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Students sing the blues

May 30, 2003|By SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

About 40 Bester Elementary School students accompanied Damon Foreman on Thursday as he sang songs by artists ranging from James Brown to Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix.

For one hour, the fifth-graders sat transfixed as Foreman of Columbia, Md., performed songs from a variety of genres.

Foreman's goal was to explain the history and variety of the blues and to show how it influences jazz and other types of music.

His presentations to students at Bester and at Williamsport High School on Thursday helped kick off the weekend Western Maryland Blues Fest.

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At Bester, there was much interaction between the students and the singer, with some nodding their heads and making song requests.

When he announced he was going to sing a song by James Brown, a few said, "Oh, yes!"

At Foreman's request, they sang, on cue, "Get on up," during a rendition of Brown's song, "Sex Machine."

And they sang, "Ride, Sally, ride," during his performance of "Mustang Sally," made famous by Wilson Pickett.

"Do you feel the blues?" Foreman asked while performing a B.B. King song.

"Oh, yeah!" came the students' reply.

He demonstrated that blues songs can vary in tempo by playing a fast version of "Johnny B Good" followed by a slow song by Muddy Waters.

At one point, Foreman asked the class how many were musicians and about half raised their hands. When he asked how many want to be musicians, all raised their hands.

"That's good. That is a beautiful thing," he said.

When the hour came to a close, students pleaded with school staff to let them talk to him longer, he said. A few mentioned they would rather hear him than go to math class.

He played an improvised song as the students left the room singing, in part, "You got to go to math."

In response to a student's question, he said he has been playing music since he was 4 and was hooked permanently at age 7 when he saw Hendrix on television and decided, "Dude, you are like awesome."

Students swayed to the music when he played a Hendrix song.

Student Megan Mozingo, who sat in front and asked the most questions, said the farewell song was her favorite part. Watching Foreman perform was amazing, she said.

Foreman is to perform for students today at Boonsboro and Smithsburg high schools and Western Heights Middle School as part of Blues Fest in the Schools, sponsored by the Washington County Arts Council in partnership with the Washington County Board of Education and the Maryland State Arts Council's Artists in Education Program.

Foreman, who is a jazz performer, said he loves doing the program for students because they are "energetic and inquisitive."

He also likes the idea that he might expand their musical horizons and perhaps inspire some to become professional musicians.

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