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.
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!!!
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.
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
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.
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!
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.