Alabama Blues Project

Rating: 5 stars   10 reviews

Issues: Arts & Culture, Children & Youth

Location: 712 25th Avenue Northport AL 35476 USA

Mission: Our mission is the preservation of blues music as a traditional and contemporary art form through interactive programs that educate and entertain. With educational programs, live performance, exhibits, and the development of archival and curriculum materials, we increase awareness of the role blues music has played in the development of popular American music, with a special focus on Alabama’s contribution to that history. We pass on Alabama’s blues culture to children while teaching self-esteem, discipline, cross cultural understanding, interaction, and teamwork.
Results: The Alabama Blues Project is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization which started in 1995 with a mission to educate the public about the importance of our wonderful Alabama blues heritage. Through programs that educate and entertain, the Alabama Blues Project has grown into an award-winning organization celebrating past and present Alabama blues artists while helping to preserve the rich blues culture of this state. The late, great, legendary blues man Johnny Shines realized the importance of blues education and often visited schools in the Tuscaloosa, Alabama, area. He became our inspiration for creating the Alabama Blues Project's educational programs. We now present a wide range of blues education programs, workshops, and school residencies across our state and beyond. These education programs have become part of a wider movement of innovative arts and education programming throughout the country. The ABP is proud to have been the recipient of several awards for its arts programming, including the Druid City Arts Award, the Blues Foundation's "Keeping The Blues Alive" award, and the national "Coming Up Taller" award from the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. The importance of the multi-cultural and interdisciplinary character of teaching about the blues cannot be overstated: it is an outstanding way to connect to America's social and musical history. Through a study of the blues, students learn that "black history" is American history, and that the blues is the result of the blending of African and European musical cultures. While learning blues history, students also learn about geography, history, politics, economics, the study of culture, and music appreciation. Lyrics spark history lessons, and songwriting is used to develop creative-writing and critical-thinking skills. The active involvement and sense of achievement gained from engaging in performing arts foster self-esteem and confidence in students. They develop skills in communication and teamwork by participating in the performing arts with fellow students. Because the blues began as an African American art form, students witness a slice of America's cultural heritage and learn to respect the contributions of diverse groups within the fabric of society. The arts should be at the core of any well-rounded curriculum, and at a time when cuts for arts education have become widespread, blues education programs offer a way to bring the arts back into schools in a relevant form. The blues originated as a uniquely Southern art form, so students of the blues learn about the impact our region has had on modern American musical culture. Our programs emphasize regional artists, which helps to build cultural self-esteem, a sense of history, and a mutual respect between the races. Studying the blues is a perfect way to jump-start students into a deeper appreciation of the music they hear every day by linking it to the roots of American music. Students can then more easily make connections to other forms of music, such as rock and roll, country, and rap, which evolved from the blues. As our unique blues heritage is revealed to us, we can develop a sense of cultural pride in ourselves as Alabamians. Despite the crucial role the blues has played in the evolution of American music, it is not currently in the mainstream of modern popular music. Like jazz and classical music, the blues is rarely heard on commercial radio, though it can be heard on weekly blues shows thanks mostly to public and university-owned radio stations. It has been many years since a blues song became a Top 40 radio hit, and children rarely have the opportunity to hear blues music performed live. Blues education programs like ours are designed to counter these effects while providing the many benefits outlined above. The state of Mississippi and cities such as New Orleans, Memphis, and St. Louis, are among the many areas that have celebrated and promoted their unique blues history. Mississippi presents many annual blues festivals throughout the state and actively pursues international blues tourism. There are an increasing number of blues museums across the state which document and celebrate regional blues musicians and blues culture. The University of Mississippi's Center for the Study of Southern Culture publishes the internationally renowned monthly magazine "Living Blues" and is also building an impressive blues archive. A new Mississippi Blues Trail celebrating significant blues sites and contributors to the state's blues music tradition has been launched through the Mississippi Development Authority's Tourism Division Heritage Trails Program and The Mississippi Blues Commission. In contrast, it seems that Alabama is only beginning to recognize and celebrate its rich blues history. We would like to stimulate and encourage a greater awareness, understanding, and appreciation of Alabama blues throughout the state and beyond so we can help bring attention to the many outstanding Alabama blues men and women who have worked so hard to create this wonderful music.
Target demographics: Our blues camps serve children between the ages of 8-17. While we are open to the entire community, we make a special effort to recruit at-risk children. Our camps are often very diverse. Any school may bring the Alabama Blues Project in for a program. We especially travel to schools in rural areas where funding for arts and music has been cut. Our Alabama blues preservation programs benefit the state for tourism and blues lovers from everywhere!
Geographic areas served: Blues Camps in the West Alabama are and School Programs nationwide

2010 Top-Rated Nonprofit
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Community Reviews

Rating: 5 stars  

3 people found this review helpful

My name is Rachel B. Edwards and I’ve been involved with the Alabama Blues Project for five years. I started as a vocal student of Caroline Shines in the Advanced Band. There was absolutely no way for me to tell when I was 15 that the ABP would have intertwined with my life as much as it has. Now that I’m 20 and an aspiring blues singer, it makes perfectly good sense. It would be an understatement if I said that the Alabama Blues Project wasn’t the highlight of my week back then, and now that I actually get to work behind the scenes for the ABP, it’s the highlight of my day.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

the various gigs that I am able to play throughout the community to get the word out about us. The children and the parents that encounter us are always pleased with the positive message we send concerning the blues.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every week

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010-2-01

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Rating: 5 stars  

4 people found this review helpful

My grandson attended the sunner blues camp in 2009. He has Downs Syndrome. At first I was skeptical about this camp but he loves music & he loves Debbie Bonds & her husband Rick. After speaking with them directly several times I enrolled him in the program. The 1st day I left him he was ok at 1st but after an hour he withdrew. They called me & after that I attended daily with him. I was amazed by the caring caring staff & that several of them had experience with special needs children in their daily work lifes. This program brings all children together no matter who or where they come from. The patients that they all had with the children was just amazing!!! They truly enjoy the children & teach all age levels & skill levels. I was also amazed at how much they put into 1 short week!! I have been involved with other short summer programs but notheing compares to this one!!! They truly tried to teach him to play guitar & drums, in the end he was presented with a "special" tamborine from Debbie to play in his band at open house. My being there with him every day was no problem, he jsut needed to see me close by to be comfortable. I helped with the children in his group but to tell the truth I gained as much from this as he did!! I cannot express enough what a wonderful program this is for all children. We need more community based programs for all children, it lets them see all that the world has to offer. Alot of these children would never be exposed to this kind of music & art, for that matter to any music & art. My grandson does attend regular school at Lloyd Wood Middle School in Northport, Alabama. He is in a special life skills program there for special ed children they feel would benefit from this program. All he needs is an aide to guide him & I feel that with the staff they had his needs would of been more than met. He jsut was a little unsure of the himself with all of the strangers. My being there was no problem & I was able to observe first hand how they were with the children. Once again I have to say WOW!!! What a GREAT program!!!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

how my grandson learned to play musical instruments

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

expand the summer camp to a 2 week program

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

watching how much the children learned

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

more than capable & experienced with children

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

serve a larger part of the community & expand

Ways to make it better...

we had 2 weeks instead of one

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

money

One thing I'd also say is that...

we need more programs like this

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

One time

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009-7-01

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Rating: 5 stars  

3 people found this review helpful

I have watched Debbie Bond start this organization from the ground up to the great organization it is today. I truly admire all the hard work and the hours it must have taken. She started with nothing but an idea and an inspiration. I have seen the hope and understanding in these kids eyes. This last advanced group/band of kids is phenomenal as I have seen them now 3 or 4 times. Kudo's to this great organization!

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

Seeing the kids joy and sense of accomplishment in their faces.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every six months

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010-1-01

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Rating: 5 stars  

7 people found this review helpful

ABP is such a tremendous asset to the community! Their efforts preserve and create blues culture in the south is truly inspiring!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

day to day life in Northport-raising blues awareness and creating opportunities for children

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

ABP youth camps!

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

office, band camp leaders, musicians

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

Continue and expand it's role in southern blues preservation and teaching

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every six months

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010-2-01

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Rating: 5 stars  

6 people found this review helpful

As adoptive parents of a child with special needs and other issues we were always looking for something to provide positive feedback and encouragement for our pre-teen son. Through an article in our local newspaper, The Alabama Blues Project sounded like an answer to prayer. In the summer of 2006 Jonathan attended his first "Blues Camp", a week of music instruction, blues history and art all rolled into one. He was hooked!! With the excellent leadership, instructors, and loving volunteers associated with The Alabama Blues Project, we have watched him grow into a member of the Advanced Band performing on a regular basis at local events. He now sings, as well as plays harmonica, and the band just recently got a chance to perform at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. The Alabama Blues Project has definitely been what this young man needed and continues to provide support and encouragement to him. We also are raising our grandson who has behavior issues and he is a two year member of the "Blues Camp" program. Joshua's musical talent is yet to be discovered but it is a great learning experience for him. To be a part of a musical group who won't grade you on talent just enthusiasm has been a plus for him. The added bonus is participating in weekly life skills discussions and working on making good choices in every day situations. If I could make any changes it would probably involve the changing instructors. I realize it must be very difficult to bring in the quality of instructors that they continue to have on a regular basis but with my two sons, losing a favorite instructor can sometimes be very traumatic. We've never been disappointed with the quality of instruction but explaining the reasons why instructors come and go could perhaps be a part of life skills. As in all organizations sometimes communication can be a problem. The Alabama Blues Project staff has been working really hard to improve in this area by adding volunteers and staff to assist in getting information out to the parents. With the economic situation during the past year or so they have really been doing an almost impossible job. The needs are great with a program of this type though. We see the opportunities provided to young people from disadvantaged areas and with issues such as our two boys through The Alabama Blues Project. It would be a wonderful blessing to see their program highlighted so many others can know about the great work they do for the children and young people all over the West Central Alabama area.

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

seeing the positive benefits to not only my two children but so many other young people. Also I've truly enjoyed being involved with the young people and watching them grow in ability and maturity.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

impact so many more needy kids!! Plus we could have a permanent home for the Blues Camps, all the musical instruments and equipment for every child's needs, and an actual Alabama Blues History Museum!

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every week

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010-1-01

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Rating: 5 stars  

3 people found this review helpful

In 2007 I registered my 2 sons for the first time with the Alabama Blues Camp. My husband was away in Iraq and I was looking for something fun and constructive to fill a little time for them. We were immediately hooked on this awesome organization. Debbie Bond and Rick Asherson have a vision for each child that is so special. Everyone is welcome, kids are all known by name, the instructors are amazing (seriously talented) and happy to be there! It has truly had such a positive impact on all of us. My boys are not only learning how to play the blues, but they have also developed new knowledge and respect for the music that we have listened to all of our lives. For me it has been an eye opener as far as getting to know about the artists themselves and the history behind the music that is so much a part of where we live. The Blues Project is saving what would be a dying art form. They are connecting young people from various backgrounds and experiences not only with each other but with a wonderful past. They are also offering something that can be used for the rest of their lives. They teach life skills in part of their time together and help them make new friends and form partnerships with kids that they might not know otherwise. This group also makes sure that no child is turned away because of financial hardship. After my husband returned from Iraq he was out of work for almost a year. During this time they were understanding and made it possible for my sons to continue to come to camp. We look forward to the beginning of each camp and I love to hear my boys play all the time. It has given them a freedom and confidence in their creativity that is irreplaceble! The Alabama Blues Project had been one of the most positive things I have ever been involved with! I only wish we had known about them earlier so my older sons could have been there!! Mrs. Perri Mullins mother of Peter(16) and Thomas(11) Tuscaloosa, AL

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

how much my children love to play their music. They now have a greater understanding and appreciation of the diverse backgrounds and experiences people have. The program challenges them to be their best and do the best with their opportunities.

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

The fun that everyone has watching these kids' progress. They get so good! It is awesome!!

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

Incredibly talented and encouraging. They are caring and always take time to tell these kids that they can do whatever they set their minds to. They really believe in each child.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every month

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009-12-01

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Rating: 5 stars  

3 people found this review helpful

My son has participated in this camp two times and has enjoyed both. He has learned so much about music, the blues and how to work with others. He has participated in the Advanced band and learned to work as a team with other band members. He has been able to improve his musical skill through the expert instruction. I have seen how the camp benefits all the children involved. I would highly recommend it to others.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

seeing positive growth in my son and others in the camp.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

expand it!

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

seeing the children grow and learn as performers.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

Kind and courteous. They enjoy their time at Al. Blues Project and love working with the children.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

reach more children around the country who would benefit by getting an opportunity to learn about the rich cultural heritage of the blues, get hands on instruction with a musical instrument and work with positive role models.

Ways to make it better...

it was closer to my home.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

funds to serve all those needed.

One thing I'd also say is that...

it is a great program and I wish more children had the opportunity to participate in it.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every week

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010-1-01

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Rating: 5 stars  

3 people found this review helpful

My eight year old daughter participated in the Summer 2009 Blues Camp. It was one of the most enlightening experiences for her. She was placed into the guitar group and experienced lessons of music, yet this was only the beginning of her rich experience. Each morning, a featured presenter would introduce their contributions to the world - an artist, an Olympian, a sculptor, a musician, a community leader. Our children were introduced to the teachings of life, friendship, community giving, art, and music. It was a truly valuable program for our daughter and entire family. She will forever hold these beautiful memories and lessons during her journey in life. We will be back next summer. Thanks Alabama Blues Project!

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

the Alabama Blues Project's summer camp teaches lessons of life - not just music.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

truly dedicated to advancing the introduction and teaching of music, specifically Blues. They were also committed to giving the children a most valuable experience of life.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

expand the music and life lessons to a million children.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every six months

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009-7-01

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Rating: 5 stars  

3 people found this review helpful

My son Evan really enjoyed the program. He has always been interested in playing the drums and this program has given him a great start in learnining the basics of music and finding the beat to that tune that he was trying so hard to accomplish.(LOL)Everyone on the staff was so nice to my family and provided a safe environment for my son. He was always excited to attend and was never ready to leave.

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

That it has been a first great start for my son in learning the basics of music. His self confidence in performing in front of a crowd has drastically improved because of the tender love and care that the staff has shown.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About once a year

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009-2-01

Was this review helpful? 
Rating: 5 stars  

2 people found this review helpful

Every time I open their link on Face book and see these kids leaning into their music my heart goes out to them , their teachers and the future.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

listening to the live music and watching the kids play. Also listening to Rick Asherson I am learning how much effort and good work he and his group are doing.

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

watching them at work and reflecting on how I can help improve the lives of kids through my work.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

Inspiring!

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

really spread. This world needs such positive mentors to give our young generation thoughtful and creative leaders who are willing to give to others.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every month

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010-1-01

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