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Kids Like Blues | World's Youngest Blues Band World's Youngest Blues Band Thu, 07 Nov 2013 03:21:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Kids Like Blues Band performs at Sage Hospitality Leadership Conference Fri, 24 May 2013 15:46:19 +0000 The Kids Like Blues Band played a major corporate event at the Del Mar Hilton!


All 30 students in Mr. Schwartz’s second grade class were invited by Sage Hospitality, one of the country’s leading hotel and restaurant management companies, to perform on March 13th for their Community Day at the Del Mar Hilton during their 2013 Leadership Conference. What a blast!


The kids were treated like royalty and had the time of their lives. Sage Hospitality generously donated two brand new touchscreen laptops to the band’s classroom at Garrison Elementary in Oceanside, CA and paid for their transportation. Just getting on the bus was a huge deal for the kids.


They hadn’t had a field trip all year and here they were being driven for free to a gig of their own at an expensive hotel!



This was a tremendously generous and gracious act and all our students are so lucky to have such a kind benefactor. Most of the kids at our school are on free or reduced lunch, so the free trip, opportunity to perform, and gifted new computers make a huge difference for the children. Kudos to Sage Hospitality!


Before the big day, we used the event to teach concepts across the curriculum. Using Google Maps on the LCD projector, we researched the route and distance to the destination, which touches on map skills and geography, and the students wrote and blogged all about our upcoming gig on their personal anonymous blogs. Click here to see a video showing my students doing great things with technology.

In fact, our class’s work involving technology and the performing arts has been featured by many prestigious organizations; click these links to see how we’ve been featured by the US Department of Education, KPBS, American Blues Scene, and The San Diego Union Tribune.  I recently presented their work at the California Association for the Gifted (CAG) conference in Anaheim and wrote an article for an education policy site called EdSource about our work as well.

We covered math, social studies, reading, and writing standards during our preparation for the trip to the Del Mar Hilton, and rehearsed various songs so we’d be ready. To see how we use blues music to teach academics and tech, watch this video here.

When we arrived at the Del Mar Hilton, the kids’ eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets! We were escorted into the gorgeous hotel and brought poolside where all of their conference attendees were ready for us.


After a ton of practice, the kids were so excited to perform a number of our songs featuring different student combinations. They totally shredded and acted like seasoned professionals.

We’ve actually played a lot of gigs, including LegoLand, Cal State San Marcos, street fairs, talent shows, and even have a big date on June 11 at the Del Mar Fair, but Sage’s treatment was a cut above. Their kindness didn’t end there – after our performance, they presented us with two brand new bases and two brand new touch screen Asus laptops wrapped in blue boxes with bows!


Here are some pictures of our kids using the laptops Sage gave us in our classroom:



This amazing technology allow our class to do so much more with our blogging, Photoshop projects, video editing, etc., and I am also using these machines  in the free tech classes I offer  before school to the parents and students of Garrison Elementary. To learn more about this program read here.


Personally it’s very exciting to have high quality computers. I was named “2011 Tech Hero” by the California State Senate and having new machines enables me to transfer the my passion fort tech to a larger number of people in the community.

My students and I have been pioneering blogging and Photoshop in elementary education and the state of the art laptops Sage gave us will help us to explore new frontiers in elementary education tech, using programs like Garage Band and iMovie.


After our performance, we hopped on the bus and headed back to school in time for lunch. What an incredible day we’ll all remember, all thanks to the generosity of Sage Hospitality!!!


If anyone else wants to follow Sage’s lead and support arts and tech in public schools, I encourage you to do so! The performing arts lay a vital role in shaping our youth and allowing teachers and classrooms to unify all the different strands of academics into a cohesive unit. With declining school budgets, corporate partnerships like the one featured in this article are incredibly important. For those interested in reading about the value of the performing arts and how they can help kids learn academics, check out this article here that I wrote for the ed policy website EdSource..

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Gifted Education Conference features Kids Like Blues Band’s work! Fri, 15 Mar 2013 23:14:04 +0000

The Kids Like Blues Band‘s work was recently featured at the California Association for the Gifted ”Magic of The Mind” 51st Annual Conference in Anaheim, CA.


Kids Like Blues guitarist and classroom teacher Jon Schwartz was the featured presenter at the workshop  ”Using the Performing Arts to Teach The Academic Standards“. He shared videos that the class has worked on, which illustrate how they use classic American blues music to teach language arts, English fluency, US History, technology like blogs and Photoshop, the visual and performing arts, and self-esteem.


Although we’re known to many as the “World’s Youngest Blues Band”, our performing work, videos, and recordings are merely the icing on the cake. We actually are a 30 member second grade class from a public school in Oceanside, CA, and we use blues music as a thematic teaching tool to cover academic standards.

One might ask, “How do you have time to include the performing arts when you are responsible for teaching academics?”  The answer, as proven by how much our kids are learning, is that the performing arts provide a unifying theme that cohesively bind the different academic disciplines in an engaging and meaningful way. In fact, as you will see below, the State Board of Education requests that teachers link the different academic disciplines together in creative and interesting ways.

As you can see in the composite image above, in “A Message from The State Board of Education” which prefaces the academic standards document, the State Board of Education says “ Educators should take every opportunity to link reading and writing to other core curricula, including history, social science, mathematics, science, and the visual and performing arts, to help students achieve success in all areas.” 

So the work that we are doing isn’t a diversion from the academic work we have to cover, it’s an effective way of delivering it, and the kids love it!

We also have made some great pro-quality recordings of some blues classics and the kids are involved in the editing and recording processes. Watch and listen to the Kids Like Blues Band performing “Sweet Home Chicago” and “Let it Rock!”

Our innovative cross-curricular work has been featured by the US Dept. of Education and KPBS, and we’ve played on live TV, for talent shows, on college campuses, and even at corporate leadership conferences.

In fact, we just had a “gig’ this week where we played for the Sage Hospitality 2013 Leadership Conference at the Del Mar Hilton. The company wanted to show their national management staff how we work together to accomplish neat things, even at such a young age. We had a blast and the company kindly paid for our transportation to the resort and donated much-needed laptops to our classroom! Details and pics to follow in the next blog post….

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Kids Like Blues Band having fun with Blues Legend Elvin Bishop Sat, 09 Mar 2013 19:11:17 +0000 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

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.


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).
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!!
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.
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.

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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Blues Legend Elvin Bishop helping The Kids Like Blues Band! Wed, 06 Mar 2013 23:46:03 +0000 Legendary blues guitarist Elvin Bishop is helping second grade students in The Kids Like Blues Band get excited about performing blues music and learning academics!
Elvin Bishop

Awhile back, we contacted Elvin and asked him if he would be willing to act as a penpal and mentor to our blues band, which is comprised of 30 students in Mr. Schwartz’s second grade class in Oceanside, CA. What better way to get these 7-year-olds stoked on learning and gaining new blues chops than striking up a relationship with a blues legend?Kids Like Blues Band

We were thrilled when Elvin responded to our email by calling us up and asking, “How can I help?” I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised though, because as Downbeat Magazine said, “Bishop is a good-hearted soul whose life mission is to entertain to the best of his ability.” I guess we can now add helping young kids to his resume!

As The World’s Youngest Blues Band, we need some tips from masters like Elvin. He is a historical figure in the blues with 5 decades of performing experience. We have some big gigs coming up soon and he can help us prepare for them. On March 13 we are playing the Sage Hospitality Group’s 2013 Corporate Leadership Conference at the Del Mar Hilton which will be attended by the Mayor of Del Mar and the Sage Hospitality President. Sage Hospitality is even paying for our transportation and donating computers to our class!

Though we’re best known for our music (see our great performance video of Sweet Home Chicago here) we are first and foremost second grade students who are required to learn the CA State Academic Content Standards. Being in contact with Elvin will help us master these standards.

Using blues music to learn academic standards is something we’ve been doing for over a year. To see how we do this, watch this video: Thematic Teaching Using Blues Music

We need to learn how to write letters; it’s CA Standard Writing Applications 2.2. The kids are writing letters to Elvin, and knowing that a famous bluesman will be reading their work is motivating them to write to their highest potential. Having an audience that matters to them is really important.

We are also doing a lot of internet research on his career. I teach the kids internet safety and how to use the internet as a research tool. In fact, over 95% of our students have their own personal, private, anonymous blogs. In our research we found that he comes from Tulsa, Oklahoma. We did a google maps search for Tulsa on the LCD projector and the kids were BLOWN AWAY by the features of the interactive online map. They were stunned at how we could zoom in and out, all the way from an outer space view to a street level view.

Of course the kids insisted on then looking up our own location, and they just about had a cow when we found our school! Map skills are also an important second grade standard.

We are going to start doing compare and contrast exercises using Elvin’s career and music, and the Kids Like Blues Band’s career and music. He’s 70, these kids are 7. He’s a blues legend, and we’re, uh, up and coming. It’s easy to fill in a Venn Diagram with things that we don’t have in common, but there are characteristics that Elvin Bishop and the Kids Like Blues Band share.

We both have a website, we both enjoy old school blues songs, we both have a slide guitar player in our band, and we both make recordings. In fact, we have all been students, and that leads us to a fact that thrilled the kids: Elvin was such a great student that he won a scholarship to a college of his choice. It turns out he won a National Merit Scholariship in the late 1950′s and chose to go to The University of Chicago so he could learn the blues from the masters. For more info see the “About” page on his website.

When I told the kids this, they couldn’t believe that a famous bluesman was also a straight-A student! What a great role model! One of the girls shouted, “Hey, that’s not fair my sister gets straight A’s and my mom has to pay for her college!” The more we learn about Elvin and his work and history, the more questions the kids will have, and the more interesting their letters to him will be. I think he will get a huge kick out of reading them.

Once we finish our research on his career and music and compare it to our own, we will do a multi-paragraph expository nonfiction modeled writing piece. We will be reviewing elements of writing like spelling, grammar, indenting paragraphs, topic sentences, staying on topic, descriptive writing, and penmanship.

The kids will also be making drawing of Elvin by hand, scanning their drawings into the computer, modifying the work in Photoshop, and uploading it to their blogs. Yes, second graders can do all of this! Watch my students show off their tech skills in this video: Classroom Technology in Mr. Schwartz’s Class: Blogging and Photoshop.

We are also considering doing a Skype chat, and if our internet connection won’t support that, we can do some conference calls. Elvin will also be down in Southern CA is May so we are hoping that we might have an opportunity to meet up with him when he comes down, either through a classroom visit, or maybe meeting him near one of his concerts.

Elvin also gave us permission to record his song “Calling All Cows” so we are going to have to add that to our repertoire of 16 songs. The kids heard it for the first time yesterday and they loved it.

Many thanks to Elvin for his help. It means a lot to the kids and it will help them in so many ways!

We’re also hoping to partner with other blues musicians in a similar manner, from being pen pals to laying down tracks on our upcoming recordings or doing class visits. If you’d like to get involved with the Kids Like Blues Band, please send an email to

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Sweet Home Chicago Fri, 28 Dec 2012 16:56:20 +0000 Our band has videos geared towards educators and laypeople. This is a performance video where we aim to show off our stage skills. We recorded the audio together in Garage Band (which the kids are learning to use independently) and I edited the video at my home studio.

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Thematic Teaching Using Blues Music Fri, 28 Dec 2012 16:55:15 +0000 This 3 minute video that explains how our program works and details how we cover specific academic content standards in reading, writing, math, social studies, technology, and the visual and performing arts.

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Music Video | “Let it Rock” Fri, 28 Dec 2012 16:54:02 +0000 While “The Kids Like Blues Project: Our Video” provides an in-depth look at the program, we wanted to make a “proper” music video that was informative, entertaining, and also brief. This music video explicitly shows how we start the process of learning songs, starting first with focusing on academic reading, listening, and speaking standards, and then having the students choreograph their own moves. You’ll also see us doing internet research where we weave in historical lessons on Westward Expansion and the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, related visual art projects for students, practicing and recording the song with small groups where we focus on pronunciation, phrasing, tone, and modulation, working with students in software editing the tracks, and finally, performing on a live soundstage. All voices are students in the class, and Mr. Schwartz plays all the guitar. Mr. Schwartz hired a session drummer and bassist to record drums and bass for the song.

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Fostering Community With Music Fri, 28 Dec 2012 16:53:40 +0000 This video shows how our blues band work helped our student from Japan feel at home and access the curriculum.

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Classroom Technology Fri, 28 Dec 2012 16:52:26 +0000 Teaching Kids To Use Blogs And Photoshop

Our tech-savvy 1st and 2nd graders are learning skills usually taught in college!

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Kids Like Blues Project Official Video Fri, 28 Dec 2012 16:51:11 +0000 This in-depth video explains the academic and social benefits of our work and tells the story of our band. This video was played prior to our performance at the College of Education at Cal State San Marcos, and their faculty wants to use it to teach future educators (!) This video features stage and classroom work, as well as interviews with parents, Professor of Education Leslie Mauerman, Speech Therapist Pamela Hahn, Principal Margie Oliver, and Teacher Jon Schwartz.

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