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Colorado Blues Society keeps the blues alive

Collegian | Tyler Weatherwax
Colorado Blues Society Vice President Mark Schleiger and Treasurer Joe Menke stand in front of Maxline Brewing, one of their favorite places meet in Fort Collins April 2.

The blues is a genre of music that has impacted and inspired people for decades. People have always had the blues as a feeling, but the genre as a whole is in a fragile state. What will people do when they have the blues but no way to express or hear it in music?

The Colorado Blues Society is a nonprofit organization that aims to preserve and empower the blues locally. Their emphasis is on young musicians who are helping preserve the future of the blues. CBS Vice President Mark Schleiger — who is soon to become the president — and Treasurer Joe Menke sat down to share the work they do and the importance of blues.


“We exist to foster blues music as an art form,” Schleiger said. “So it’s kind of part of our charter to continue, especially with the young people, getting them involved in blues and helping them understand the blues. … One of our foundation principles is to keep the younger people coming into the blues.”

CBS helps with events that provide a place for young blues musicians to perform their music with others all over the state of Colorado.

“More than anything, I think, you get a sense of family. You’re all bound by a common interest. And we’re all there to promote the blues and protect and to make sure that it grows and stays strong.” -Mark Schleiger, Colorado Blues Society vice president

“In Greeley, we do the same thing at the Greeley Blues Jam and then one in Colorado Springs,” Schleiger said. “Blues on the Mesa was in the Mesa, and then there’s one at Edgewater. … So those are kind of areas where we do an outreach where we kind of work with the promoters and help get acts there.” 

In the state of Colorado, there is the Grand County Blues Society and the Mile High Blues Society. All of the societies are affiliates of The Blues Foundation, which is located in Memphis, Tennessee. The blues societies work with The Blues Foundation to help local musicians make it to the national competition in Memphis.

“One of the main events that we do is an International Blues Challenge,” Menke said. “We hold a local competition. … And what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to pick a band, solo/duo act and typically the youth group that we’ll send to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, typically to the end of January, where they will compete with blues musicians from all over the world.”

However, the Colorado Blues Society has seen struggles with their organization due to a lack of volunteers and a general loss of interest in the blues in youth.

“The people who have a real heart to help keep it moving get tired,” Schleiger said. “It’s hard to get volunteers (who) want to be on the board (and) are actively contributing. You know, everybody wants to say, ‘Great, I’m part of the society,’ but they don’t want to do the work.”

The new generation of blues musicians is facing a bigger challenge in today’s world. The struggle of creating a career out of the blues is something younger musicians face, and it may cause them to try other forms of music as a result. 

“It might have been easier for John Lee Hooker or somebody … to make a living at it back in the day because they didn’t need a whole lot,” Schleiger said. “But now to actually have a career out of it, it takes a lot of money.” 


Some may ask why there needs to be a blues society in communities. If people aren’t volunteering or helping, then who will have interest in the future? What does a blues society do for your community?

“More than anything, I think, you get a sense of family,” Schleiger said. “You’re all bound by a common interest. And we’re all there to promote the blues and protect and to make sure that it grows and stays strong.”

Reach Tyler Weatherwax or on Twitter @twwax7272.

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About the Contributor
Tyler Weatherwax
Tyler Weatherwax, News Editor
Tyler Weatherwax is a second-year attending Colorado State University. He has lived in the state of Colorado for his entire life and grew up just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park. He is currently majoring in journalism and media communication and is a news editor for The Collegian and assistant news director for KCSU. Weatherwax hopes to share some of the world with people through his reporting and experiences. His goal as a journalist is to bring information to others in the hopes that it inspires and educates them in their lives. He also tries to push himself into the unknown to cause some discomfort in his life and reporting. Weatherwax has been a DJ for 90.5 FM KCSU as well as 88.3 FM KFFR. Some things Weatherwax enjoys doing are playing bass guitar, reading, collecting records, going outside and spending time with his friends and family. Weatherwax hopes to become a journalist after he graduates and to see more of the world.

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