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Mississippi Valley Blues Society

Photo of a band playing in Davenport at the Blues Fest

About Us

When you think of the Mississippi Valley Blues Society, the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival may come to mind - an award-winning Blues Festival put on by our volunteers for 30 years on the banks of the Mississippi River. However, the Mississippi Valley Blues Society has more programs and events beyond the Festival. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Davenport, Iowa serving Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois with a variety of programs that go on throughout the year.  These programs help support our mission – To educate the general public about the indigenous art form of Blues and Blues-related music.

Our organization is lead by an all-volunteer board of directors.  The board consists of 14 members with a mix of cultural, racial, gender, professional, educational, and geographically diverse backgrounds.  Collectively, the board helps to:

  • Implement the mission of the organization
  • Seek funding for the various programs
  • Administer the goals and objectives of the Mississippi Valley Blues Society

We have eight committees where our work is carried out. The committee members are dedicated volunteers who choose to help share their experience through education, finance, organizational development, public relations, policy, and fundraising. The eight committees include:

Administration/Office, Education, Festival Entertainment, Events, Festival Production, Finance, Fundraising, and Public Relations/Membership Committee

Blues in the Schools

Photo of a blues player teaching the harmonica

The Mississippi Valley Blues Society has one of the most active Blues Education programs of any Blues Society in the country. Each year, the Blues Society plans and coordinates 4-9 weeks of Blues in the Schools programming. Some of the artists who have participated in our Blues in the Schools program include David "Honeyboy" Edwards, John Jackson, Billy Branch, Henry Butler, Willie King and the Alabama Blues Project, Hawkeye Herman, Rev. Robert Jones, Rich DelGrosso and Fruteland Jackson.

BlueSKool is an area designated for children’s workshops at the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival. Harmonicas are given to all attendees and at least three blues educators are chosen to conduct the programs.  BlueSKools at the Festival will benefit another 500+ participants.  The very nature of what we make available—Blues in the Schools, a world-class festival with educational components, sponsoring blues artists—requires us to hire and provide lodging for a number of professional performers and blues educators throughout the year.

The 2016 Blues in the Schools artists in residence visited at least 30 area schools with approximately 300 children each, and open-to-the public sites. This year we would like to expand the program to include 4-5 week-long artist residencies. A typical week-long residency includes 10-12 performances and workshops in schools, libraries and/or community centers in the Quad Cities and surrounding areas. In addition, each residency will include an Open-to-the-Public presentation (for all ages). All performances are free, and expose a wide segment of our community to blues-related music and the rich history and heritage of that music.

Blues Anthology Project

A Journey of the Blues poster

The MVBS Education Committee conceived of and produced a 127-page blues anthology and accompanying CD that is intended to be an introduction for readers whose knowledge of the blues may be limited. Now in its third printing, the anthology has been distributed free of charge to area high schools and colleges for use in courses and placed in area school and public libraries as reference material.

The anthology consists of a collection of chapters by educators, historians, and performers that will hopefully encourage readers to further explore the blues. The content includes chapters on Memphis and its role in the history of the blues, Louisiana Blues, the Blues in St. Louis, and many other topics. The accompanying CD provides examples of the music and performers discussed in the book and greatly enhances the overall impact of the project. Copies of the anthology can be obtained for $25.00 from the Mississippi Valley Blues Society. A $3.00 shipping & handling charge will be added to copies delivered by mail.

Iowa Blues Challenge

Iowa Blues Challenge poster

The Mississippi Valley Blues Society works together with the Central Iowa Blues Society and other blues societies throughout the state to plan and present the Iowa Blues Challenge, a state-wide competition for blues bands and solo/duo acts. Winners of the Iowa Blues Challenge go on to compete at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis representing the Blues Societies of Iowa.

Live Blues

Heard a great blues band lately? The Mississippi Valley Blues Society supports local blues bands and creates outlets for nationally recognized musicians to perform in the Quad Cities throughout the year. Through special performances at local venues, the MVBS brings many blues shows to the Quad Cities and surrounding communities that people otherwise would not have the opportunity to see.

Mississippi Valley Blues Festival

It all started in 1985 with the Blues Festival. Thirty years later, the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival had been considered by many festival attendees and major blues magazines to be among the top blues festivals in the country. Funding shortfalls forced us to cancel the Festival in 2015. We hope to regroup and bring back the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival as soon as possible. Held in picturesque LeClaire Park, on the banks of the Mississippi River in Davenport, Iowa, the Fest had a decidedly down home and non-commercial feel to it that let fest-goers sit back, relax and enjoy an incredible lineup of blues talent. The list of past and present Fest performers reads like a virtual Who's Who of the Blues. Many featured performers have received Blues Music Awards and nominations; others have received Grammy Awards.

Photo of three musicians playing at the Quad Cities Mississippi Valley Blues Festival