Accomplished musicians to lead first week of Augusta

The Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College has tapped a slate of seasoned professionals to teach and share their experiences during the first of this year’s five-week summer sessions of music, dance, craft and folklore.

Week one, set for July 7 to 12, will combine the themes Cajun/creole and early country music. Courses will be available for specific instruments, vocal, cooking and crafts. In addition, students will have the opportunity to work with Tracy Schwarz in one-on-one sessions for any instrument.

Schwarz sang and played fiddle, guitar, banjo and accordion for more than 46 years with The New Lost City Ramblers, the seminal band responsible for introducing many urban audiences to rural southern music in the ’60s and ’70s. He also has worked with the Cajun band Tracy Schwarz Trio and Dewey Balfa.

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

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

Kaminsky, who will teach Novice Fiddle, instructs students on how to develop good tone with efficient technique. Beginning Fiddle will be taught by Savoy, who 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 set to be Jason Frey, beginner; Paul Daigle, intermediate; and Jesse Lege, advanced.

Frey performs with Lagniappe, whose album, La Vieille Maniere, received the 2000 CFMA Best 1st Recording of the Year award. Daigle, a 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.

Techniques for repairing accordions will be taught by Larry Miller 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, 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 also has 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.

Registration for summer sessions is open at For more information, anyone interested can call 304-637-1209 or 800-624-3157, ext. 1209.