Keeping The Blues Alive
Blues In The Schools Programs


Interested in a Blues In The Schools Program for your School? Please Contact The Blues Blowtorch Society's
Educational Director Steve Mehlberg : (309)662-0996 or E-Mail

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”

Over the 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 around Illinois.

Since 2005 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.

February 4, 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.

January 30, 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.

December 16, 2009 - Steve "The Harp" held a BBS Harmonica Workshop at Second Pres. Church.

November 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 personal interest.

October 30, 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.

October 21, 2009

The BBS is proud to announce that Steve "The Harp" Mehlberg has been inducted into the  BLUES HALL OF FAME. 
His official title will be BLUES HALL OF FAME® EDUCATION AMBASSADOR.  
He is the FIRST Education Ambassador ever inducted into the BLUES HALL OF FAME.
Please join me in extending congratulations to Steve @
Here is the link from WMBD TV

Steve "The Harp" has handed out over 3000 free BBS harmonica's to local children. 

Special 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 Harmonica Workshops.

October 30, 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.

October 17, 2009 Illinois Wesleyan University and the Urban League hosted Steve "The Harp" for a harmonica Workshop held at the Shirk Center for 35 children.

September 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.

July 2009 Nothin But The Blues Festival held at Tri Lakes in Bloomington, IL 40 children attended the BBS Harmonica Workshop

May 16th 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.

In 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.

February of 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 Blues"

In January 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, 

I am a PhD student from Nottingham University in England. I am currently staying in Chicago until October in order to research Blues in the Schools programs.
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 possible.  

If you have any questions about my research I will be more than happy to answer them. I hope to hear from you soon.

Kind regards, 

Amanda Huskinson 

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.  

In January 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.

 The 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.

Jay 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.

St. Mary’s 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.

The Winter Wine & Blues Fest in Hannibal, MO - Harmonica Workshop for adults and children. Another successful workshop

Steve “the 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 Decatur. 

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.

Blues In The Schools Pictures

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