The Mississippi GRAMMY Museum Hosts the International Blues Conference

Every year in the fall, Delta State manages the International Blues Conference, which celebrates the Delta and its influence on the Blues. The conference used to be held within the Delta Music Institute (DMI) before the construction of the GRAMMY Museum. For the first time this year, the conference was hosted by the GRAMMY Museum and students, faculty, and the Cleveland community were able to explore the museum while waiting to attend panels.

The conference tends to span over two days in early October. The first day is packed with interesting sessions like “Murder, Mayhem, Myth, and Music: The Irresistible Allure of Stagger Lee and Billy” or “The Legacy of John Lee Hooker.”

At 7:30 p.m., GRAMMY award winner, Aaron Neville, was set to perform in the Bologna Performing Arts Center (BPAC) where everyone was invited to attend and order their tickets if they had not yet. Neville is famous for his “evocative and recognizable voice…as an international ambassador of New Orleans R&B”, according to the BPAC’s website. He gained national attention after his 1966 hit ballad song entitled, “Tell It Like It Is.” He has won four GRAMMYs throughout his solo-career and a string of hits after “Tell It Like It Is” such as duets with Linda Ronstadt in “Don’t Know Much” and a cover song of Main Ingredient’s “Everybody Plays the Fool.” His latest solo album, Apache, makes Neville “the most holistic of soul men.”

This year, several different performances were given throughout the conference from the talents of: Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Marquise Knox, Jontavious Willis, and Dr. Karen Fosheim, who played the piano during a session entitled “The Blues in Art Songs: From the Mississippi Delta to the Concert Halls of America and Europe.”

Another interesting aspect of the International Blues Conference this year was the integration of films. These films range from the study and preservation of culture through digital storytelling to documentaries that tell the stories of important aspects of the history of the Blues. For example, one documentary told the story of Fred McDowell, “who was first recorded by Alan Lomax in 1959, mentored Bonnie Raitt, and served as the cornerstone of the unique and enduring North Mississippi-style of blues music.” The creators of these films were also present for questions about the film or more information on the subject they documented.

There were also food trucks outside the GRAMMY Museum where attendees could have lunch and the Cleveland-Boliver Chamber of Commerce recommended local restaurants for those who stayed until late in the evening. Donuts and coffee for breakfast was also provided for people who came to the second half of the conference on Tuesday, Oct. 3. The GRAMMY Museum also had a buffet before the interview with Neville.

Some DSU students registered for the International Blues Conference for credit in class, but those who were simply interested in what the conference had to offer could either register online or walk-in.

The GRAMMY Museum is a wonderful place to use for classes, conferences, and other events for students of Delta State and the Cleveland community. The museum provides a great place to understand more about not only the Blues, but musicians from different walks of life and genres. At the International Blues Conference, Delta State students and people from across Miss., can learn more about the Blues and the people who influenced both the Delta and the music genre as a whole.