Finding another path

Finding another path
May 18, 2011
Melissa McClendon
The Daily Times

“The blues ain't nothing but a good man feelin' bad”

Leon Redbone

Sometimes they’re misunderstood.

Sometimes they’re stereotyped.

Sometimes they’re labled.

No wonder that sometimes the students at the Locust Grove Alternative Education School get the blues.

The blues they have are being taught by blues musician Selby Minner as part of the program Blues in Schools, funded in part by Oklahoma Arts Council.

Minner and her husband, the late Hall of Fame musician DC Minner, have spent years teaching the blues through Blues in Schools. Since the death of her husband in 2008, Minner has continued to dedicate young people to blues music.

Last week she spent four days at Locust Grove teaching students the history of music as well as life lessons. On the last day, she helped the students perform a live concert for their friends and families.

“Most of the kids in alternative school are very creative and very artistic,” alternative education principal Marsha Whalen said. “It’s almost a threaputic thing for some of these kids. It kind of hits them where they live ... I may have the blues but I’m all right.”

Whalen says that having Minner visit shows students they can do great things with their creative ability. She believes it also teaches them self worth.

“The kids think these people have value and worth so I must have value and worth,” said Whalen. “She tries to open their minds. I want them to know there are things out there, ways to take their talents and use them in postitive ways.”

Whalen says using music and musicians to connect with the students is something many of the kids need.

“One thing about blues music, they take people under their wings,” Whalen said.

Minner is all for sharing her musical talent and experience with youth.

“The message I have is two things. One is with hard work and determination you can do anything any other human has ever done or something no one has ever done,” Minner said. “Second, it takes courage to get up and sing in public. Courage is a transferrable lesson.”

Minner said the students she works with are gifted and sometimes don’t fit in with the peer pressure of a typical high school.

“I think kids in alternative school are the smartest and most creative kids,” Minner said, who says high school peer preasure can be like a straitjacket for kids. “They (Alt. Ed students) are just more grown up. They are smart enough to know when they’re bored and smart enough to use their creativity. We show you how to make the creativitity work for you. The fact that you’re different is your gift. They’ve already accepted the fact ... they’re not like everyone else.”

Minner said one of the reasons she enjoys working with the students is because “these kids are my people.”

She said she is a baby boomer that didn’t want to be a corporate secretary.

“I had to find another path,” Minner said.

She found her path and it has led her to a professional musical career.

Minner uses the music to bring students out and showcase their ability. “When the elementary kids see these musicians play, they don’t see social standing or any other label. They see the ‘big kids,’ someone that an elementary child can look up to.

“These kids become stars to their school and community,” Minner said.

On the day of the concert, Minner was accompanied by musical talent that normally wouldn’t be found in Locust Grove —drummer Bear Cushingberry; keyboard player Rudy Scott and saxophone player Frank Swain. They were joined by Kansas graduate Robert Glass who played guitar.
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