Augusta welcomes new leadership

Seth Young and Emily Miller will bring terrific new energy to the Augusta Heritage Center. They both have a long history with Davis & Elkins College and a deep understanding of local folkloric traditions. They each have considerable musical talent and the ability to intuit the developmental needs of their students. Best of all, they make learning fun.

Seth grew up in Elkins, where his parents took him to events at Augusta and often visited the pottery shop of my sister, Scottie Wiest.

His family actively enjoyed and respected Appalachian folk culture. He was a student in the first Education 100 class that I taught at D&E in 1999. In that class students were expected to read and report on a book from a list of classical examples of various philosophies of education, and Seth read Emile (1762) by Jean-Jacque Rousseau.

Rousseau’s Emile is an imaginary French orphan tutored by the author himself. The child learns his natural limits and develops his innate abilities under the guidance of an encouraging teacher. Emile represents the natural goodness of a human spirit free from oppressive social expectations.

This tolerant and supportive attitude fitted Seth Young’s teaching style throughout his years of teacher preparation, when I observed him as a student teacher at Elkins High School and Davis-Thomas Elementary School.

I am delighted that Seth considers music education to be his true calling. He has been a phenomenal music teacher at Jennings Randolph Elementary School where I watched him energize the whole student body when I visited JRES on a rainy Arbor Day a few years ago. We needed a way to keep the kids engaged, and Seth made that happen with music and movement.

I do not know Emily Miller as well, but I do know that she has been coming to Augusta much of her life, and she has helped to make the Appalachian Ensemble a great success at D&E.

I think Emily will be able to tap into the entertaining and scholarly traditions of her father-in-law Gerry Milnes, and her talented husband Jessy Milnes. The fact that Emily has a 2-year-old daughter, Flora, will offer an important connection with the next generation.

The Inter-Mountain presented the excellent credentials of the two new Augusta leaders very effectively by telling how they have traveled far and wide with their music, but I am especially pleased to say that they have deep roots in Elkins.

I believe they will be able to pass along local traditions to the next generation and move Augusta forward as a defining voice for Appalachian culture in the 21st Century.