The Harmonica and the Blues: Tom Hanney
Thanks to a Lecturers’ Professional Development Grant sponsored by the Provost’s office and Faculty Career Development Services, Tom Hanney, Senior Lecturer in CMS, traveled to Mississippi to conduct academic and field research in preparation for his new course, The Harmonica and the Blues. Tom began his trip at the University of Mississippi’s Blues Archives. There he met with Blues Curator, Greg Johnson, and Associate Professor of English and Southern Studies (and renown blues harmonica player), Dr. Adam Gussow. Tom was particularly interested in the “harmonica project” in the archives as he looked for information about the harmonica and its role in American musical history.
The trip also took Hanney to Clarksdale in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. Clarksdale is often called the ”birthplace and world capital of the blues” and is the location of the famous crossroads intersection of Highway 61 and 49. Tom visited historic locations, saw and played with local musicians and visited local blues museums as well as travelled to stops on the Mississippi Blues Trail.
Reflecting on his experience, Hanney said “Driving through the Delta, seeing the land, small towns, waterways and levees, talking to people, and experiencing the current state of the delta music scene gives me insight into the music that I’ve played for most of my life,” said Hanney. “I can bring that experience to the students in my new class.”
The Harmonica and the Blues is an interdisciplinary course where students learn about the history and cultural of Blues and the harmonica while they learn how to play. They also learn about influential harmonica players from several eras and styles of music. The course involves basic music and sound theory as well as experiencing live Blues music.