"What I have been doing is teaching the youngsters to sing the blues, just the standard 12-bar blues, and then to create their own lyrics and little tunes," Mary Jefferson said of the Saturday morning Introduction to Jazz and Blues for 8-to-12-year-olds. The series, part of Howard University Blackburn Center's Small Fry program and funded in part by the D.C. Commission on the Arts, continues through May. For ticket information and specific school locations of the 10 a.m.-to-noon performances, call 636-6715. Parents and teachers are encouraged to attend along with the kids.
The roster of artists in the program since its inception in February has included, besides singer and director Jefferson, saxophonist Buck Hill, pianist Wayne Lindsey, bassist Danny Bowen and drummer Land Richards. Blues singer Nap Turner, jazz vocalist Ronnie Wells and others will turn up in future sessions.
Response of the young audience has run from enthusiastic to ecstatic, says Jefferson, with special acclaim reserved for Brother Maurice Lyles and his Rhythm Stick.
"Just a long stick," describes Jefferson, "to which he has attached symbols, cowbell and tambourines--he should have it patented! He's got a foot pedal on it and he's able to create various rhythms . . . He'll take 'St. Louis Blues' and go from a march cadence to tango to swing. The kids get up and dance and then afterward we let them have a 'hands-on' experience where they'll come up and examine not just the stick but the bass and, particularly, the drums."