School for the Blues You might think children are too young to understand the grown-up struggles that are the basis of the blues. But in the Mississippi Delta — the home of the "blues" — grade school kids are putting their unique tradition to good use.
NPR logo

School for the Blues

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/14620540/14620493" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
School for the Blues

School for the Blues

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/14620540/14620493" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, Host:

Mississippi Public Broadcasting's Ron Brown reports.

RON BROWN: The kids at Matty Akin Elementary School in Greenville, Mississippi, are hard at work learning about geography.

U: East.

U: Between the east and the south is?

U: Southeast.

U: That's right. Between the...

BROWN: These gifted students like 9-year-old Caitlin Morris(ph) are also plumbing the depths of their emotions and learning how to draw a map of the human heart.

SIMON: I'm feeling sad. I'm feeling blue. I just don't know what I should do. I can't get a good answer in my brain. Thinking just brings me bad, bad pain.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLUES MUSIC)

BROWN: That's why a nonprofit organization called the Mississippi Action for Community Education sponsored a young person's blues songwriting contest to bring the blues back to the Delta. It was Sade Turnipseed's idea.

SIMON: Everybody outside of the Mississippi Delta is just loving it up. And so why is it that here in the home, in the land of its birth, we're having problems with holding it?

BROWN: For Turnipseed it's simple. The Delta kids have to keep the blues alive. They have a historic obligation.

SIMON: It's just really amazing to me that the soils are so rich and they are, in fact, just steeped in the blood, tear-soaked, pains and sufferings of the people who toiled but made such a beautiful healing sound.

BROWN: Turnipseed says she's excited hearing lyrics like these by Alexandria Tyler(ph).

SIMON: When I was in the hallway, they pushed me around. They said I have no friends because I'm a lonely girl. I'm so lonely. I'm a lonely girl.

BROWN: As good as they were, none of the Matty Akin songwriters won the contest. A 20-year-old student from Jackson, Mississippi, took that honor. But these elementary school kids did not go away empty handed.

SIMON: Michael?

BROWN: Turnipseed presented them with something special.

SIMON: I gave you yours already, right?

(SOUNDBITE OF HARMONICA)

BROWN: For NPR News, I'm Ron Brown.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

SIMON: This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.