Learning the Blues: Tupelo 4th graders learn with harmonicas

TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI) – Fourth graders at one Tupelo school are studying blues music and learning to play a small instrument with a big sound.

Their teacher for the introductory class is the top administrator in the district.

Inside Anna Cates’ reading class, Tupelo Public School Superintendent Dr. Rob Picou is leading the first harmonica lesson.

Picou learned to play the harmonica during his college days.

“It was a companion as I drove back and forth between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, attending LSU. I didn’t have a radio at the time. Picked up a harmonica and taught myself how to play. Been something I’ve done over the years, and fortunate to share it with students at Lawndale,” said Picou.

This is the third year Lawndale fourth graders are studying the history of blues music. Each student gets a harmonica, and the first lesson focuses on fundamentals.

Joining Picou is Mark Maharrey, a teaching artist with the Mississippi Arts Commission, which uses the arts to teach different subjects.

“We bring arts into the class but then use art to teach science, to teach math, counting. It’s easy to start. It’s one- two- three- four, then you start over. And you can add, divide, do lots of things,” said Maharrey.

Students will study the history of the blues and how it has influenced modern music and culture. They will also learn to play the classic spiritual, Michael Row Your Boat Ashore, on the harmonica, as a group.

Picou said he enjoyed getting out of the administrative offices, and into the classroom, for this lesson.

“I’m hoping they enjoy it. They learn that music is fun and enjoyable. And whether they aspire to be musicians or not, we have a strong music program here in Tupelo,” said Picou.

Students said they’re looking forward to the blues unit.

“If you think about it, it’s really important to know this,” said Deklan, a harmonica student.

“Harmonicas are very stellar,” said Maci, a harmonica student.

Fourth graders promise a stellar performance when they showcase their harmonica skills during a concert for parents in February.

A date had not been set yet for the parent’s concert. But we will be there for a musical follow-up, so stay tuned.

For 24/7 news and updates, follow us on Facebook and X

Categories: Featured, Local News