Home of the Blues – Literally

By Jeremy Park

Last week we discussed Baptist Memorial Health Care and their collaborative community efforts, like Baptist Operation Outreach. This week let us highlight the Memphis-based organization dedicated to preserving our blues music history, supporting blues education, and ensuring the future of this uniquely American art form: The Blues Foundation.

Known as the “Home of the Blues,” it is only fitting that Memphis is the official international headquarters for blues music. Founded in 1980, The Blues Foundation has more than 4,500 individual members and 200 affiliated local blues societies representing another 50,000 fans and professionals around the world. The Foundation is focused on the past, present and future of the music genre.

It preserves the rich history through its Blues Hall of Fame and HART Fund, which provides financial assistance to blues artists facing medical hardships. The Foundation ensures a bright future by supporting a number of education initiatives and school programs. Then it celebrates current achievement with its signature honors, like the International Blues Challenge in February and the Blues Music Awards each May. These events are the biggest and most prestigious showcases in the blues world and take place here in Memphis, contributing more than $5 million to the local economy each year.

Now The Blues Foundation is poised to make an even larger mark on the Memphis economy. It is currently in the midst of its Raise the Roof! Campaign to build the Blues Hall of Fame. In the past year, Foundation leaders have raised more than $1.5 million toward a future construction cost of $2.5 million. Of that $1.5 million, $1.25 million has come from blues fans around the world. The goal is to garner local support and raise the remaining $1 million within the next six months, so construction can begin. Final design planning is already under way, so the grand opening can coincide with the 35th Blues Music Awards in May 2014.

Getting engaged with the Blues Foundation is easy. Become a member or attend one of their events. This year, the 34th Blues Music Awards takes place Thursday, May 9, at the Cook Convention Center. As the biggest night in blues music, artists and fans will travel from around the world to convene here in Memphis for a reception, auction, dinner, and awards show that will feature more than 20 performances by nominees during the course of the evening. This affords a fun way to enjoy world-class entertainment and also help their efforts. Another way to help is through contributions or volunteerism, like helping them staff and produce the events, or consider in-kind donations of professional services for daily business operations or for building the Blues Hall of Fame.

Learn more about The Blues Foundation and the 34th Blues Music Awards by visiting www.blues.org or by contacting Jay Sieleman, president and CEO, at jay@blues.org or 527-2583.

Jeremy Park, director of the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club, can be reached at jeremyp@lpinsurance.com and followed on Twitter (@lpbreakfastclub) and Facebook (facebook.com/lpbreakfastclub).