Crossroads Blues Society
Keeping the Blues Alive Award Recipient 2014

Blues in the Schools (BITS)

Crossroads Blues Society has participated in Blues In The Schools programs since May of 2002.  Through the end of the 2017-2018 school year, 338 programs have been accomplished for over 68,000 students in the greater Rockford/Northern Illinois area.  This past school year was our most successful yet with 95 programs for over 10,000 students.  One of the highlights was our second attempt at Blues in the Pre-School with all of the Head Start centers.  Wheatbread Johnson did 57 programs for over 1,500 preschoolers who loved to sing, play music and dance with us.  Another highlight was adding Wheatbread to our BITS repertoire along with Ivy Ford, Donna Herula, Burddog and Beck and Ron Holm.  Dave Fields also came out twice from New York City for programs; see the video on the right with Dave Fields and his Band at Carlson Elementary School on Friday, December 16, 2016.  BObby Messano also returned as did Gerry Hundt and Ronnie Shellist, Tas Cru and Mark Dvorak with David Causey.
Below is also a video of an opportunity where Eastland Middle School students listened to and learned from an exceptional blues duo - Paul Rishell and Annie Raines - on Tuesday, November 1, 2011  which was professionally taped and edited.

Dave Fields

Paul Rishell and Annie Raines

Blues In The Schools (BITS) is a nationally acclaimed cultural and musical appreciation program that helps students understand the rural and urban African-American culture.  Age appropriate content is formatted to deliver high quality learning experiences that meet the goals and fulfill the mission of  Blues In The Schools, Inc.  Based on this premise, this program was developed to suit the needs of students in a variety of settings from organizations to schools. Many areas of culture and art are explored in a hands on setting where students actively participate in the creation of music and composition of songs that represent them. 
The purpose of the program is to introduce students to the Musical Art form that originated in Africa and was brought to the new world via slavery. The music has since undergone many changes but still maintains the essence of deep expression that the tradition it is based on instills.  The programs goals include providing a forum where students can identify the cultural, geographical and historical origins and evolution of Blues music and the people who composed and played it while gaining an understanding of it's significance in the world of modern music and popular culture.
What is a Typical BITS Program Comprised Of?
Programs will vary, but the following topics are typical of a BITS program: 
  • Origins of Blues as African Tradition
  • History of Blues in the New World
  • Instruments used yesterday and today
  • Migration and Evolution of the Blues
  • Definitions of Blues terms
  • Songwriting exersize
  • Interactive Music making
How Does CBS Accomplish All This?
We work to raise funds predominantly through our blues festivals but also through membership, donations and grants. We collect annual dues from members and receive donations from citizens who share our conviction to keep the blues alive.  We have held fund raising concerts and events each year to assist in fund raising and since 2010 we have run an annual blues festival as our primary fund raiser.  The funds that are raised and collected each year are used to host Spring and Fall programs in area schools.
We have now completed our 16th year of Blues in the Schools.  Our ability to conduct programming is limited by how much money we can raise.  Our festival has become a big success and has allowed us to step up our work in the past few years,  

If you would like to donate towards BITS or get involved, email us at [email protected]

The Life and Times of Lead Belly

Mark Dvorak and David Causey have performed the program "The Life and Times of the Great Lead Belly for twelve schools in the Rockford School District and have performed the program at The Just Goods Listening Room, Concerts on the Creek and now at All Saints Lutheran Church in Byron.  The schools Mark Dvorak has performed at for us are:

  • Flinn MS
  • Whitehead ES
  • Martin Luther King ES
  • Washington ES
  • McIntosh ES
  • East HS
  • Lathrop ES
  • Shirland ES
  • Durand ES
  • Thurgood Marshall ES
  • Thurgood Marshal MS

Shown to the right is a photo from East HS.  If you click on the button above the photo you can listen to the program recorded at Just Goods Listening Room.

The program was written by Mark Dvorak and it is performed by he and local Rockford actor and educator David Causey.  We are proud to help get this program in front of local students!
Click to Listen To
The Life and Times of the Great Lead Belly Program at Just Goods
Mark Dvorak Web Site