Twenty years and counting for Blues in the Schools

[Source: RBC Bluesfest]

Twenty years and counting for Blues in the Schools

The RBC Bluesfest motto is, “We Do Good Things!” For the past two decades, that claim has been supported by the organization’s ongoing Blues in the Schools program. Today, the RBC Bluesfest team launched the 20th edition of their award-winning program—a two-week residency that will see professional artists/educators visit various Ottawa-area schools. In addition, this year, BITS will include Kidala Elementary in Kitimat, BC through a long distance, ‘satellite’ learning partnership with the National Arts Centre. The 10-day program runs through to Friday, March 9.  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 twenty-year 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 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.”

Participating Schools (2018): Arklan School, 123 Patterson Cres. Carleton Place; Maple Ridge, 1000 Valin St, Ottawa; Our Lady of Fatima, 2135 Knightsbridge Road, Ottawa; Holy Spirit, 1383 Main Street, Stittsville; Corpus Christi Catholic School, 798 Lyon Street, Ottawa; Arch St. PS, 2129 Arch St. Ottawa; Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, 675 Gardenvale Rd., Ottawa; Greely Elementary School, 7066 Parkway Road, Greely; Fisher Park/Summit Alternative, 250 Holland Avenue, Ottawa; St. Brother Andre Catholic School, 1923 Elmridge Dr. Ottawa; Agincourt Road PS, 1250 Agincourt Rd Ottawa; First Avenue PS, 73 First Avenue, Ottawa; Hilson Avenue Public, 407 Hilson Avenue, Ottawa; St. Elizabeth School, 1366 Coldrey Ave, Ottawa; St Jerome, 4330 Spratt Road, Glouchester; Churchill Alternative, 345 Ravenhill, Westboro; and Kidala Elementary in Kitimat, BC.  

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


For interviews with artists/educators or in-school observation opportunities etc., please contact: Alan at: [email protected]  


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