Blues Degree?

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by Johann, Nov 8, 2023.

  1. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Is it actually possible, anyhwere, to earn an undergrad degree with a Major in Blues? I've been looking for a long time... so far, certificates, minors, no degrees. Berklee offers a 4-course certificate in Blues Guitar and I believe the courses can be incorporated into a guitar-focused degree but that's hardly the same as a degree majoring in the Blues.

    So far, the nearest I've found is the Blues Curriculum, appropriately located at Delta State University, Cleveland MS. But that does not add up to a major in the Blues. It's also something that the site says was promised for 2016. I'm not aware of any updates since.

    Berklee offers a degree in Black Music and Culture. Very tempting (and costly - but it's a great school).

    This program is much broader than what I'm looking for.

    My "50-word story," re-posted from another thread:

    Hazlehurst, Mississippi. Sun slowly sinking in a blood-red sky.
    Kudzu vines climbed the porch. The old man played "Terraplane Blues."
    "You the boy wants to play the Blues?"
    "Yessir, that's me."

    "I charges twenty-five dollars a lesson. You got to practice, you hear?"
    At last. Grad School...for real.

    I'm looking for a comprehensive Blues Degree. Music, musicians, history, psychology, sociology of the Blues. Online only. Anyone?
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2023
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  2. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    I forgot - literature too. :) Thanks.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2023
  3. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Taj: You wanna come in and sing some blues?

    Navin: No thanks Taj. There's something about those songs. They
    depress me.
  4. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    I also checked Mississippi Delta Community College, Moorhead MS. Moorhead is "where the Southern cross the Yellow Dog (Yazoo Delta Railroad)." - a site mentioned in early blues songs, e.g. "Yellow Dog Blues."

    Nothing. "If it wasn't for bad luck -- wouldn't have no luck at all." --- Albert King."

    Albert King (born Albert Nelson) is one of the three "Blues Kings" - B.B., Freddie and Albert. Giants of blues guitar. Albert, at one time claimed to be B.B. King's brother. He was not -- They were unrelated and raised about 20 miles apart, B.B. in Itta Bena MS and Albert in Indianola MS.

    B. B. King, a man of great class and generosity, when asked about Albert, remarked "He is not my brother in family, but he is my brother in the Blues." Albert left us in 1992, B.B in 2015. Both are loved and missed by the entire world-wide blues community.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2023
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  5. Mac Juli

    Mac Juli Well-Known Member

  6. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    "Woke up this mornin' - with my single ECT. (2x)
    I'll never get one-eighty, to complete my whole degree..." - (Lightnin' Johann)

    One ECTS? C'mon, Mac. That's hardly a degree. Or a cert. Fact is, it's pretty lightweight for a course...
    Might be a start -- a real slow one. :)
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2023
  7. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    NOT EVEN A START. It's a business course - not music. Entrepreneurship. It GIVES me the Blues - doesn't teach 'em!
    How about learning "I got a 32-20, built up on a .45 frame...." instead? (Robert Johnson) A real Bluesman - one of the Greats.
  8. Mac Juli

    Mac Juli Well-Known Member

    OK, ok... As the Great Philosopher Mark Knopfler said: "Can't get no antidote for blues".

    So, maybe this is worth a look.
  9. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    As I said, Line 2 - first post:
    Already looked. Couple of years back.
  10. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    I first read of that school back in the 1960s. Sam Charters mentioned it in "The Country Blues," the first Blues book I ever owned.
    Lovely name it had back then - "Sunflower Junior College." Evocative. Moorhead MS is in Sunflower County. I Googled the old name and G. caught it right away.
  11. Mac Juli

    Mac Juli Well-Known Member

    Ah, sorry. My bad.
  12. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Es macht nichts, mein Freund. :)
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  13. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Dang. I went through a list of 130 U.S. schools offering degrees in "Jazz / Blues" - category defined by the list publishers. Every single school offered Jazz degrees only - sometimes 3 or 4 - teaching, performance etc. ZERO Blues degrees.

    "You don't got to study up on blues, to sing 'em. You got to study up on people." (John Lee Hooker, b. ~1912-1917, d. 2001)

    John Lee had something there. He had a lot of things going for him. I had the privilege of meeting him, just once, in 1963. He played in my town, to a packed club, people who knew his music. He had a unique, resonant voice and more than one music critic termed him "the most African of all Blues singers." For good reason. Put one of his records on -- and you'll feel like his hand is on your shoulder. The intensity is amazing. I first heard this man in 1960, when I was 17. It's the same, now that I'm 80. Undiluted. Bedrock. Truth.

    John Lee didn't have any degrees. His was a different time and the eleven Hooker children, of whom he was the youngest, were home-schooled. But he sure knew the Blues. Like nobody else. Among the many I've heard, the only guitarist who played at all close to John Lee's style. was an African musician - Ali Farka Touré, of Mali. Ali is gone, now, but his son, Vieux Touré still plays and records. Both father and son have videos on Youtube. I think many of you might like them.

    What John Lee said, above, is right. And a degree might not be the best answer, here. But one might help me ask more intelligent questions, so I've got to keep looking...

    Last edited: Nov 9, 2023
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  14. Rachel83az

    Rachel83az Well-Known Member

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  15. nosborne48

    nosborne48 Well-Known Member

    This is a very interesting question. In the piano world, jazz and classical techniques are two separate formal tracks as Johann has found out. But no Blues piano, or at least I've never heard of it.

    On the other hand, there's no folk piano either, not as an academic subject, nor pop nor rock piano either. There are pop and rock keyboardists and schools of rock cover the subject. Since rock comes from Blues perhaps that's where Johann might look?
  16. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    A lot of rock comes from the blues and a lot doesn't. And no, I'm not looking into rock history much further than I already know - e.g the British blues revival in the 60s. A lot of those guys were real experts on blues. Groups like John Mayall's Bluesbreakers (with Eric Clapton) -- I've still got those records around. But real Blues history is being made right now. Check out Cedric Burnside - grandson of the late, famed bluesman, R.L Burnside. Phenomenal.

    Much jazz comes from the blues also, and I like looking into jazz history, but just for its own sake. It's the "Urquelle" (original source) of Blues I'm concerned with. Not any derivatives. Sort of analogous to my drinking days - I didn't like contaminating good bourbon with water. But not quite the same. Drinking was bad for me and I eventually gave it up. Blues is different...

    If you mean I have to have treaditional theory and history courses from

    And blues piano, Nosborne? Well, there are books on the subject. And teachers specifically for blues piano. Want me to set you up? :) A couple of books are recommended at the end of the article here: here:

    This site, which appears to be Turkish-administered, deals with piano blues history.

    There are plenty of books on Blues pianists. I have some, myself. You need the history to really understand the music (but not to feel it.) and you need to know theory and read the dots to understand how it goes together - and to understand how to play it -- if that's your aim.
    Rachel, I'm not quite sure what you mean here. Do you mean these two aspects can't be included in a degree? The history of the blues is, in great part, music history. It's a different aspect of musical history - arising from the lives, circumstances, ingenuity and artistry of African Americans. If courses in this musical history can't be included, then it won't be a degree in the Blues. And I won't want it.
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2023
  17. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    @Rachel83az You know way more about TESU than I do. If you mean I have to have traditional theory and history courses from TESU - then OK, as long as I can bring blues-specific history along. But the degree has to say it's a Blues (or Blues-major degree.) Would it?

    If not, I don't want it. A one-size-fits-all, generic music degree isn't what I'm after, here, as you probably realize. I want to cover all aspects of the Blues. Blues came from hearts and minds - and that's the way it has to be studied.

    Again: "You got to study up on people." - John Lee Hooker.
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2023
  18. nosborne48

    nosborne48 Well-Known Member

    I'm not quite sure exactly what you want, Johann. Are you looking for Blues performance technique? Blues theory? I should think early jazz might meet your needs if indirectly but what I don't know about that music has filled volumes.
  19. nosborne48

    nosborne48 Well-Known Member

    Or perhaps you're on Elvis Presley's journey. He gets accused of a lot of nefarious things but he DID bring a blues interpretation into the national mainstream.
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  20. Dustin

    Dustin Well-Known Member

    I know it won't meet your needs because it's online Johann, but for others who find themselves looking at this thread: Indiana University famously has a "build your own major" program. It's how Will Shortz earned a degree in the field of puzzles, enigmatology. A learner could conceivably build a Blues degree there, but it would need to be in person.
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