“I don’t even really think of myself as an educator,” Spencer Bohren humbly states, “I’m just an artist.” Tell that to the thousands of students who have benefited from Bohren’s “Down the Dirt Road Blues” performance lectures. On January 23, he’ll receive The Blues Foundation’s prestigious Keeping the Blues Alive Award in Education in Memphis, Tennessee.
“Down the Dirt Road Blues” follows a single song through 400 years of American history, in the process tracing the evolution of the blues. Bohren calls the project/performance— which he recorded in 2005—“a lucky accident,” saying, “I didn’t sit down to develop this amazing vehicle for teaching blues history.” He was focused on making a living.
But the success of “Down the Dirt Road Blues” is no accident. The combination of history and music works in the classroom for the simplest reason. “Kids aren’t used to seeing real music played by a real person,” Bohren says. “It really intrigues them.”