HOUSTON BLUES SOCIETY PLANTS ROOTS FOR INNER-CITY KIDS

RICH CULTURAL HISTORY COMES ALIVE

by Maike van Wijki

Daily Cougar Staff

One of America's most influential forms of music is the blues. However, few people are aware of its impact on African American and worldwide cultures. To change that, the Houston Blues Society designed a program to familiarize inner-city children with blues culture.

Blues-N-Kids, with Jimmy "T-99" Nelson and his Blues Band, will host a "Blues Across the Generations" presentation from 10-11:30 a.m. Tuesday at Sunnyside Multi-Service Community Center, 4605 Wilmington, for an audience of senior citizens and day care children.

Joseph Kotarba, director of the program and assistant professor of sociology at UH, designed Blues-N-Kids to acquaint young people with the musical, cultural and historical roots of blues music.

"Blues culture is a key aspect of the African American experience and, therefore, the American experience," Kotarba said.

"Kids listen to Michael Jackson and rap music, but they don't listen to blues. We want to remind them of the importance of blues to their culture. The program ties the connections of blues in pop music, reggae, gospel and other music.

"Blues-N-Kids consists of presentations made to public schools and community centers by groups of professional blues players. The children learn how to play instruments, they sing along, compose lyrics and dance around the front of the stage.

"Public schools don't have the time and space to teach the blues to children. They only refer to it during Black History Month in February. We try to introduce blues into schools musically and traditionally. We try to direct the program toward inner-city African American kids and adults."

During the program, definitions and a historical overview of the blues are given, according to Kotarba's program description. Primitive instruments like a washboard and modern instruments like the harmonica and electric guitar are presented, and song writing is discussed, the description read. The presenters perform songs and discuss the impact of blues on the children's lives, particularly in relation to rap music, he said.

"Blues is a part of that very rich culture that extends across generations," Kotarba said. "I take pride in building bridges between the cultures – kids and rap and adults and blues."

The June 24 presentation at Project Row Houses integrated two generations of African American male musicians, Kotarba said. Guitarist "Texas" Johnny Brown, pianist Teddy "Cry Cry" Reynolds and poets of the Roots Collective presented hip-hop, rap, spoken word and poetry, he said.

"Houston has a rich blues tradition and an extensive blues community that permeates the entire community, black and white, red and yellow," Kotarba said. "It helps unify people's thoughts of culture; they share something in common in music."

The program fosters the ties between the university, the local community and community organizations, he said.

"I always loved pop music, specifically rock 'n' roll and the blues," Kotarba said. "I have been teaching a course on sociology and rock 'n' roll music for 10 years and have done research on rock 'n' roll music and its audiences, specifically adolescents, for eight years.

"The project fits in with my teaching, research and interest in popular culture."

Sociology as a subject is becoming more focused on studying culture, he said. The community involvement through Blues-N-Kids "bridges sociology as a science and sociology as humanities," Kotarba said.

Blues-N-Kids is funded by the Cultural Arts Council of Houston/Harris County, H & H Music Co. and the College of Social Sciences. The $2,500 grant from the Cultural Arts Council of Houston/Harris County covers 10 presentations from April 1 through Aug. 31, Kotarba said.

Travis Peoples, project manager of the Blues-N-Kids program, said the Houston Blues Society is a benevolent foundation to help preserve the blues in Houston.

"We try to find programs in the community and try to help them out," she said.

The foundation helps programs like a Christmas party for senior citizens, for example, which was held last year. Peoples said a one-person band performed, the society helped serve food, and many people joined in with the performer.

The Blues-N-Kids grant helped tremendously, Peoples said. "We were able to diversify the program through the grant," she said.

She said Blues-N-Kids and other programs are designed to teach children to appreciate the blues.

"I like to see it when kids get involved. Sometimes you have this shy person and you feel like, 'I didn't reach this kid,' " she said. "But one time, this boy got up and starting singing this song and knew every word. I thought he probably learned it from his mother, but I was glad to see that they all don't listen to rap or rock.

"I'm learning a lot about the blues by listening to people talk about things that happened in history. Lorenzo Thomas was talking about blues becoming classical music, since it's getting to be 100 years old. It's American classical music."

Lorenzo Thomas, English professor at UH-Downtown and lecturer for Blues-N-Kids, said blues began at the turn of the century in the South as African American folk music, and then became part of the popular music entertainment business in the 1920s.

"Blues music has been indigenous to American culture and is essentially an influence of pop music around the world," Thomas said. "It is unique because it not only deals with personal matters but also speaks to the community."

According to the 1992 edition of <I>Encyclopedia Britannica<P>, blues developed in the southern United States after the American Civil War. Played by southern black men, mostly agricultural workers, the blues was influenced by work songs and field hollers, minstrel-show music, ragtime, church music and the folk and popular music of whites.

The Great Depression and the world wars caused millions of blacks to leave the South for the cities of the North, and the blues adapted to the more sophisticated urban environment in its lyrics, according to <I>Britannica<P>. The ensemble developed as the solo bluesman was joined by a piano or harmonica player and later by a rhythm section consisting of bass and drums.

Blues and jazz are closely related; but blues has left its marks on soul music, rhythm and blues, and mostly on rock music, the encyclopedia reads. Blues songs are lyrical rather than narrative, and essentially vocal. The singer expresses emotions, generally one of sadness or melancholy, instead of telling a story, it explains.

Misconceptions that all blues music must be concerned with depressed subjects have perpetuated because the word "blues" has been used by writers as a synonym for a depressed mood, <I>Britannica<P> explains.

Peoples expressed the inaccuracy of that myth. "To me, blues is a form of music that relieves the blues -- you get it out of your system," she said. "You realize that you're not the only one with this problem. The blues makes me feel good."

Presentations of Blues-N-Kids have been made at the Black Arts Festival, Bruce Elementary School, Johnston Middle School and the Academy for the Arts, the Pan African Arts Festival at the Miller Outdoor Theatre, Rockefeller's (a Key Elementary School field trip), the UH College of Humanities, Project Row Houses and Main Street Books.

The program will end with a "How to play the Harmonica" workshop for children (date to be announced), with 50 harmonicas donated by Honor Harmonica Co.

 

 

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UHCL TO APPOINT INTERIM PRESIDENT AS GOERKE TAKES MAIN CAMPUS' REINS

by James Aldridge

Daily Cougar Staff

When Glenn Goerke leaves UH-Clear Lake to take the interim president position here, UH business alumnus and former marketing instructor William Staples is expected to navigate the 21-year-old university at Clear Lake upon the course that Goerke will leave behind.

Upon accepting the candidacy for the interim position at UH-Clear Lake, Staples said, "It's basically an honor and a priviledge to be named to this position."

After a 21-day posting period required by state law, the regents will probably appoint Staples as interim president. No other candidates are vying for the UH-Clear Lake presidency.

Staples is the dean of the UH-Clear Lake School of Business and Public Administration and has a 16-year tenure at UH-Clear Lake.

The Board of Regents appointed Goerke as interim president of UH after James H. Pickering set his resignation date Aug. 31.

Staples plans to enjoy the fruits of Goerke's labor as interim president. He said he does not anticipate any real difficulties as president.

"We have a real cooperation between faculty, staff, administrators and students. They are represented in our meetings," he said.

In a memo from the Office of Institutional Advancement, Staples said Clear Lake has a shared governance plan that, under Goerke, allowed groups to work well together.

UH-Clear Lake's current shared governance plan has been in place for about four years, while in the past there have been various forms of shared governance, Staples said.

At Clear Lake, representatives from faculty, staff, administrators and students work with the president on policy development, Staples said. Once policies are developed, the administration implements these policies, keeping every group's input in mind.

Staples said Goerke has a talent of bringing groups together, and UH will benefit under his leadership. "He's got the trust of the people," he said.

Staples plans to have the same type of rapport with the groups on the Clear Lake campus.

In 1991, a UH System Advisory panel cited then-UH-Clear Lake President Thomas Stauffer as being a factor for the campus' problems with shared governance. Now with leadership passing from Goerke to Staples, Staples has big shoes to fill.

Although the Faculty Senate at UH has a long standing of discord between the UH administration, UH-Clear Lake's Faculty Senate supports Staples as interim president.

Bruce Palmer, UH-Clear Lake Faculty Senate president, remarked at a July 6 meeting that Staples has been an active participant in helping UH-Clear Lake meet its changing needs.

Staples received his doctorate in business administration in 1977 from the College of Business Administration, and since 1979 has worked as a marketing professor, associate dean of the School of Business and Public Administration, and is currently its dean at UH-Clear Lake.

 

 

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BILL PASSED TO HELP PAY COLLEGE COSTS

by James V. Geluso

Senior Writer

Parents of college students will receive some assistance from the State of Texas as a result of a bill passed by the Texas Legislature.

On June 17, Texas Gov. George W. Bush signed into law the Texas Prepaid Tuition Program, a program designed to help parents beat rising college costs through guaranteed investments.

The program allows the State of Texas to offer contracts for purchase that will be worth the full cost of an education when redeemed.

It was first proposed in State Comptroller John Sharp's report, <I>Gaining Ground<P>, and is modeled on similar programs pioneered in Michigan and Florida.

Contracts will be available for purchase Jan. 2, said Kelly Fero, spokesman for the comptroller's office. Any Texas resident can buy a contract for any student, and anybody can buy a contract for a student who lives in Texas.

Funds collected from the sale of contracts are invested so that the fund will be worth the full cost of a college education. The initial price is based on an estimate of what college costs will be on the target date and how much must be invested in order to meet that target amount.

The contract can be paid off all at once, or in installments that can last up until the time the student goes off to college, Fero said.

If college costs were underestimated or the investment failed to produce enough money, the state would then appropriate enough money to guarantee that the contracts are honored. However, the legislation as actually written does not bind the Legislature to do so.

"We believe the program will be popular enough that there would be a large amount of public pressure for the Legislature to fund the program," Fero said. "But no, this is not actually guaranteed by law."

Four different plans are offered: a junior college plan, good for two years at a community college; a senior college plan, good for four years at a university; a junior-senior college plan, good for two years at a community college followed by two years at a university; and a private college plan, good for four years at a private college.

The legislation also creates a scholarship fund for those who would like to purchase a plan but cannot afford to. This scholarship was outlined by Sharp in his original proposal.

Sharp's proposal called for a $1.5 million state appropriation to begin the fund, which would also seek private donations. A similar fund in Florida, Sharp's report pointed out, received $2 million in private donations in response to a challenge from the Legislature to match a $1 million appropriation. The Texas Legislature, however, made no donation to the initial fund.

Fero said Sharp was disappointed that the Legislature declined to appropriate money, but will concentrate now on raising money for the fund from private sources.

"In Florida, their program funds about 1,000 scholarships. We're going to try to beat that," Fero said.

"Even a small-town civic organization could provide a year's tuition for one student. A large business could provide four years for a dozen students.

"It's a no-brainer for business. It ensures them a high-skill work force, which in turn ensures prosperity for Texas."

 

 

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JASON DEGROOT SETS EXAMPLE FOR STUDENTS, ATHLETES

by Dominic Corva

Daily Cougar Staff

If redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jason DeGroot is any indication of the kind of football team Kim Helton is building at the University of Houston, the student body is in big trouble. It may not be able to measure up to the high level of academic success he has worked hard to achieve.

DeGroot, 19, achieved a perfect 4.0 grade point average last year while taking 32 semester hours, 17 during the football season. He continued his excellent record into the first summer session, receiving an A in African American Studies, and plans to take a short break for the second half of the summer before starting practice in August.

He credits his academic success to God, parents who "instilled good study habits in me" and the study hall required of freshmen athletes Monday through Thursday, although he says he needed to study "a lot more than that."

His performance off the gridiron is mirrored by his excellence on the field. This off-season, he was named "rookie of the year" for lifting hard, running hard and setting a good example for his peers, according to John Lott, strength and conditioning coach for the Athletic Department.

A quiet young man who, at the end of his interview, wanted to make sure he did not come across as "a braggart," DeGroot told very little of his accomplishments on the football field. His coaches and peers were much less reticent to relay their respect for the athlete.

Lott says DeGroot is an outstanding worker. "If you're waiting for Jason DeGroot, you better scoot forward because he's already ahead of you," he says.

Head coach Kim Helton, a man who does not lightly dole out praise, calls DeGroot "probably the smartest and toughest guy on the team. He sets the standard as a player and as a student for everyone to follow."

Houston wide receivers coach Tyrone Dickson says, "Jason DeGroot is the epitome of persistence. He's one of the hardest working kids I've ever seen in all my years of coaching, both in the college and professional level. He takes his work habits to another level, and if he keeps it up, he will be a very successful man both in the classroom and in life. "

DeGroot's role model on the football team is senior Jimmy Herndon, an Academic All-American who shares his Christian faith. The two will be participating in a men's outreach program called "Dunamis" (the Greek word for power) in the fall with two sophomores, cornerback Thomathon Good and running back Courtney Walker. Herndon, an all-SWC offensive lineman, calls DeGroot "a good Christian. He puts God first in everything, and so everything is falling into place for him."

A quarterback for nearby Santa Fe High School, DeGroot was recruited to play wide receiver by Helton. He chose UH because he liked the campus, the coaches and its proximity to his family (only 45 minutes away).

He says the toughest adjustment for him his freshman year was time management. "I had a lot more time in high school, so coming to college, I had to handle football practice, tougher courses and mandatory study halls," DeGroot says.

He is optimistic about the upcoming football season. "I think we're going to improve a lot. We've had a lot of good recruiting because of the new facility. We'll have a lot of good linebackers and a very experienced defense including three seniors," he says. He mentions senior safety Thomas McGaughey as a key defensive team leader.

Like many college sophomores, DeGroot has not yet declared a major, but is leaning toward business. Tentatively, he wants to go to law school afterward, but isn't sure what he wants to do.

His favorite class last semester was political science with Professor Ed Fuchs, who says DeGroot is "a fine student with a good intellect, which has to help him play ball."

When asked about recent lack of interest in Cougar football, DeGroot's face takes on a disappointed look. "I really wish they would support us more, because we're really going to get out there and turn things around. I understand it's hard to support a team that's losing, but we play hard out there and want to make things better for the University of Houston," he says.

Who does DeGroot look to on the team to push him? "I look up to (junior wide receiver) Charles West. He works hard, so I have to work harder. He's really helped me learn my new position," he says.

Does DeGroot dream of some day playing in the NFL? "I just really want to play college football right now. All I want to do is keep working hard and making good grades," he says.

 

 

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SQUEEZE INTO ORANGE SHOW

WORKSHOPS, PERFORMANCES, TOURS GIVE REFRESHING ALTERNATIVE TO SWELTERING SUN

by Valérie C. Fouché

Daily Cougar Staff

It's that time of year again when people come out of their homes looking for fun in the sun. Besides heading to the beach or a local theme park, how about giving The Orange Show a venture?

The Orange Show is a monumental work of handmade architecture built by the late postman Jeff McKissack in Houston's East End. McKissack's creation encourages visitors to follow his theories in longevity, good nutrition and health, hard work and personal responsibility.

The Orange Show Folk Art Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in 1980 with the purpose of preserving McKissack's imagination and creativity as an educational and cultural resource. Today the foundation presents lectures, workshops, performances and tours to introduce children and adults to folk, outside and self-taught artists, and the intuitive creative process.

The Orange Show, open to the public through Labor Day on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $1 per person and free for children 12 and under. Reservations are required for groups of 10 or more.

• Children's Tours of The Orange Show:

Tours of The Orange Show are available for groups of 10 or more children and include a Basic Tour, for a cost of $2 per child, which gives children the opportunity to find out about McKissack's creation and participate in a question-and-answer session. For $5 per child, groups can participate in an Art Workshop Tour, which includes a hands-on workshop fostering imagination in a creative atmosphere. These workshops emphasize the use of recycled products.

• Children's Bike Workshop:

This workshop is free to children and is endorsed by funding from the Cultural Arts Council of Houston/Harris County and the Mayor's Anti-Gang Office. The workshop is an incentive specifically targeted at neighborhood children who are at risk for gang involvement or may be already involved in gang activity.

• Annual Talent Show and <I>5,000 Fingers of Dr. T<P>:

The Orange Show showcases Houston's hidden talents. The competition is open to everyone. After the competition, the classic Dr. Seuss film <I>The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T<P> will be shown. The talent show will be held Saturday, July 22 at 8 p.m.

• Collectormania Movie Day and Eyeopeners Tour:

The Orange Show celebrates collectors of all sorts. Climb aboard the Eyeopeners bus and tour some famous and outrageous Houston collections -- everything from salt and pepper shakers to lunch boxes to radios. The film <I>Hunter and Gatherers<P>, by Darrell Vega, takes a look at the idiosyncratic collector's landscape. Visit the museum of barbed wire, containing 4,000 types of barbed wire. See a woman who has 20,000 sugar packets and a man who dreams of building a 24-hour movie theater to exclusively show <I>The Titanic<P> and who owns a pair of shoes belonging to a woman who drowned on it. Then browse through some collections people have brought to share, including videos by Andy Mann and by Laurie McDonald of Houston's own Hyde Park Miniature Museum.

For more information on any event time, location or price, contact the Houston Orange Show at (713)926-6368, or drop by the office at 2402 Munger.

 

 

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ALL DOESN'T MOVE ON <I>PUMMEL<P>

BY JAMES V. GELUSO

Daily Cougar Staff

A long time ago, there was a band called the Descendents. The band wrote short songs about food, coffee and girls. The most exposure it got was in the 1990 movie <I>Pump Up the Volume<P>. (Remember the song about whale sperm that Christian Slater played twice? That's the Descendents).

The Descendents had a bunch of different lineups, but the core of the band was vocalist Milo Aukerman. When Milo decided to be a biochemist instead of a rock singer, what was left of the Descendents picked up a new vocalist and became All (named after the Descendents' album and one-second-long song).

With its second vocalist, All had a cleaner, slightly funkier sound that was showcased well on the "Dot" single in 1991. At least there was some evolution.

All is now on its third vocalist, Chad Price, and has recently released an eighth album, <I>Pummel<P>. The first single, "Million Bucks," is getting some airplay. And all that evolution went down the drain.

Even though the band really isn't the Descendents (only drummer Bill Stevenson was with the Descendents for any meaningful length of time), it still sounds like the Descendents. Which is to say, the band pounds on its instruments. It's not a complex sound, not quite as hard as Green Day.

But Chad Price is trying to be Milo Aukerman, and he just isn't. Milo didn't sound like he was coughing out the lyrics. And Milo's lyrics were better.

"This World" and "Breakin' Up" want to be "Get the Time," but even if the words were as good, Price's vocals would still mangle them. As they are, they sound like a chain-smoker belting out high school angst poetry.

Even the pissed-off songs, like "Hetero" and "Gettin' There," are pale imitations of "I'm Not a Loser." It was cool the first time, but these are just the same songs, except not as good.

The most interesting moment comes on "Stalker," a sick song that sounds, both musically and lyrically, like Faith No More instead of like the Descendents.

Sure, it's easy to point out how one album sucks compared to the whole body of the Descendents' work, which did include several songs worse than anything on this album. But <I>Pummel<P> is trying so hard to sound like the Descendents that the criticism is more than fair.

It's time for All to move on and redefine its own sound. Its not the Descendents, and the band shouldn't pretend that it is anymore.

 

 

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SEALED WITH A KISS

SEAL, DES'REE BRING AUDIENCE TO TEARS WITH BALLADS

Photo by Caterina Jebb/Sony

London diva Des'ree and Seal put on a moving performance Saturday at the Woodlands Pavilion.

by Ray Gayle

Daily Cougar Staff

Unlike some artists who are waging personal battles with ticket advances, Seal is doing what he is supposed to do: please his fans! And please them he did in grand fashion Saturday night at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavillion.

The troubling thing to me is why urban radio stations like Magic 102 and 97.9 The Box cannot find any room on their formats for this guy. Seal's voice is somewhere between Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. The most striking thing about Seal is the arrangement of his ballads. I had to fight back the tears on songs like "Kiss From a Rose" and "Don't Cry." It is nice to see someone put the music back in musician.

Seal was just unbelievable, song after song, hit after glorious hit. I was amazed at how this guy restructured all of his songs. It took me a few minutes to recognize songs like "Whirlpool" and "Killer." Such a pleasant surprise.

He had command of the crowd from the get-go with a dramatic entrance similar to what you would see in the movie <I>Empire Strikes Back<P>. His set was simple, accentuated by a rainbow of lights. He went through most of his songs from his previous albums, both titled <I>Seal<P>. The highlight of the show was when Seal belted out the hit "Crazy." Amazing stuff. Seal closed the show with a solid rendition of "Paradise" from his first album.

Des'ree opened the show on a high note with songs from her debut album, <I>I Ain't Movin'<P>. Here is another talented musician. You can pick up on her jazz and reggae influences. Her 30-minute set was highlighted by her hit song, "You Gotta Be," and "I Ain't Movin'." Wish I could have heard a little more from this London diva.

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