Twenty-plus years of charitable undertaking for RBC Bluesfest

Many people are unaware that the RBC Bluesfest is a charitable organization with a focus on numerous education programs for youth, including Blues in the Schools, Be in the Band, and What’s in the Song, and specialized initiatives such as SHE’S THE ONE and the Festival House Community Fund.

The festival’s motto is, “We Do Good Things!” For more than two decades, that claim has been supported by the organization’s award-winning Blues in the Schools program (BITS).

Today, the RBC Bluesfest team launched the 21st edition of BITS—a two-week residency that employs professional artists/educators to visit various Ottawa-area schools. The 10-day program runs through to Friday, March 8.  A look at the heritage of blues music and its influence on other genres, singing, song-writing and exploring various instruments are all part of the mix.

Blues in the Schools includes two phases. Week one of the program involves rotating, assembly-like presentations by various artists at participating schools. Week two includes artists working with classroom-size groups on a performance to be presented on the final day of the program, for their peers, teachers and families. Ultimately these students are offered an opportunity to perform at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa, during the festival’s Blues in the Schools day in July.  

Initiated in two Ottawa-area schools in 1999, Blues in the Schools has seen tremendous growth. An average of 20 area schools now participate annually with tens of thousands of students having taken part in the program since its inception. Over the course of the more than two decade run, the ‘Team Behind Bluesfest’—a not-for-profit charitable organization—has invested more than $1 million in local and visiting artists/educators who deliver the program. 

The aim of the program is to expose students from all backgrounds to music and to encourage them to use music as a positive outlet in dealing with the world around them. This year, visiting artists/educators and local musicians will deliver the program to more than 5,000 students in Ottawa-area schools and beyond. “I can’t believe it’s been more than twenty years,” says Bluesfest executive director, Mark Monahan, “We’ve been able to offer some important teachable moments and a lot of great memories over the years, thanks to this program.”   

“It’s great to be involved in such a successful program,” says Alan Marsden, the BITS program manager and long-time artist/educator. “I’m particularly proud of our widespread reach throughout the Ottawa Valley and the talented regional musicians we’ve enlisted in recent years.”

Blues in the Schools is a charitable undertaking, which is financially supported by the not-for-profit RBCBluesfest organization, with essential support from its private-sector partners: Ottawa Embassy Hotel and Suites, Auto Trim Design & Signs, and Germotte Photo & Framing Studio.