Blues master Billy Branch blows through UT

Posted by on February 8, 2018 with 0 Comments

Blues master Billy Branch performed and led a master class in the blues for UTHS students this past Tuesday. Branch’s visit was sponsored by the Mississippi Valley Blues Society.

by Ashley Preston

On Tuesday of this week, students at UT were given the honor of watching Billy Branch perform. Branch is an extremely talented harmonica player, and he normally plays in a band called Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues, based in Chicago. All other members of the band are children of famous blues musicians. After watching the way Branch performed, it seems he grew up with a passion for music. At the performance on Tuesday, Billy played with local guitar player Chris Avey. The music was both soulful and well-executed.

While the show was definitely quite entertaining, it was also an educational experience for students. Billy explained the origins of blues music by inviting two volunteers on the stage who he then announced were slaves. Through this students learned the blues came from oppressed African Americans, who could only express their woes through music. Billy then informed the audience that blues music is the parent genre of the music students listen to today. Artists such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and many others, were greatly influenced by the work of blues musicians. Branch pointed out the Rolling Stones actually based their name on a song by Muddy Waters. So throughout the performance, students learned where blues came from, were informed as to where its influence can be seen today, and quite possibly became fans of a new genre of music.

After the performance hour, Branch gave a master class for band and choir students, teaching them to play a blues progression on the harmonica.  He even had a couple of instrumentalists and several singers perform “Stormy Monday” along with him and Avey.  Not only did the Mississippi Valley Blues Society sponsor Branch’s visit to UTHS, but they also provided free harmonicas to all the students in the master class.  MVBS members Stan Furlong, Hal Reed, and Nate Lawrence (a UT alum) were there to assist.

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