Visiting Augusta students play for Elkins Rotary

This week, the Augusta Heritage Center is celebrating bluegrass music on the Davis & Elkins College campus. The center’s director, Joyce Rossbach, invited several scholarship students to perform for Monday’s Elkins Rotary Club meeting.

Musicians performing included students and instructors from Wheeling Park High School. Bob Turbanic and Ken Mattis have worked with the group for more than 20 years. Student performers included Troy Salatino, Cole Garrison, Mason Lee, James McLaughlin and Devon Rose.

“It is always great to have new and returning students in the Augusta programs,” Rossbach said. “The youth are the folks who carry on our traditions.”

Turbanic said the group is always happy to attend Augusta and perform for groups like Rotary.

“We performed here about 10 years ago when Margo Blevin was with Augusta,” Turbanic said. “We had a great time.”

Turbanic put a “happy buck” – a $1 bill – into the Rotary jar.

“Whenever I come to Elkins for Augusta, I guarantee I am happy,” Turbanic said. “We camp out at Revelle’s Campground to save money and you can’t drive U.S. Route 33 up over that hill and down into Bowden and look at those hills and not be happy. It’s one of the prettiest sights in West Virginia.”

In 2008, the group performed in Japan with Sierra Hall. They have played for a Christmas party for the Senate Appropriations Committee and at the U.S. Capitol for the late Sen. Robert Byrd.

“We have had some great successes through the years,” Turbanic said. “And a lot of that is attributed to the great folks at Augusta. I have been bringing between five and 14 students yearly to the event. What these students are able to learn from Bluegrass Week at Augusta is phenomenal.

For us to have this so close for our students is a treasure,” Turbanic said. “This music is about what kind of people we want these students to grow into. It’s also about what kind of people we want them to associate with. And there is no culture better than the traditional American music culture – and bluegrass is a part of that. It gets them around people who play this music and sustain it, it’s like giving ice water to people in hell.”

Turbanic said much of the current popular culture open to our children is a “sewer.” Turbanic said he is trilled to bring students to Augusta.

“Before we leave, we just want to thank all you folks,” Turbanic said. “I am sure Davis & Elkins gets a lot of support from your organization and others in town. I am telling you, that building up on the hill for young people is truly a blessing.”