Students, faculty, and staff recently headed South for an annual traverse through Mississippi. The group represented the fourth Berklee Mississippi Music Exchange, which trades education, music, and culture between Berklee and kindred organizations throughout the state. The trip itinerary included auditioning Mississippi youth for summer scholarships, and gigs and blues and civil rights tours for the Berklee crew.
Student Eric Finland, a keyboard player, made his second trip with the group before graduating in May. He is no stranger to the Delta region, having interned at the Delta Blues Museum, in Clarksdale, before enrolling at Berklee. Though he’s seen and heard a lot, he describes a reverent, almost spiritual experience he had on this outing, visiting an old haunt of legendary blues players.
Finland and the other musicians called their group the Berklee Blues Explosion. Under the direction of bassist Lenny Stallworth, an assistant professor in the Ensemble Department who hails from Moss Point, Mississippi, the collective also included students Jazz Robertson, on drums, and Noe Socha, on guitar and harmonica.
The Explosion performed a dynamic clinic at Ruleville Central High School where live bands are seldom seen, but yet a number of students possessed enough confidence in their innate talents that they heeded Stallworth’s invitation to jam. Singers, including 10th grader Lonette Jackson (in photo), drummers, a keyboard player, and two MCs took the few steps from their places on the gymnasium floor to where the band set under a basketball hoop to entertain their supportive and cheering peers. The group also jammed with students from the Delta Music Institute at Delta State University, in Cleveland, and played two sets at the Juke Joint Festival, in Clarksdale.
Finland and Socha, who hang and collaborate around Berklee, veered away a couple of times for duo gigs. One was at the B.B. King Museum, in Indianola. Finland alluded to the other detour in his video above. Hear how they made $40 on a side street in Clarksdale.