Preach’n the musical journey

Rev. Robert B. Jones, Sr., visits Lowell High School for Black History Month observance

David Diaz
Rev. Robert B. Jones, Sr., played Blues, Jazz, Rock'n'Roll and sang a Scat and a Rap as he told stories of American music.

By David Diaz

Staff Photojournalist

Lowell, MA- Students sat still in shock and awe from an electrifying Blues performance by dynamic musician Rev. Robert Jones, Sr., who visited LHS in honor of Black History month.

Then, by the end of his musical preach’n the students were together in-arms chanting for an encore.  The complete performance can be viewed here.

Jones educated and entertained approximately 500 students in the Cyrus Irish Auditorium about African-American contributions to American music during the event on February 17, 2017.

Black Unity Club and Standing Committee on Cultural Competence invited Jones to jam and jazz with LHS students as part of Black History observance, an especially important event considering a racially charged incident last year that raised questions about student tolerance at the school.

After the social media exchange between students over the student government 2017 election results targeted the black student president-elect, the Head of School Brian Martin formed the Standing Committee on Cultural Competence.

The Rev. Robert Jones, Sr., event marks a success in fulfilling aspects of the Committee’s report recommendations which included ways to increase school safety, tolerance and understanding of race, ethnicity and cultures among the LHS student body.

Jones, 61, is an African American Blues performer, storyteller, and preacher that was born in Detroit, Michigan. At the age of 17 he self taught himself the guitar and harmonica. Jones is also an ordained Baptist Minister since 1989 and self-proclaimed social justice activist.

Inspired by Jazz man Willie Dixon, Jones bases his improvisation and performing around the art of storytelling. He is the founder of “Blues for Schools” which is a program that educates students about African American contributions to music theory.

Rev. Robert B. Jones, Sr., teaches the students the Blues

Musician, storyteller and social justice activist uses music to explain the African American contributions to American music.

After wooing the crowd with his talent on the guitar, he said,“This country is a lot different then than it is now.”

Through music Jones uses his performance to teach the students about how Jazz, Blues, Hip-hop, and even Rap came to be. He begins by explaining that the basic European scales were altered to create the Blues scales by Africans.

He explains that by using the Blues scales, music is altered in a way that makes the listener feel the raw emotion coming from the performer.  Watch the complete performance hereJones also shows examples of African American music history through different instruments.  At one point he plays a unique instrument choice, a gourd with strings tied to a board. The gourd, similar to a pumpkin, was used on Southern plantations in the 1800’s when slaves were at work. Similarly instruments such as the banjo came to be, he explained.


Robert B. Jones, Sr., takes us back to the deep South and the LHS students respond in song

Musician, storyteller and social activist teaches and entertains LHS students through a musical journey.

He told the story that from Blues came Jazz by using historical references such as the Harlem Renaissance. Jones described that the genre is derived from improvisation and creative artists such as Miles Davis. He then gives a quick tune for the crowd’s pleasure and a way to see if the students understand.

Jones eventually and literally “raps” up his story. He starts from a classic Elvis Presley-esqe tune to a modern day rapper when he begins to beatbox and rhyme in style with his own beat.  

Rev. Robert B. Jones, Sr., entertains and teaches 500 students at LHS Cyrus Irish Auditorium

Musician, storyteller and social justice activist teaches students about African American contributions to American music.

The transition between genres lit up the students as they stood up yelling, cheering, and applauding Jones’ vocals.

Black Unity Club host musical Black History event

LHS juniors Melissa Lemayian and Joanne Njiahia spoke about Black History Month to open the event  and subsequently introduced Rev. Jones to the student audience.

Members of the Black Unity Club also participated in a special reception and were able to personally talk with Rev. Jones about what makes LHS exceptional.

Social Studies Chairperson Robert De Lossa commented in an email, “The performance was not only a great source of pride in Black musical traditions, but it also was an immensely accomplished exhibition of the ways in which culture is transmitted and transformed over the years.

Mr. De Lossa offered thanks to Black Unity Club adviser Cindy Obika, Yvette Cheeks, and retired French teacher Carol Allen, who is active in organizing the New Moon Coffee House part of the Unitarian Church in Haverhill, and was instrumental in hosting Rev. Jones to the school.

“I for one was excited by the ways in which Rev. Jones kept coming back to the concept of how history is made and how it relates to contemporary culture.

“Students were enthralled and learned about the immense, keystone contribution of Black musical traditions to all of the different genres of American music that they listen to today.”

Curriculum Director Amy McLeod paved the way for this to be a part of the school’s focus on Black culture during Black History Month, Mr. De Lossa said.

Dr. Sharon Clark, head of the Fine Arts Department, worked out technical issues prior to the performance and Bryan Wilkins of the Colleen Creegan Media Center organized the filming of Rev. Jones’ performance.

In celebration of Black History Month, this event was brought by the students of the Black Unity Club, Melissa Lemayian, Joanne Njiahia and club advisors Cindy Obika, Yvette Cheeks, and Carol Allen. As well as history department head Robert De Lossa.



Photo by David Diaz Black Unity Club adviser Cindy Obiku and Social Studies Department Chairperson Robert DeLossa welcome Rev. Robert B. Jones, Sr., and the LHS student audience to a celebration of music sponsored by the BUC.
Junior Melissa Lemayian spoke about the merits of Black History month and introduced Rev. Robert B. Jones, Sr., in the Cyrus Auditorium on February 17, 2017.

David Diaz

Photo by David Diaz
LHS junior Joanne Njiahia spoke of the importance of Black History month and its recognition of African American achievements to our nation’s history.  She and junior Melissa Lemayian introduced the Rev. Robert B. Jones, Sr., musician, storyteller and activist.


Photo by David Diaz
Rev. Robert B. Jones, Sr., rocks LHS in the Cyrus Auditorium taking students on a journey of African American contributions to music genres.
Photo by David Diaz
Rev. Robert B. Jones, Sr., performs the Blues with a passion to educate students in the Cyrus Auditorium on February 17, 2017.

Photo by David Diaz
In the moment Rev. Robert B. Jones, Sr., sings the Blues with journeyed expression in the Cyrus Irish Auditorium on February 17, 2017.