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In short, a collaborative effort to raise funds for the Interactive Resource Center, a tax-exempt, nonprofit day center in downtown Greensboro for people experiencing homelessness.
In December of 2013 Social Practice Artist and assistant professor of art at Greensboro College Ted Efremoff received an email from Open Art Society soliciting proposals for an art installation in Greensboro NC storefronts based on the theme of “Blues”. These installations were meant to promote the annual blues festival held each May by the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society in Greensboro, NC.
In conceptualizing the project Efremoff became interested in identifying those people in Greensboro NC who were indeed experiencing the Blues. He became interested in pairing people experiencing homelessness, PTSD, abuse and other trauma with local Blues Musicians who would work with them to create songs.
Efremoff pitched the idea to David Fox – a professor of music at Greensboro College and a prolific performer, composer and bandleader with a wide range of experience in producing and promoting American Music. Efremoff and Fox created a proposal that was accepted by the Open Art Society and Fox began to contact his extensive network of Piedmont, NC musicians in order to create songs. Early in the process Fox and Efremoff decided to pair up “storytellers” with “songwriters” and to copyright the collaborative songs in both parties names. They determined to create a Healing Blues CD that would feature the songs.
Efremoff brought a Greensboro College art student Julia Fergus on board as an intern early in the process to help with the project and asked another art student Gabrielle Harvin to create artwork for the CD cover. In May of 2014 Efremoff and Fergus built the Healing Blues installation both outside and inside of Mozaic Piano on S. Elm Street in Greensboro, NC. The installation consisted of a tree with small birdhouse like building on it and pencils hanging from it’s branches. The building housed paper and envelopes and had a sign asking for anonymous stories of “Blues” experience to be written down by passers by that would then be placed into the mail slot of Mosaic Piano that would then be displayed within the storefront. About 30 participants wrote anonymous letters. The installation won a Juries Choice award from Open Art Society. Art students Julia Fergus and Tony Robinson also created a Healing Blues installation for Art Space Raleigh where visitors saw a video of the project and wrote down their personal experiences with The Blues.
Fox started to bring “songwriters” to The Interactive Resource Center (an innovative day center for the homeless community of Greensboro) to get together with “storytellers” at The Writing Workshop held at IRC. Frances Morris who ran the Writing Workshop was instrumental in soliciting participation and offering assistance to the homeless storytellers.
The Healing Blues team held “Healing Blues Café” sessions at Elsewhere Living Museum in Greensboro, to allow musicians to demo songs and hear “storytellers” experiences. The Café’s also served as brainstorming events to determine future steps in the Healing Blues development. The public was invited to participate in the Café’s. Two organizations - The Piedmont Blues preservation society and ArtsGreensboro along with Greensboro College were instrumental in supporting the project early on.
Fox suggested that The Healing Blues CD and concerts should raise funds for the IRC. All songwriters participated on a pro bono basis. A series of events including three fundraising concerts, a panel discussion and a communion service took place in the fall of 2014.
Eventually it was determined that the storytellers who contributed to the songs would all be IRC clients. They included Isiahm Wardlow, Shannon Stewart, Anita Gilmore, Tresa Scott, Ryan Lennon, Mike Schumacher, Kris Schumacher, Yolanda Batts, Walter Jamison, Chris Ward, Necole MacDonald, Eric Barnes and Forrest Willis.
Participating songwriters were Kris Ferris, Kristy Jackson, David Fox, Bubba Klinefelter and Shiela Klinefelter, Sam Frazier, Mike “Wezo” Wesolowski, Terry and Janice VunCannon, Mark Harrison, Charlotte Whitted, Greensboro College Professors Jon Epstein and Neil Clegg and GC marketing director Kim Thore.
In June Fox began working on the production of the CD with Benjy Johnson of Earthtones Recording in Greensboro, NC and used GC Digital Music student as an intern. Fox brought in Lawyers, Guns, and Money, The Fairlanes, Kristy Jackson, Neil Clegg, Jon Epstein, Sam Frazier, The Healing Blues Band (Dave Fox, Roger Kohrs, Chuck Cotton, Benjy Johnson), Haymarket Riot, Big Bump and The Stun Gunz, Chris Carol, Jessica Mashburn, Mike Wesolowski and Charlotte Whitted as well as backup singers and horns to produce the 15 songs on the CD.
With fans of the project exploring the possibilities of bringing The Healing Blues model of engagement to their environs nationally and internationally, the Greensboro College Community is discussing possibilities of continuing the project with Education, The Arts and Social Justice as the core values of engagement for communities of need, students, and the public.
The first Healing Blues CD, released in October 2014, featured blues and blues-related songs whose lyrics were built from the true stories of persons experiencing homeless, with local musicians providing the music. The participating storytellers received songwriting credit with the professional songwriters.
Vol. 2 will feature both songs and spoken-word compositions, says Greensboro College music professor Dave Fox, one of the originators of the Healing Blues Project and producer of the first CD. Release date for the second CD is early June, 2016.
Click here for info.
Here's another track:
Here's a PSA featuring the track "I Die a Little":
“The stories in these songs have the ability to break your heart and help restore your faith in humanity at the same time. The bands performing the songs are excellent. The fact that proceeds from the album benefit homeless people is the icing on the cake. This CD is a must own for any blues aficionado.” -- Paul Bragin, producer, "A Case of the Blues," WUEV-FM
The Blues magazine published an article on The Healing Blues in early 2015.
SomethingElseReviews.com review, November 2014: "There’s something for almost everybody’s blues preferences and the stories are genuine and varied not just in fact but in feel, too. A wide assortment of composers helping out helps to make the music behind the songs is diverse, and everyone gave a good effort because these songs are uniformly solid. As a result, there’s no real filler, and Fox’s production throughout is clean and gives a national caliber sound to these regional acts."
Peter Lauro, Blues Editor, Mary4Music.com, October 2014 (scroll about halfway down the page): "Never before, in my forty-five years of living in the blues community, has a project taken me as close to understanding what the blues is actually about as this one has."
Easy. Like our Facebook page and share it on your own page. Tweet about us, using the hashtag #healingblues, and send people to TheHealingBlues.org (which will automatically send them here). Get and post a photo of yourself showing support for The Healing Blues in public, like this one -- but include the hashtag and URL if you can! And share those pictures and hashtags wherever else you go on the Internet -- Pinterest, Instagram, chat rooms, it doesn't matter!
Dave Fox, professor of music, Greensboro College
Lex Alexander, Director of Communications, Greensboro College
336-272-7102, ext. 5398