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Bed-Stuy Music Class Gives Kids the Blues

The Big Eyed Blues Youth Workshop
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Beareather Reddy

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — These kids are bringing the Mississippi Delta to Bed-Stuy.

A local performer is giving kids the blues with a class focused on teaching Bed-Stuy children how to play and understand the musical genre.

The Big Eyed Blues Youth Workshop is a weekly music class for elementary school kids featuring lessons in singing, guitar, bass, drums, piano and stage presence, all aimed at turning young Bed-Stuy residents into their own blues band.

Kids learn the different chords and tempos associated with the genre and even get a blues history lesson along the way, said teacher and blues singer Beareather Reddy.

"I sing blues primarily because I want to promote it, and do my little part in keeping it alive," Reddy said. "I try to make it interesting. And then there's a few [kids] that really hooked onto it."

Reddy herself began singing the blues at a young age in Georgia, mimicking songs she heard her family sing.

By the time she moved to New York in 1978 at the age of 24, Reddy had already begun singing rhythm and blues, gospel and opera, but stuck with the blues because of a strong personal connection.

The genre works almost like a form of therapy, Reddy said.

"When I'm feeling blue and I hear the first few notes of a blues song, it makes me happy and allows me to express my feelings," Reddy said. "By the time I'm finished listening to a blues song, I feel relieved, I feel better. It's really about your true feelings."

Now Reddy passes on those lessons to kids from nearby P.S. 137. The performer began teaching at the school as part a member of the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium, and kids were so interested in the class that she incorporated it into part of her annual Big Blue Eyed Blues Festival.

One of those kids is Sierra Fisher, 10, a fifth-grader at P.S. 137. Sierra has learned to play bass, drums and guitar — her favorite instrument — through the class.

"It's about great musicians that make great music," Fisher said. "I decided that if they can make music, why can't kids make music like them?"

Sierra and her band mates from the school will be performing on March 20 as part of the Brooklyn Arts Council's Grantee Awards, after the program received a grant earlier this year.

Reddy said she hopes the program will help cultivate the next generation of blues aficionados.

"If you can reach one person, they don't necessarily have to be a blues musician for the rest of their lives," Reddy said. "But just to say, 'I heard the blues, and I know the blues.'"