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Kids Like Blues Band having fun with Blues Legend Elvin Bishop

7-year-olds in The Kids Like Blues Band (the world’s youngest blues band!) are getting a big boost from 70-year-old blues legend Elvin Bishop.

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Elvin kindly agreed to be our penpal and mentor, and gave us permission to record his classic song “Calling All Cows“. We actually make professional quality recordings in our classroom and our teacher edits the audio and video tracks at his home recording studio. In addition to the thrill of up-and-coming young blues musicians like us hearing from one of the historical figures in U.S. Blues History, this relationship is a great way to help us learn academics in a fun way.
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We are doing a lot of research on Bishop’s career through his website and Google image searches. We found that he is a fisherman, he won a National Merit Scholarship that bought him a free ride to any college he chose (he chose University of Chicago, of course!), he has a vintage Gibson 345 named Red Dog, and he is from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Here’s a screenshot of some of the images we came up with in our research.
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After we performed online research on the LCD projector, we did a writing lesson where I (Jon Schwartz, the teacher) instructed the students on how to write multi-paragraph nonfiction essays with correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, organization, proper penmanship, and indenting. These are all elements of the academic standards we are required to learn in second grade.
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We use blues music as a thematic teaching tool to learn reading and writing, U.S. History, geography, and even technology like blogging and Photoshop (watch a video of how this works here).

When we are using blues-related content to learn, the kids really get into the lessons because they have spent so much time working with the class blues band. The academic material sinks in on a deep level and they retain the information better because it’s related to something they care about. Our work has even been featured by the US Department of Education and KPBS. You can see that here.

Technology is actually a big part of the Kids Like Blues Band program. We use computers to perform research, blog, do digital design, and make videos in iMovie ( check out this video of us doing Chuck Berry’s “Let it Rock!“) and audio recordings in Garage Band.

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When I am not teaching I work as a photographer and writer for fishing mags and I use my  Photoshop skills to teach kids digital design and blogging. I was named “Tech Hero of 2011” by the California State Senate and  I am passionate about teaching tech at the elementary level. 

Recently I was a featured speaker and shared the work we are doing with the Kids Like Blues Band at the California Association for the Gifted (CAG) Conference in Anaheim, CA.

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We are using Photoshop and blogging in our work related to Elvin Bishop. In fact, many of our 7-year-old students are proficient in Photoshop, and over 90 % of our class have their own personal anonymous blogs. Don’t believe it? Watch this video here of the students in the Kids Like Blues Band doing amazing tech work.

Using Photoshop, we made our own custom “My Elvin Bishop Book” template and then the kids added their own hand drawn sketches of things they learned about Elvin, such as his guitar, interest in fishing, and being a great student (hence the “A++” drawings).
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On the LCD projector, I displayed the images of catfish, his vintage guitar Red Dog, and his portrait so the kids could have some inspiration. I think their work came out great!!
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We are going to be finishing up another project- letters to Elvin- and then we will bundle them up and send them to him via “snail mail”. Comparing the past (in this case, snail mail!) to the present (email) is one of the California Social Studies Standards and teaching them the difference between email and paper mail (aka snail mail) is a perfect example of how tech has changed our world.
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We are going to be doing a recording of his song “Calling All Cows” and will share that as soon as it’s ready. In the meantime check out The Kids Like Blues Band’s raging version of “Sweet Home Chicago“.

Elvin is playing in San Diego in a couple of months and we hope to be able to meet up with him. We encourage blues lovers to check out Elvin’s website and touring schedule.

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As a teacher, I can testify that having Elvin reach out to my students has made a positive impact on their learning and music experiences. If you are a musician or involved in the music world and you would like to lend even a small amount of support to The Kids Like Blues Band, whether it be through being an email or snail mail penpal, recording a guest track via filesharing on our upcoming recordings, arranging a visit to our school, or doing a whole-class Skype chat, follow Elvin Bishop’s lead and contact us via our contact form on our website here: Contact the Kids Like Blues Band.

A little goes a long way towards helping these kids learn academics and hone their blues chops!.

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Our Goal

Once we’ve used the music as a springboard to teach academic content standards, our goal is to take our work to completion by performing it onstage and recording it together in digital multitrack audio and video editing programs.

The students even learn how to operate programs like iMovie, Photoshop and Garage Band.

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So far our performances have included playing a street fair, for a large audience of staff and students at the Cal State San Marcos College of Education and on local TV news and KPBS TV (watch these performances on our videos page). We're a real band, and we're learning and rocking! We have about ten songs in our repertoire.

For Your Further Interest

Check out these educational links, including Mr. Schwartz's approach to using fishing and hands-on science to motivate and engage students.

Social Connect

We invite you to use the Facebook & Twitter links above to get the very latest on our music and appearances.

Video: Sweet Home Chicago

Kids Like Blues Plays Sweet Home Chicago
Click video still to watch the Kids Like Blues Band music video, "Sweet Home Chicago."

Blues & Thematic Teaching


Click video still to view how our program works and details how we cover specific academic content standards.

In the News

We have been featured by US Dept. of Education, KPBS, and more. Click here to view what all the buzz is about.