Blues Blowtorch Society
Blues In The Schools
The Blues Blowtorch Society has been extremely fortunate to
further fulfill our mission statement’s goal to educate the
public to foster an appreciation of the American Heritage known
as "The Blues”.
past several years Steve "The Harp" has been the Education
Director for our Blues Society. Steve “The Harp” has been
teaching The Blues and Blues Harmonica since 1975. As the
Education Director for The Blues Blowtorch Society, Steve “The
Harp” takes his role to heart. Each year he takes pride in his
students as they thrive on his stories about Blues, History of
the harmonica and the importance of character development. A
retired Fire Lieutenant and Instructor of the Normal Fire
Department, Steve “The Harp” uses similar principles in his
Blues Harmonica Workshops to instill the techniques required of
Blues Harmonica. .Free harmonicas are presented by Steve “The
Harp” on behalf of the Blues Blowtorch Society Educational Fund
to every student 17 or younger. Blessed with a deep love of the
Blues, Steve “The Harp” continues to teach his free Harmonica
Workshops to new students at Schools, festivals and performances
the Blues Blowtorch Society has offered Free Harmonica Workshops
at the Nothin But The Blues Festival. Each child 17 &
under attending receive a free Blues Blowtorch Society Hohner
Harmonica in the key of "C". We hired David Berntson in
2005, a nationally recognized youth educator to come in and
teach. Since then Steve "The Harp" our own Education
Director has taken over and our workshops have been in high
demand ever since.
2010 Chiddix Junior High School in Normal, IL hosted a BBS
Harmonica Workshop with WMBD Channel 31 recording every detail
for airplay. 62 students were captivated with learning the
workshop details. Students were encouraged to come to the
front and show what was learned by playing a song on their brand
new BBS Harmonica.
2010 The Second Annual Blizzard Bash included a BBS Harmonica
Workshop which had 15 children participate. All the children
were very attentive and learned to play a song on their brand
new BBS Harmonica.
16, 2009 - Steve "The Harp" held a BBS Harmonica Workshop at
Second Pres. Church.
24, 2009 Steve "The Harp" conducted a BBS Harmonica Workshop for
the Classic Car Club of Illinois. His stories of Blues
History and it's influence captivated the group. The group
stayed long after the workshop ended to share stories of
2009 Steve "The Harp" held a Harmonica Workshop demonstration
for Stevenson School in Bloomington, IL over 1200 students and
family members were present over the course of two hours.
The BBS is proud to announce that Steve "The Harp"
Mehlberg has been inducted into the BLUES HALL OF
His official title will be BLUES HALL OF FAME® EDUCATION
He is the FIRST Education Ambassador ever inducted into
the BLUES HALL OF FAME.
Here is the link from WMBD TV
Steve "The Harp" has handed out over
3000 free BBS harmonica's to local children.
Thanks to the
Illinois Blues Coalition for the generous grant given to the
BBS Blues In The Schools Program, the donation will help to
supply the Free Hohner Harmonicas given to each student under 17
attending the BBS Harmonica Workshop.
Listed are some of the places Steve "The Harp" conducted the
2009 Stevenson School asked Steve "The Harp" to demonstrate his
Harmonica Workshop talents. Steve played for over 1200 students
and their parents. The School has planned on having Steve
"The Harp" return in 2010 to conduct two harmonica workshops for
K-2 and 3-5 grades. This was the largest crowd the BBS
Harmonica Workshop has ever been presented to.
2009 Illinois Wesleyan University and the Urban League hosted
Steve "The Harp" for a harmonica Workshop held at the Shirk
Center for 35 children.
5th 2009 Steve The Harp held a harmonica workshop at the 2009
Budweiser Illinois Blues Festival in Peoria Il in conjunction
with the Blues Blowtorch Society and the Illinois Blues
Coalition who provided the harmonicas.
Nothin But The Blues Festival held at Tri Lakes in Bloomington,
IL 40 children attended the BBS Harmonica Workshop
2009 Steve "The Harp" will hold a BBS Harmonica Workshop at
Heartland Community College to generate interest and show
parents a brief glimpse of what the classes to be held this
summer will entail.
April 2009 Heartland Community College has requested the BBS
Harmonica Workshop for three - week long classes,
Mon-Fri - 2 hours a day for a total of 30 hours. It is for
children grades 5th thru 9th. Not only
will Steve demonstrate the harmonica but will include Blues
history as well.
It is estimated at 30 students per week.
In March of
2009 Steve "The Harp" held a BBS Harmonica Workshop at
Prairieland Elementary. 92 students attended his
Harmonica Workshop with extreme interest. Steve "The Harp"
was impressed with the speed of acquisition of techniques of the
harmonica. The students were interested in the song that
President Lincoln used to play.
2009 Steve "The Harp" traveled to Chiddix Junior High School in
Normal, IL to teach his BBS Harmonica Workshop to 65 eight grade
students. These students were very grateful for the
harmonica's and workshop, each student hand wrote a Thank You
letter to Steve "The Harp" and the Blues Blowtorch Society
expressing gratitude for the education they received about "The
of 2009 Steve "The Harp" conducted a Harmonica Workshop at the
1st Annual Blizzard Bash held in El Paso, Il Below is a
request from a PHD candidate requesting to attend a BBS
Harmonica Workshop held by Steve "The Harp".
Dear Mr. Mehlberg,
am a PhD student from Nottingham University in
England. I am currently staying in Chicago until
October in order to research Blues in the
I am interested in how blues is used to promote
self esteem in students and to teach them
about social and cultural history. I obtained
your contact details from the
Blues Foundation's website and was interested to
learn about your role as the education director
for The Blues Blowtorch Society.
I was wondering if the society has any upcoming
BITS programs planned which I could attend.
I would also be interested in interviewing you
about your experiences as a blues educator if
If you have any questions about my research I
will be more than happy to answer them. I hope
to hear from you soon.
Miss Huskinson has accepted our invitation to
attend the Blizzard Bash Harmonica Workshop and
Interview Steve “The Harp” for her dissertation.
Amanda Huskinson attended the Blizzard Bash
Harmonica Workshop with 12 children in attendance in the
preschool thru grade school age range.
Steve performed a harmonica workshop for 18 children and two
adults at Chestnut Health Care in Bloomington. All of the
students were thrilled with the BBS Harmonica's and will
continue to use them in the therapy sessions they attend.
Mulberry School booked a Blues in the Schools Harmonica
Workshop. Mulberry School in Normal had 23 students and
two teachers participate in Steve’s Harmonica Workshop. Although
very young these student really took to Steve "The Harp" and
listened and learned to play by the end of the workshop.
Goldberg has booked the BBS Harmonica Workshop for the Budweiser
Blues Festival in Peoria. The Harmonica Workshop was
attended by children as well as adults. One of the child
artist performing later in the day (Tallen Latz) attended
and was well on his way to performing blues harmonica. He
learned the workshop very fast and was a pleasure to teach.
School, This was a huge success, all of the teachers and student
had a great time. The music teacher is using the harmonicas in
the class room to prepare for a Christmas concert. One of the
office ladies stated she is going to request the workshop for
North Point elementary school in Bloomington.
Wine & Blues Fest in Hannibal, MO - Harmonica Workshop for
adults and children. Another successful workshop
Harp” Blues Band, Steve held a Harmonica workshop at the Fall
Ball he had approximately 25 students.
The Towanda Elementary School and the
Towanda Public Library teamed up to bring a special ‘last day of
school’ to the students in 2006. Steve ‘The Harp’ Mehlberg
handed out 159 harmonicas to the kids and gave them an hour of
instruction. “I had a wonderful chorus of harmonicas going.”
Steve said. The kids were really excited about getting a brand
new harmonica and were very well behaved on their last day of
school. What a great way to send them off on summer vacation.
We are hoping many of them will be able to join us at the NBTB
festival workshop in July.
Steve "The Harp" taught at the Special
Olympics 2006. He took his great style of harmonica Blues to
the games and entertain the contestants and their families.
This was another great opportunity to introduce the Blues
culture to a great group of folks.
Over the past years we have provided a
number of opportunities for young people to be introduced to
this art form, and it is largely due to the generous
contributions from the V.F.W. 454 and their Men’s Auxiliary.
Jim Kelly, an educator at U-High, asked for
our assistance in putting together an event to encourage young
musicians to explore the musical expression of the Blues. We
may form a ‘Youth Auxiliary’ to the Blues Blowtorch Society if
the interest is sparked. The first event the BBS will help with
is in the planning stage, with a Blues Challenge type event at
the school. We are excited about helping in any way we can to
make this new program a success. This resulted from a program
that our Membership Director, and legendary WGLT Blues Doctor,
Frank Black started a couple of years ago. Frank presented
examples of Blues music, from a historical aspect, to several
classes of Junior High students in that school system. These
kids are now entering High School and it seems they are carrying
a torch for the music with them.
In 2005 we brought David Berntson, a
nationally recognized youth educator to the Nothin’ But the
Blues festival. The BBS provided free harmonicas to
approximately 75 kids, and David provided about 45 minutes of
entertaining instruction. It was inspirational to the kids and
adults alike. We are fortunate to bring David back the next
year for two free workshops at this summer’s NBTB festival.
David provides not only first class instruction, but has an
association with Hohner Harmonica that allows us to purchase the
instruments at a discount. In 2006 David was recognized for the
second time as “Educator of the Year” by the Blues Foundation’s
‘Keeping the Blues Alive’ award program.
In the Fall of 2005, Russell and Aaron
Miller were performer/instructors for a 75-student class at
I.S.U. The Music Department’s professor wanted the BBS to
provide a class on Blues music that exposed the students to the
performance side of this American musical culture. The tunes
were explained in style and history as they were performed.
Aaron, being in his peer group, was able to relate well to the
students, which asked many questions as well as danced to the
music. It was an educational experience for the college
students, instructor and the performers. This program has been
repeated every semester since the initial presentation. Russell
and Aaron have also done this at Milliken University in
In the Fall of 2003 the BBS brought in
Fruteland Jackson, nationally renown educator and one of the
first performers to be involved in any Blues in the Schools
program. Fruteland performed at two Olympia School District
assemblies, to several hundred kids. His enthusiasm for the art
form drew the kid’s right into the program. It was a great
start for the BBS Education program.
It seems that once folks are exposed to
this truly American cultural heritage, they can relate to how
the Blues can make you feel good. The BBS is proud that we are
the catalyst to the future for the music.