The Mr. Blue Shoes program is a one hour, live music program for educators and presenters interested in providing a meaningful and inspiring, arts education enrichment program to their audiences on the subject of Blues music.
Utilizing music to transcend perceived obstacles is inherent to the story and message of Blues music. The Blues merged social ethnic perceptions and cultural traditions and served as a pathway toward a better life for individuals living in lower economic conditions in the southern states.
Just as they rose above their circumstances, resident Bluesman and performer Mr. Blue Shoes encourages audiences to do the same as he portrays the lives, challenges and successes of America’s Blues Masters.
In a highly-interactive, one-hour live theatrical experience, Blues music, oral history and storytelling, singing, dancing, and life lessons are combined to guide audiences on a multisensory journey through the history of Blues, its cultural heritage, evolution and impact on America and the world.
Integrated, computer-generated visuals that follow historical timelines are combined to address auditory, visual and kinesthetic learning styles to capture the imagination with a universally appealing medium – music.
For young audiences, the program’s multidisciplinary approach introduces children to a plethora of learning opportunities that align with music, social studies and theater TEKS. Subjects covered in the program include music and music history, rhythm exercises, American and world history, geography, language arts, science, math, economics, sociology, biology and technology.
The performance starts with Mr. Blue Shoes entering the theater, with nothing but stage lighting. Hearing but not yet seeing him, instrumental chords capture the audience’s attention as they are transform to early 20th century rural America. As he strolls through the audience, Mr. Blue Shoes encourages participants to strum the guitar strings – the first of several invitations for the audience to become part of the performance.
Mr. Blue Shoes works his way to the stage and introduces the Blues singing tradition of call and response as a second strategy for audience engagement. He then begins to paint the story of the development of Blues music from its rural origins to the urbanization of music including the electrification of the guitar and ultimately to Rock and Roll.
Audiences who have never heard Blues music or experienced a live performance are engaged with the universality of Blues music. Mr. Blue Shoes tells about the 1977 Voyager space craft which contained a gold record of “the sounds and images of humanity.” The record included four American songs: two of which were Blues songs – one by Texan Blues Legend Blind Willie Johnson and the other by Louis Armstrong, a Rock and Roll song based on the Blues and a native America chant.
Following the story, the audience is led through a Blind Willie song “John the Revelator”, a spiritual, one of three musical styles that contributed to the formation of the Blues, along with field hollers and work songs. The performance also highlights other Blues legends including Texan “T. Bone” Walker, and the Father of Texas Blues, “Blind Lemon” Jefferson who always related “that just because you’re blind doesn’t mean that you can’t see.”
Throughout the performance the audience is constantly engaged through storytelling, call and response, question and answer, humor, singing, clapping and dancing to song. As the presentation peaks, Mr. Blue Shoes finishes the show with the grand finale, “The Wiggle Bounce.” This trademarked dance song written by the artist encourages youth to volunteer, who then lead others to participate. Soon to depart, the audience participates in a humorous and entertaining deep breathing, yoga-style calming exercise preparing them for departure – leaving both energized and inspired.