By Frederick H. Lowe
The National Endowment for the Arts has awarded the Delta Blues Museum, the world’s first museum dedicated to the blues, a $10,000 Art Works grant for recording a new music CD that will showcase the organization’s student band.
The grant will fund production of a new recording of the band performing eight to 10 blues songs. This will be the third CD to feature the band, and it will include live performances when the CD is released.
In addition, the museum will host a CD-release party in the Juke Joint Chapel at the Shack Up Inn to promote the recording and the museum’s arts and education program.
Heath Sitton, sound engineer at the Juke Joint, will record the band’s performance as a student learning tool. The recording may be released later as a live album.
Art Works is NEA’s largest funding category and supports projects that focus on the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement and diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and/or the strengthening of communities through the arts, according to a statement museum officials published on its website.
Shelly Ritter, the museum director, said money from CD sales will help fund the program.
“This project furthers our overall mission to preserve and perpetuate the blues,” she said. “Through the program, our students learn how to use their talents to support themselves should they choose to pursue a career in the music business as a performer or behind the scenes.”
The grant given to the Delta Blues Museum was among others that totaled more than $80 million in funds awarded in the second half of 2018’s fiscal year.
The Delta Blues was founded in 1979 by the Carnegie Public Library Board of Trustees and re-organized as a stand-along library in 1999.
The museum houses some unique exhibits, including thousands of archived 78 records recorded by blues singers, many if them icons of the genre.
In addition, the museum literally houses Muddy Waters’ log cabin from Stovall Farm, Mississippi, outside of Clarksdale., where Waters lived the first 30 years of his life.
Waters also made his first recordings there in 1941 and 1942 for Alan Lomax, an American ethnomusicologist, who specialized in preserving and achiving folk and blues music.
He also worked at Stovall Farm as a sharecropper and a tractor driver. The former location of Waters’ house, is the beginning of the Mississippi Blues Trail.