The Blues Foundation is Memphis-based, but world-renown as THE organization dedicated to preserving our blues music history, celebrating recording and performance excellence, supporting blues education and ensuring the future of this uniquely American art form. Founded in 1980, The Blues Foundation has 4100 individual members and 200 affiliated local blues societies representing another 50,000 fans and professionals around the world. Its signature honors and events–the Blues Music Awards, Blues Hall of Fame, International Blues Challenge and Keeping the Blues Alive Awards–make it the international center of blues music. Its HART Fund provides the blues community with medical assistance while its Sound Healthcare program offers musicians health insurance access. Blues in the Schools programs and Generation Blues scholarships expose new generations to blues music. Throughout the year, the Foundation staff serves the worldwide Blues community with answers, contact information and news.
A twenty-seven person Board of Directors governs the Foundation. Funding for The Blues Foundation comes from membership dues, private donations, corporate sponsorships, grants from private foundations, government agencies and arts organizations and merchandise, advertising and event ticket sales. Contributions to The Blues Foundation, including membership dues, are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowable by law.
The Blues Foundation strives to fulfill its mission via eight programs.
Preservation of Blues History
The Blues Foundation seeks to preserve and to highlight the rich history of Blues through the following:
The Blues Hall of Fame
The HART Fund
Through its Handy Artists Relief Trust (HART Fund), the Foundation provides financial assistance to Blues artists and their loved ones in tough times arising from illness, accident and other similar circumstances.
Celebration of Blues Excellence
The Blues Foundation celebrates the best current developments in Blues through the following:
Blues Music Awards (BMA)
Each May in Memphis, The Blues Foundation presents the Blues Music Awards in 25 categories to the artists selected by its members. The Blues Music Awards represent the highest accolade afforded musicians and songwriters in Blues music. Close to 100 nominees attend the live show which features the presentation of awards and a night full of nominee performances. The event brings together performers, industry representatives and fans from around the world to celebrate the best in Blues recordings and performances from the previous year. and the night is filled with their appearances and performances in a cabaret/dinner setting in the Convention Center’s ballroom. It is broadcast live in their entirety on Sirius XM’s B.B. King’s Bluesville and edited versions are available across America on noncommercial television stations and on CD/DVD.
Once again, The Blues Music Awards will be broadcast live in their entirety on Sirius XM’s B.B. King’s Bluesville. The next best thing to being there. They will be broadcast on public television later in the year.
The 2014 show will follow the format of the critically-acclaimed shows of recent years. Close to 100 nominees attend and the night is filled with their appearances and performances in a cabaret/dinner setting in the Convention Center’s ballroom.
The event brings together Blues performers, industry representatives and fans from all over the world to celebrate the best in Blues recordings and performances from the previous year. Each year, the Foundation presents The Blues Music Awards to the artists selected by its members. They are universally recognized as the highest honor given to Blues artists. As always, a pre-party will immediately precede the Awards.
International Blues Challenge (IBC)
The IBC is a five-day event that includes both band and solo/duo blues music competition, youth and international showcases and seminars . Typically, over 250 (band, solo/duo and youth) acts from 40 states and two dosen countries participate in the four rounds in Memphis. Significantly, the acts cannot enter directly, but are sponsored by one of our 200 affiliated organizations that are so critical to nurturing Blues culture in their own region. These events and awards are a culmination of activities undertaken by our affiliates and serve our mission by providing a vehicle through which they can promote, preserve and ensure the future of Blues music in their region via their own competitions to determine which up-and-coming act they will send to Memphis for a once-in-a-lifetime artistic and educational opportunity. The top acts receive cash prizes, professional services and career-changing gigs, and each year, competitors other than those judged as “winners” are “discovered” and as a result, doors open for their future musical endeavors.
Keeping the Blues Alive Awards (KBA)
Each year, The Blues Foundation presents the Keeping the Blues Alive Award to individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the Blues world. The KBAs are awarded on the basis of merit by a select panel of Blues professionals. Some of the KBA categories recognized are art, film, literature and photography in addition to promotion, production and the presentation of live performances. The KBA may be awarded for the recipient’s work in the past year but most often reflects a lifetime of work. Consistent with this philosophy, the committee generally refrains from awarding the KBA to an individual or organization more than once. The KBA ceremony is part of the International Blues Challenge (IBC) week of events.
Each year, The Blues Foundation presents the Keeping the Blues Alive (KBA) Awards to individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the Blues world. The Blues Foundation will present the 2015 KBA Awards during a recognition lunch Friday, January 23, 2015, at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Memphis, Tennessee. The KBA ceremony will be part of the International Blues Challenge (IBC) weekend of events. The 2015 IBC weekend schedule will be posted on October 1, 2014.
Unlike the Blues Music Awards, the award recognizing the past year’s best in recordings and performance voted on by thousands of The Blues Foundation’s members, the KBAs are awarded to non-performers strictly on the basis of merit by a select panel of Blues professionals. Noted educator, author, journalist, and KBA Chairman Art Tipaldi notes “The KBA may be awarded for the recipient’s work in the past year but most often reflects a lifetime of work; we don’t view the recipient as the winner of a ‘best of the year’ category. Consistent with this philosophy, the committee generally refrains from awarding the KBA to an individual or organization more than once. Rather, we select a new deserving winner each year, except in rare cases when a significant period of time has elapsed since the first award.”
– See more at: http://www.blues.org/foundation-programs/keeping-the-blues-alive/#sthash.xWJDtsWy.dpuf
Support of Education
The Blues Foundation supports music education initiatives through the following:
Blues in the Schools
The Foundation fosters Blues in the Schools music education programs across America. The website BITS pages offer links to providers and programs around the country.
The Generation Blues scholarship program allows qualified applicants under the age of 21 to study their instrument of choice at reputable camps, seminars and workshop programs. Participants are awarded the scholarships on an annual basis.
Ensuring the Future
The BMAs focuses attention on the genre and shows that the music is very much music of the present. The physical Blues Hall of Fame (coming in 2015) will educate tens of thousands each year thus passing the history to new generations. The IBCs give up-and-coming performers the opportunity to take their music to the next level, to a bigger audience. The KBAs recognize those who are on the front lines, preserving, celebrating, educating and ensuring the future. Our social service programs provide health and education program that save lives and educate young fans and performers.