Echo Glen residents get blue with music program

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SNOQUALMIE - James "Curley" Cooke believes he brings relief when he brings the blues to Echo Glen Children's Center.

"The music is great medicine," Cooke said.

There is always room for healing at Echo Glen, the juvenile detention facility located in Snoqualmie that houses adolescents assigned to the facility by the state. Although many of the students have likely experienced more adversity than others in their age group, Cooke and his compatriots say they make the best music students.

"This is so much better than teaching private lessons," said Jeremy Clement, the drum instructor who accompanies Cooke. "It's like giving them the dessert first."

In 1998, Cooke started Pacific Northwest Blues in the Schools, a traveling workshop that goes to schools and introduces children to the blues by teaching them how to play songs over a couple weeks. The program culminates with a performance in front of friends and administrators.

Cooke has brought himself and his musical entourage to schools all over the Puget Sound area, arriving at Echo Glen Children's Center in 1999. It was such a success with the residents and staff that he's come back every year since.

"It's an excellent program," said Echo Glen counselor Dave Peterson. "The main issue is self-esteem. This gives them [residents] a sense of completing something."

This year's performance included all of the children staying at Toutle Cottage, the maximum security dorm on campus. (Although no official band name was chosen, "Maximum Blues" and "Snapping Toutles" were thrown around by its members as possible monikers.)

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