In between sets by the Delta Blues Museum’s Arts and Education Program and Grammy-winning Delta blues legend Honeyboy Edwards, I had the chance to catch-up with a couple of people who had spent time on Berklee’s campus.
Joe Rutan is part of the support team for Honeyboy Edwards, the 93-year-old Delta blues legend who still plays gigs all over the world. Joe is now based in Chicago, after leaving Berklee in 2007. His decision to exit Berklee was about being closer to family. He works at the Earwig Music Company and studies music business at Columbia College. At Earwig, he covers publishing administration and royalty accounting. He majored in music business/management at Berklee and interned with Bill Banfield’s Africana Studies/Music and Society initiative. He sites professor Jeff Dorenfeld‘s Concert and Tour Promotion class as invaluable experience for what he is doing now with Honeyboy, Earwig, and Blue Skunk Music, his record, publishing, booking, and promotion company. He learns important lessons from being around Honeyboy, too. First thing – learn how to spot the hustle. After all, you don’t live to be one of the only two surviving original Delta blues players by being hoodwinked. Pinetop Perkins is his contemporary. “He stays young by following his passion,” says Rutan, “and by enjoying what he’s doing because he, like anyone else, never knows what is going to happen tomorrow.” A common-sense lesson from a man with only one living musical peer.
Travis Calvin was the first recipient of a summer scholarship from the auditions at the Delta Blues Museum. After he played a couple numbers with the Museum’s After-School Arts Program ensemble, the blues guitarist told me that he’s finishing his studies at Coahoma Community College, outside of Clarksdale. He’s planning on entering Berklee in the spring of 2010, and saving money for tuition by working three jobs: in the gift shop at the Delta Blues Museum, as an assistant music teacher at Brooks Elementary School in Duncan, and as a music director at his church. His education last summer at Berklee’s Five-Week Summer Performance Program has made him more creative and expanded his playing. Other players in town have taken notice of his development, asking him what he learned about scales and modes. “I’m not stuck in the pentatonic scale anymore,” he says triumphantly.