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Famous harmonica player brings blues to MC

October 22, 2010

David Berntson is leaving his mark in Monmouth this weekend. Berntson’s visit to campus started on Thursday Oct. 21, and will continue until Saturday Oct. 23, at the Deep Blue Innovators Blues Festival.

Berntson is a harmonica player and substance prevention speaker originally from Galesburg. He currently lives in Tulsa, Okla., but came to Monmouth because of a special request from his long time friend, art professor Stacy Lotz.

On Thursday night in Wells Theatre, Berntson gave a harmonica workshop and taught the audience how to play several songs.

For Berntson, playing harmonica was a great part of his childhood. He learned to play during high school after picking up his grandfather’s harmonica. Learning harmonica also helped him get through his struggling teenage years where he faced many problems.

“It’s almost like the harmonica chose me,” Berntson said, talking about how he chose to turn his life around.

Berntson’s talent is recognized by blues players in America. Recently, in 2006, he won the Keeping the Blues Alive in Education Award by the Blues Foundation in Memphis, Tenn.

His passion for music not only gave him recognition in the blues world, but it helped him become the person he is today.

“It’s the way I dedicate my life to service now,” Berntson said.

Berntson likes to show his talents as a harmonica player to students by also teaching them life lessons in drug prevention or talking about lifestyles through his “Blues in the School” program. Berntson will also be speaking to several of professor Lotz’s classes Friday afternoon. His talks will be focused around the message “Blues you can use.”

Along with his talks on lifestyle choices, Berntson manages to add a little bit of history to his talks. The harmonica is capable of playing several genres of music from classical, blues, jazz or rock.

Berntson’s favorite music to play is, of course, the blues. Berntson believes that the blues is America’s music. The blues originated from African Americans who played on instruments like the diddley bow. The blues picked up when instruments like the harmonica became popular among Americans.

Students in professor Lotz and professor Brian Baugh’s art classes had the unique opportunity to make their own diddley bows this semester. The diddley bows are handmade instruments that play like a guitar.

The art students involved in the handmade musical instrument project will get a chance to be a part of the Deep Blue Innovators Blues Festival. Berntson will also be a guest at the festival this year.

The festival, held at the Rivoli Theatre begins Saturday Oct. 23, at 2 p.m. and will host several bands, musicians and artists.

Professor Baugh will also be giving a demonstration with the diddley bows, ending with MC students offering their instruments for sale.

Contributing Writer

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