ETCETERA - Walla Walla Blues Society strives to promote the blues


Walla Walla Blues Society turns sweet 16 this year. Members formed the group in March 1995 to promote the blues, a unique American art form, board member Georgia Cooper said in a release.

They raise awareness in younger people - potential musicians all - through the Blues in the Schools program.

Local and national musicians perform live throughout Walla Walla-area schools to talk about blues history with the hope that more children will become interested in music, Georgia said.

"It offers an exceptional opportunity to introduce this music to young people to help ensure that this beloved art form remains alive," she said.

Via its Instruments for Kids program, instruments are loaned to children who may otherwise not be able to purchase a musical instrument. They actively seek working or easily repaired instruments throughout the community for use.

The Society has also been involved with Rock Camp for the past three years. Children are coached by local professional musicians to gain hands-on experience with their choice of instruments. They also get voice coaching and then perform live. Nearly 100 young people participated in the July Rock Camp at Lincoln High School. "Both teachers and students agreed that it was a huge success."

Numerous members and volunteers assist the Blues Society to promote the music and the club, Georgia said. Emily James of AmeriCorps formed children's piano classes during the summer and the WWBS donated a keyboard; Johnny Johnson, of the Johnny No Land Band, and Mike Hammond held nearly a dozen concert workshops for Blues in the Schools; Doug and Chris Tash donated an electric keyboard to Instruments for Kids; and Jim McGuinn, owner of Hot Poop, donated a bass guitar.

WWBS also purchased a bass amplifier for its loaner program. The Dan Greenwood drum set will once again be available for a new student. The WWBS also works in conjunction with the Walla Walla Symphony's Loaner program, which is seeking the donation of a violin and a saxophone.

For 16 years, WWBS has loaned numerous instruments, performed many times in area schools and has been instrumental in bringing many blues acts to Walla Walla and sponsored many musical events.

In 2012, the Society will sponsor blues acts at the Walla Walla Sweet Onion Festival.

More information about the Blues in the Schools and Instruments for Kids programs, the group's Blues News newsletter, membership and dues is available at or online see .

The current WWBS Board of Directors includes Patty Keyes, president; Charles Stanger, vice president; Lisa Rodighiero, treasurer; Laura Hall, secretary; Ray Hansen, webmaster; Kevin Shenefield, Blues News editor; and members at large, Mike Hammond, Abigail Schwerin, Irving Rosenberg, Jeff Reynolds, Janice Long, Vincent Pierce, Georgia Cooper and Torch Davis.

Meetings, open to the public, are at 6:30 p.m. the first Tuesday of the month at Crossroads Steakhouse.

A kestrel and an owl were spotted at the recent Milton-Freewater Rotary Club meeting.

Lynn and Bob Tompkins were guests at the meeting, too. Lynn is executive director of Blue Mountain Wildlife, a non-profit wildlife rehabilitation facility located in Pendleton.

Through the center and a satellite facility in Benton City, Wash., close to 700 birds have been treated so far this year. Most of the birds' injuries or conditions are directly or indirectly related to human activities, and include flying into power lines, being hit by cars or having nests disturbed, Lynn said. Some were injured by natural predators.

Nearly half of the wildlife admitted are treated and returned to the wild. Many eagles and large hawks are found to have moderate levels of lead poisoning, which happens when they eat animals such as ground squirrels, rabbits or coyotes that have been shot with lead ammunition.

The solution to this problem is to hunt with lead free ammunition, Lynn told the group.

BMW's mission is to take orphaned, sick and injured wildlife, primarily birds of prey, and provide the treatment and care necessary to return them to their natural habitat, noted Robby Robbins, Rotary's reporter, who covers club meetings.

The nonprofit BMW is permitted by federal and state fish and wildlife services. Their food bill last year was nearly $40,000. They receive funding from memberships, donations from organizations and individuals and grants.

Bob and Lynn brought two birds with them for Rotary members to examine close-up. Angus, an 8-year-old American kestrel, was taken from his nest as a baby and has a human imprint, which means he can't be released. Members of the falcon family, kestrels are structured to dive rapidly. A peregrine falcon can dive at speeds greater than 200 miles per hour.

The couple also brought 4-month-old Helen, a barn owl with vision problems so severe she cannot be returned to the wild, either. Owls rely more on sound rather than vision to hunt for food but Helen will never regain her vision.

Presentations they give to school groups and the general public are well attended and children learn a lot about the birds and how they survive in a wild environment, Robby said. An event at Sacajawea Park recently drew about 2,000 children, teachers and families.

BMW is developing a fundraising project to build a new hospital to care for the birds. An open house to present the plan will be 1-4 p.m. Oct. 8 at the Pendleton facility, 71046 Appaloosa Lane. Online see .

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at or 526-8313.


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