with permission from WQPT Quad Cities PBS
Review in the Standard-Times, San Angelo Texas 1/15/09
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On Tuesday, November 6th Thomas Jefferson played host for the Mississippi Valley Blues Society’s visiting guest artist, Rich DelGrosso.  Mr. DelGrosso entertained and educated TJ fourth, fifth and sixth graders for an hour with a demonstration of a variety of musical styles which had their roots in the blues.  The crowd enjoyed learning how the basic rhythm of the backbeat served as the backbone for such diverse musical styles as rock and roll, hip hop, country, soul, and bluegrass.  Del Grosso had the students perform the backbeat while he provided the vocals, and accompaniment with his guitar.

Another highlight was the creation of a jug band using students who played water bottles and the spoons to provide the rhythm section for another song.  DelGrosso performed a number of songs on his guitar and then switched to his primary instrument, the mandolin, to perform a song from his recent CD, "Get Your Nose Outta My Bizness!"  

Accompanying Del Grosso was Hal Reed, a local blues harmonica player.  When asked how long the two men had been playing together, DelGrosso replied, "About five minutes.  We just met today."  He then went on to explain that it was easy to improvise in the blues because of the way that it is played.  

Also in attendance at the concert were the fourth and fifth grade students of AlWood Elementary where music teacher Mr. Swessinger's wife, Ms. Baugh, also teaches music.  Said Ms. Baugh of the concert, "It was very considerate and generous of Thomas Jefferson to welcome us for this opportunity.  I know that everyone had a good time, and in the future, perhaps we can attempt other collaborations."


Mississippi Valley Blues Society, Thursday, November 8, 2007


Hi Rich,

We certainly enjoyed having you here. The kids really responded to the audio clips you played and enjoyed hearing their lyrics turned into songs on the spot. That was fantastic .It was a wonderful performance. The students were inspired and really enjoyed the music, plus learned something in the process. What more could we ask for? Thanks again for spending the afternoon with us. Great job! Hopefully we'll see you again soon, either at the MVBS Blues Fest or around the schools. Thanks.

Nick Propes
Music dept. Pleasant Valley High School
Quad Cities IA

The Program: Syllabus

Elementary: The “Building Blocks” of the Blues

  1. Rhythm: Finding the Back Beat
  2. From West Africa, the Call and Response
  3. Melody: The Notes called “Blue”
  4. 12 Bars, more or less

Middle School: Use the “Blocks” to Make Your Own Blues

Assignment: Students prepare before the workshop by writing poetry in the AAB format used for most blues songs. They bring their Poems to the workshop where DelGrosso turns them into songs.

  1. Review of  Rhythm
  2. The poetry of the Blues: “On the spot” creation of melodies for student poetry.
  3. Demo of “call and response” in the music, using voice and instrument.
  4. Blue Notes: How, when and why we use them.

High School/ College: 12 Bars across the Country

  1. Review of the “Building Blocks:” Rhythm, Melody, Poetry.

       Assignment: Same as Middle School with encouragement to write

the music.

  • Regional Style: “On the spot” creation of melodies for student poetry, performed in regional styles; Classic, Delta/ Chicago, Piedmont/New York, Texas/West Coast and Rock and Roll.

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