The BITS program now also includes education through performance by young musicians, and this part of the Blues in the Schools program has become an integral part of how the Society is working to keep the Blues alive. Students at BITS presentations in the schools began asking the musicians how they could learn to play that kind of music. That’s when one of the musicians, John Redell, began to organize a group of interested students into the BITS band. The first group of students performed as the opening act for the Cincy Blues Festival in 2000, and they have been performing as part of the Saturday afternoon lineup ever since. They are now regularly featured at the Winter Blues Fest, too.
Many musicians lend their talents to this effort and have helped students polish their skills playing many instruments, as well as honing the vocal talents of the lead singers and the backup chorus. The BITS band includes students from elementary through high school. “I count it an honor and a privilege to play even the smallest of parts in inspiring an interest in music on any level,” says John Redell. “When I look back over the years and see how music has been such an important part of my life, the thought that just maybe some young person will want to learn to play an instrument of their choice because of one of these presentations is truly wonderful.”
Some of the BITS kids have taken their music to the next level, playing out with others, and so the Under 21 Jam was born several years ago. They have played at several area restaurants, at special events, and at the Winter Blues Fest. The regulars at the jam are also very popular when they play between sets at the Cincy Blues Festival. Audience members there often tell us how wonderful it is to see talented young people performing—and so clearly enjoying playing—traditional Blues music.