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Delta Blues Press Release

November 10, 2014




DBM Student Band Performed at White House Awards Ceremony

Hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama

(CLARKSDALE, MS) - Five members of the Delta Blues Museum Band from Clarksdale, Mississippi, were at the White House today to receive an award from First Lady Michelle Obama on behalf of The Delta Blues Museum's Arts and Education Program, which was recognized for its effectiveness in developing learning and life skills in young people by engaging them in the creative youth programs. The Delta Blues Museum's after-school program received the 2014 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, the nation's highest honor for these programs.

The award recognizes the country's best creative youth development programs for using engagement in the arts and the humanities to increase academic achievement, graduation rates, and college enrollment. The awardees-chosen from a pool of more than 350 nominations and 50 finalists-are also recognized for improving literacy and language abilities, communication and performance skills, and cultural awareness.

Additionally, the Delta Blues Museum Band was invited to perform today at the White House event. The students played "Sweet Home Chicago" in tribute to the First Lady's hometown and its musical connection to Mississippi Delta Blues. This is the second time the Delta Blues Museum Band has performed at the White House: Mr. Johnnie Billington took the students during the Clinton administration, and the Museum's current program is an extension of the late Mr. Billington's "Blues Academy," which was originally run from his auto shop.

First presented in 1998, the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award is the signature program of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH). The awards are presented annually in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

"Having the chance to represent The Delta Blues Museum in accepting this award from the First Lady of the United States and perform in the White House was an experience that I'll never forget," said student Christone Ingram. "It showed me that programs like ours [Delta Blues Museum's Arts and Education Program] are important to our country."

The award was celebrated by a number of its long-time partners and supporters, including The Mississippi Arts Commission and the Mississippi Humanities Council.

"By engaging and inspiring young people, the Delta Blues Museum is giving them not just the vision but the skills to build a new and better life for themselves and their families, and for our community," said Dr. Valmadge Towner, president of Coahoma Community College. "These young people are learning how to use creative thinking to work as a team, to solve problems and to express themselves constructively. These are exactly the kinds of skills we want them to have to be able to succeed in school, in work and in life."

In addition to the national recognition bestowed by receipt of the prestigious award, the Delta Blues Museum will also receive $10,000 to support its programming and engage more young people from the community.

"We hope this award will draw attention to the documented fact that programs like ours are essential investments not just in the lives of our young people, but in our community, as well," said Walt Busby, lead instructor for the Museum's Arts and Education program. "We're incredibly proud of this achievement and of the young people, volunteers, supporters, board and staff who made it possible."

The National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award is the nation's highest honor for after-school arts and humanities programs. The award recognizes and supports outstanding programs that lay new pathways to creativity, expression, and achievement outside of the regular school day. These programs excite and engage a range of students, cultivating imagination, collaboration, discipline and academic success, with demonstrable results.

"You can't help but be moved by these kids, who show us the transformative power of the arts and humanities," said Rachel Goslins, executive director of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. "They are staying in school longer, getting better grades, graduating from high school and going on to college at significantly higher rates than their peers. And they're building skills that will last them a lifetime."

For more information about the Delta Blues Museum and its programs, please visit For more information about the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, visit

Members of the press may download event images from today's ceremony here -

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2013 imls award

Shelley Ritter, Director

This newsletter is supported in part by funding from the Mississippi Arts Commission, a state agency, and,
in part, from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.