The mission of the Billtown Blues Association is to perpetuate and preserve blues music as a valued indigenous American art form; to assume a community leadership role in promoting the arts; to produce quality and inspiring live music events; to offer educational opportunities targeting the history of blues and the artistic impact of blues music world-wide, and to encourage and support area musicians with a devoted interest in American Roots Music.
In May 1990, Chris Bastress, Fred Daniele, Penny Austin, Doug McMinn, Charlie Lockard and Bonnie Tallman gathered at Franco’s Lounge in Williamsport, each placing $50 in the kitty as starting funds for a blues “picnic”. A local county commissioner, Paul Glunk offered his private property along the Susquehanna River for the occasion. Two more successful events solidified the blues were getting notice. In 1993, the group then began the process of establishing 501(c)3 non-profit status, electing a slate of officers and joining in a world-wide effort to celebrate blues music as an historical and culturally significant American born art form. The “group” was now officially known as the “Billtown Blues Association Inc.” It was also in 1993, the organizers began holding a special event meant to select musicians from the area to appear on the festival stage along with nationally known touring and recording blues musicians. In 1997 the BBA became affiliated with the National Blues Foundation in Memphis TN, which opened the door for our local and regional PA artists to become eligible to participate in the annual International Blues Challenge in Memphis. As it’s hard work, quality events, and national exposure became noticed, the BBA was the recipient of a prestigious “Keeping the Blues Alive” ( KBA) award in 2011. The BBA was selected from world-wide submissions as Blues Organization of the Year. In addition to keeping its own house in order, the BBA is proud to work with and assist the Uptown Music Collective, a local non-profit school of music, where blues music is taught and holds a major place in the school’s curriculum. Each year the BBA will hire a nationally known and respected blues artist to come to Williamsport and participate in the UMC’s annual blues-a-thon, which includes several workshops and master classes taught by the visiting musician.
The Billtown Blues Association, Inc. is supported in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Council On the Arts for our efforts to perpetuate America's indigenous music, the blues, in rural Pennsylvania, and grants from the Lycoming County Visitors Bureau and the City of Williamsport.