Recently, with the release of the latest edition of the St. Louis Blues Society’s “BluesLetter,” Mary Kaye Tonnies and Jeremy Segel-Moss sat in their new basement office at Nebula. Together, they folded hundreds of the issue’s copies for mailing. About 300 members get the informative newsletter sent to them, and many more are distributed throughout the city’s blues-friendly clubs and taverns, along with coffeehouses and record stores.
Tonnies, the communications director of the Society’s board of directors, remembers that “this was a job for my kitchen table.” And that table served a valuable role for years, thought it’s now retired from the Society’s official use and is back to being a humble kitchen piece.
These days, Tonnies and Segel-Moss enjoy in a nice, large office space inside of Nebula. Segel-Moss says that the organization was ready for a move to an actual office environment; overdue, really.
“The Blues Society,” Segel-Moss says, “needed a home. For all of our stuff and as a place to organize. We’re in our 32nd year as an organization. With a resurgence in the last couple of years, we’re now involved in over 40 events and educational programs a year. We need a homebase. Nebula was very generous in offering us a home at a reasonable rate.”
Over those many years, the Blues Society relied on generous backers who offered free, temporary spaces;, though those rooms sometimes came at a cost not measured in dollars. For example, “we used to have board meetings in the back room of the old Riddle’s. On any given day, it could be a madhouse, or was very hard to park near there. Having access to meeting rooms (at Nebula) is priceless to us.
“A grassroots organization,” Segel-Moss continues, “should be run of out people’s houses for a while. But after that while, it should have a space.”
Having secured donor funding specifically for the move, Segel-Moss, hopes to maintain a space at Nebula for the forseeable future, digging into all the opportunities available.
“I’m continually impressed with the people who have offices here and I enjoy being part of this community,” he says. “With an organization that firmly into supporting blues music, which is based in black music, we should be in a diverse community. With some time, maybe we can bring some blues music into this neighborhood, which would be a win-win for all of us.”
In addition to publishing the “Blues Letter,” hosting and promoting events, working with educational institutions on programming and generally promoting the music throughout the St. Louis community, the Blues Society has a mission of curating and maintaining its own three-decades-plus history. In fact, part of the next phase of work will involve a heavy dose of archiving. All along one wall of the Society’s subterranean office space, boxes and frames sit, ready for organization and, eventually, display. Here are dozens of posters from dozens of years of blues music in St. Louis, a treasure of local blues imagery.
Segel-Moss, a seasoned guitarist with his act the Bottoms Up Blues Gang, says that “ultimately, we are tasked with taking care of the history of the Blues Society. We have like 30 years of posters here; the Blues Society founded the Big Muddy festival back in 1986. So we have to organize this.”
Looking at the stacks, Segel-Moss sighs, in a good way and even suggests that “there won’t be enough room in here to do all of that” organizing, but at least “here, we have the beginning of it.”
And, here, the Society will have a chance to attack the core of its mission statement: “The St. Louis Blues Society is dedicated to preserving and perpetuating blues music in and from St. Louis, while fostering its growth and appreciation. The St. Louis Blues Society provides blues artists the opportunity for public performance and individual improvement in their field, all for the educational and artistic benefit of the general public.”
Find out more info on the Blues Society at its website: http://www.stlouisbluessociety.org/home.