academic center for the blues is gaining traction,” said President William N. LaForge. “I am pleased to announce that Delta State has received a $598,000 grant over a three-year period from the Robert M. Hearin Foundation to support the International Delta Blues Project.”

The Hearin Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Jackson, has supported Delta State through numerous grants over the years. The organization backs Mississippi higher education and economic development.

Robin Boyles, director of the Office of Institutional Grants at Delta State, said the grant would provide numerous opportunities for a number of departments on campus.

“This multi-faceted project will increase opportunities for academic study in a multitude of disciplines, as well as create jobs in various sectors of the creative economy,” said Boyles. “We are grateful to the Hearin Foundation for the continued support they have provided throughout the years.”

Charles McAdams, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, said Delta State deserves to be coined the academic center of blues studies. Progress is underway to establish a blues studies minor that could move into an academic major for students wanting to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees. The hope is to bring visiting scholars, lecturers, artists and artists‐in‐residence to the Delta to teach and learn the blues.

“Delta State University is the rightful place for an academic study of the blues and blues culture,” said McAdams. “We are fully committed and uniquely positioned to be the center for blues studies in the world. The delta blues is a separate genre of music that has influenced many other styles of music and continues to be a prominent style on its own today.

“This grant will enable us to systematically approach the development of a blues curriculum. We will carefully design a multidisciplinary approach to the study of the blues, which will include music, art, literature, history, economics and social justice.”

Co-chairs of the International Conference on the Blues, Don Allan Mitchell and Shelley Collins, are thrilled to see support for this unique programming.

“Shelley and I were excited to be part of the Hearin grant proposal team,” said Mitchell. “When we looked for models for a blues studies curriculum, we kept two ideas in mind. The first was that we wanted to build on the strengths of Delta State, such as our music department and our Delta Music Institute, but also The Delta Center for Culture and Learning and the wide array of faculty who are interested in interdisciplinary studies.

“Secondly, we wanted to make sure that current faculty would have opportunities to experiment with teaching the blues in a variety of contexts. Our current Delta State faculty and students will first see the Hearin Foundation’s generosity at work at the International Conference on the Blues scheduled for October 6-7.”

The annual conference 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 interest will include: African American musical tradition; influence on American music and culture; the blues; folklore; history; ethnicity; the Delta and more.

Featured speakers and performers will include 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.

While the focus will be academic, a unique feature will be the Juke Joint on the Stage. This sampler concert/jam session will include local musicians, visitors and scholars. Local artists interested in performing are asked to email blues@deltastate.edu.

This interdisciplinary conference will be free to Delta State faculty, staff and students, with many opportunities for the Delta State family to learn about the Delta’s rich African American blues tradition.

The third tier of the project — the Blues Leadership Incubator — allows for community outreach and engagement through public lectures and workshops that have practical applications in entrepreneurship and economic development.  It also aligns with the great anticipation for GRAMMY Museum Mississippi. Slated to open on Delta State’s campus in 2015, the museum will become only the second GRAMMY museum in the world outside of Los Angeles.

“With the opening of GRAMMY Museum Mississippi in 2015, and the anticipated tourism that will accompany this opening, it is imperative that Delta State provides opportunities for local business owners to gain insight and knowledge on how best to promote and portray the blues, and to be able to communicate its rich tradition,” said LaForge. “The project will maximize Delta State’s existing partnerships with entities such as the Mississippi Development Authority and the Mississippi Blues Trail to bring experts to the region to engage local businesses and entrepreneurs in promoting and providing positive Delta‐centric tourism experiences.”

LaForge added that Delta State is eager to enhance its role as a beacon of opportunity in the region.

“Delta State University’s International Delta Blues Project is poised to have a significant impact on the Mississippi Delta in many critical areas, including an increase in tourism to the Delta, a revival in the interest of the blues, increased opportunities for study and employment in the creative economy, and growth in the number of economic partnerships created.

“With the engagement of the Hearin Foundation as a partner, Delta State is ready to launch this creative and meaningful project. We look forward to the effort and support ahead as we realize the vision of becoming the academic center of the blues.”