By Blenda Copeland
As the assembly began, hands slid over ivory keys and the speakers blared a familiar set. Instantly, the magic of music hooked the crowd, without a word to “Shhh.” All chatter and squirming stopped.
The students were listening. A curly-haired woman invited them to snap and clap along. “1-2-3-4,” the woman chanted.
About 440 Ladonia Elementary School students received a special introduction to blues music Feb. 1.
Through a special arts grant, professional blues musician Debbie Bond and the Alabama Blues Project visited the school.
Bond and her band taught the students that the roots of gospel, rock’n’roll and many other forms of modern-day music are in blues music, which was originally created by African Americans in the South.
The students learned that the woman considered the “Mother of the Blues,” Ma Rainey, was born in Russell County, although she later moved to Columbus, Ga.
They also learned how to snap and clap basic blues rhythms, about the use of harmonicas, washboards, acoustic and electric guitars and more.
Several were also invited to sing and play back-up percussion.
Fifth grader Nyvelle Dunn – who happens to play drums – was one of two boys who tapped out rhythms on a washboard alongside the band.
“We just got started and got the beat,” he said. It was the first time he’d ever played in a live music performance. A fellow 5th grader, Martavious Searcy, also rapped out the rhythm on the washboard.
A teacher, Mrs. Pennye, also was invited to sing and led a verse or two of Let the Good Times Roll.