Blues in Schools brings music education to Dothan children

Blues artist Vanessa Collier plays saxophone on stage with children from the Dothan City School System.

Blues artist Vanessa Collier plays saxophone on stage with children from the Dothan City School System.

About 400 Dothan school children enjoyed the musical stylings of world-renowned blues artist Vanessa Collier last Friday during the Blues in Schools event.

Troy University and the Wiregrass Blues Society presented the event, sponsored by a grant from the Alabama Humanities Foundation, which involved two performances at the Dothan Opera House.

Collier and her band played a combination of original songs and covers of blues and funk songs, including a jam session that brought dozens of kids on stage while Collier played her saxophone in the audience.

“Vanessa Collier is at the top of her game in the blues world, an internationally known artist in her 20s, and I think it’s very exciting for the kids to see a young woman who is so accomplished,” said Dr. Jeneve Brooks, associate professor of sociology at TROY’s Dothan Campus and co-founder of the Wiregrass Blues Fest.

The performances represented the educational component of the 2018 Wiregrass Blues Fest, though this is the first time Blues in Schools has taken place at the historic Dothan Opera House.

“We just thought it would be really cool and historic for Dothan City School children to come here for a field trip, and judging by the looks on their faces, they are quite happy and excited to be here,” Brooks said during the first concert. “The purpose of this is to show the rich history of blues, not only from the U.S., but from this region, and to make them feel part of that.”

Brooks said the program ties into Troy University’s mission statement.

“Since arts programs are being cut in schools, we feel strongly this is a wonderful offering to provide our local school children,” she said.

Collier is a graduate of the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. She was nominated for 2017 and 2018 Blues Music Awards by the Blues Foundation in Memphis. She also serves as an adjudicating judge at solo and ensemble festivals, and offers blues clinics throughout the U.S.