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Augusta Heritage to teach students about Cajun, Creole music

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The Augusta Heritage Center soon will begin its summer sessions, and officials have tapped a slate of seasoned professionals to teach and share their experiences in music, dance, craft and folklore.

Week one, beginning July 7 and ending July 12, will feature the Cajun/Creole and early country music styles. Courses will be available for specific instruments, vocal, cooking and crafts. Students will have the chance to work with Tracy Schwartz in one-on-one sessions.

Schwartz is an experienced singer, fiddler, guitar, banjo and accordion player, and he spent more than 46 years with The New Lost City Ramblers, the band responsible for introducing many urban audiences to rural southern music in the 1960s and 1970s. He also worked with the Cajun band Tracy Schwartz Trio and Dewey Blafa.

 

Instrument courses will on the Cajun/Creole theme include fiddle, accordion, guitar and bass.

Fiddle instructors for the week are Michelle Kaminsky, Joel Savoy, David Greely and Courtney Granger.

Kaminsky, who will teach Novice Fiddle, will instruct students on how to develop good tone with efficient technique. Savoy will teach Beginning Fiddle. Savoy's music was recorded on the "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" soundtrack.  Greely, who co-founded The Mamou Playboys, will instruct Intermediate Fiddle. Advanced Fiddle will be taught by Granger, a master fiddler and singer of his native Cajun music.

Accordion instructors are Jason Frey, beginner; Paul Daigle, intermediate; and Jesse Lege, advanced.

Frey performs with Lagniappe, whose album, "À La Vieille Manière", received the 2000 CFMA Best 1st Recording of the Year award. Daigle, a founding member of Cajun Gold, has performed with renowned Cajun musicians and toured in China, Denmark, and throughout the United States. An inductee to the Cajun Music Hall of Fame, Lege has won numerous Cajun French Music Association awards.

Christine Balfa will instruct guitar. She grew up performing with her father, the legendary Dewey Balfa, and appeared in the film, "The Big Easy."

Blake Miller will lead classes on acoustic and electric bass. He is the grandson of well-known accordion builder Larry Miller. He founded the popular young Cajun band The Pine Leaf Boys and now performs with The Revelers.

Two cooking classes will be taught by a mother and son. Jackie Miller, a prize-winning cook and author of two cookbooks, will instruct Cajun Cooking, while Cajun country native Bruneaux Miller, will teach Smokehouse Cooking.

Randolph County resident Jennifer Wagoner will teach participants how to tell a story with more than words in Visual Storytelling. A native of South America, Wagoner studied painting at the Universidad Autonoma Gabriel Rene Moreno and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Visual Studies from Harvard University. Her artist's books and fiber art installations have been exhibited in Boston.

Another Randolph County resident, Bob Smakula, will instruct participants on Instrument Repair. He has been building and restoring fretted instruments for more than 25 years and is the proprietor of Smakula Fretted Instruments.

Larry Miller will teach techniques for repairing accordions in an optional evening mini-course. A well respected Cajun instrument builder and repairman, Miller also is an accomplished musician with a production line of instruments.

A second choice for an evening mini-course is Harmony from Scratch instructed by Karen Collins and Ric Sweeney. Collins, a coal miner's daughter from southwest Virginia, and also is a member of Backroads Band, Squeeze Bayou and The Blue Moon Cowgirls. She will also instruct the week-long Country Gospel class. Her duet partner, Sweeney, focuses on composing tunes.

Participants in Early Country Music classes will have the opportunity to choose from several vocal and instrument classes.

Grammy-nominated guitarist, singer and songwriter Bill Kirchen will lead two classes, Introduction to Honky Tonk Electric Guitar and Songs from the Wild Side of Life. Perhaps best known for his guitar work on the Commander Cody classic "Hot Rod Lincoln," he was named "A Titan of the Telecaster" by Guitar Player Magazine.

Kelli Jones-Savoy will instruct Women in Country Music and Leading Your Own Country Band. A resident of southwest Louisiana, she is a songwriter in her own band, Jones and the Giants, and plays fiddle and sings in the French all-girl Cajun trio, Jolie Blonde et les Bassettes.

Playing Country Music Solo and Introduction to Playing Steel in Country Music will be instructed by Thomas Bryan Eaton. The full-time New York City-area music teacher writes songs and performs solo and with his band, Hobson's Choice.

Ginny Hawker teams up with Granger to lead the Singing Country Duets class. A veteran vocal instructor at Augusta, Hawker has also performed at festivals and presented workshops at The Smithsonian and in Vancouver and Chicago. This year, she serves as coordinator for Early Country Music week.

Multi-talented acoustic musician John Lilly will instruct Back-up Guitar and Deep Country. The 2005 winner of the national Ghost Writers in the Sky songwriting contest, Lilly has played traditional string band music for many years. He is the editor of Goldenseal Magazine.

As Davis & Elkins College's program for the heritage arts, Augusta provides instruction and performances, folk life programs and a home for significant collections of field recordings, oral histories, photographs, instruments and Appalachian art.

Registration for summer sessions is open at augustaheritagecenter.org. For information, call 304-637-1209 or 800-624-3157, ext. 1209.