Kari Fretham’s work in the classroom also earned her several accolades, including:
• Sony Entertainment Pictures Teacher of the Year award in Culver City, California. • Los Angeles Music Center’s BRAVO Award in 2011 integrating music, acting, and drawing into her language arts curriculum. • Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year in 2012 for integrating arts into her eighth-grade English curriculum.
“There were early signs on the farm in Minnesota that this raunchy, heartfelt music would take over my life. Few memories predate the conviction that my Creator, finished with everything inside, tossed a coin for the final skin decision. Heads ‘black.’ Tails ‘white.’ Tails it was, so into the Scandinavian north I landed." – Kari Fretham ’70 Fretham’s next project was a documentary, despite only having a one-week course for teachers on filmmaking. “No one ever wanted to stay around the area of South L.A. long enough to make a documentary film. Several had been approached by different musicians,” Fretham said. “South Side Slim asked me if I would do it. He said that because I’d been hanging around the scene so much for over seven years, the community would open up and trust me. They did, and it turned out to be a very good film.” The project—three years in the making—attracted a sold-out audience at its premiere in June. It’s not a historical retrospective, but captures the essence of the present-day “down home” South L.A. blues scene—the music and ambiance—with interviews of musicians and residents. The documentary begins with Fretham’s backstory as a blues aficionada. She then travels to various venues such as Bells’ Blues Workshop (where a sign cites fines for different levels of “cussin’”) and Babe and Ricky’s Inn, a half-century landmark that closed last year after featuring the likes of B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and John Lee Hooker. When the blues breaks out in a backyard, truckyard, junkyard, or a makeshift barnyard, Fretham is there. Having reached her professional and avocational destination, Fretham remarked, “I feel pretty special that this opportunity came to me. I know that everybody probably loves the blues, but I am obsessed.”
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