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The Long Beach Blues Society Brings ‘Blues in the Schools’ to Kids

The Long Beach Blues Society has been hard at work with a number of projects, educating kids and performing their ongoing education initiative,  “Blues in the Schools” for six Long Beach Unified schools.

“I love that our program provides students with a unique experience that delivers enrichment, encouragement, empowerment, and entertainment,” said Blues Society board member Lionel Pasamonte. “Through this program, students not only witnessed live music–for some, the first time–but also that the kids & teens gained a deep appreciation for the history, heritage, and cultural significance of blues music.”

Watching the students’ faces light up and witnessing their “AHA” moments confirmed that they were captivated by blues’ soulful sounds and the stories it told, added Pasamonte.

“We are so fortunate to have this opportunity to participate in exposing young people to blues music,” said director Tim Russ. “It’s not just about the songs, the arrangements, and lyrics, it’s also about the living history of blues in this country. How it began, how it evolved, and the impact it had on popular music. And most young people today likely won’t get the chance to hear blues outside of what the Blues Society can offer them.”

With the current education system slowly removing arts it really doesn’t leave the kids many places to go, acknowledged Nealie Richardson, another of the organization’s board members. 

“But by the Long Beach Blues Society bringing Blues in the Schools to kids, it opens them up to see the possibilities and the opportunities that are out there– and not just the bad things that are happening in their neighborhoods. With the work that we are doing, some of the kids that get involved actually go on to become musicians, which is a great thing.”

Richardson loves that the program gives the children an outlet where they can express themselves. 

“With the new ventures and directions that our Blues Society will be taking this year and in the future, I think it will help these kids mold the future of our society and have  them gain a more optimistic outlook on life other than feeling like they have nowhere to go. Sad to say, I think that without the Long Beach Blues Society some of these children would be lost and for that I’m truly grateful to be a part of this awesome team.”

In addition to making a difference with kids, the Blues Society has a relationship with the Long Beach Senior Center, the Doris Topsy Elvord Community Center and Park Pacific Tower Senior Housing, and is able to bring in live music to them throughout the year. 

“We provide music both inside and outdoors for a variety of events each year,” said Long Beach Blues Founder Bill Grisolia. “The seniors know the songs and love to sing along and dance. It is tremendously rewarding work; we are their ‘go to’ provider. When a college who was going to perform cancelled at the last minute for St Patrick’s Day, we stepped right in!”

“Blues for Seniors is such an amazing program!” enthused Eileen Ludlam, a recreation assistant at the City of Long Beach’s Houghton Park Community Center, who has developed older adult programs for the past 20 years.