Augusta evening mini-courses offered

ELKINS – For those who can’t spend the entire day taking in the experience of the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College, a bevy of evening mini-courses are on tap for this summer’s five-week


Most classes meet Mondays through Thursdays from 6-7:15 p.m. on campus and offer instruction from world-class artists in various forms of music and dance.

“Augusta mini-courses allow busy local residents to be part of the Augusta experience,” said Beth King, interim director of the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College. “It’s a great way to meet and learn with Augusta participants from across the country and around the word. We have classes in a wide array of subjects taught by experts in their field.”

During Cajun/Creole Week and Early Country Music Week, July 7-10, participants may choose from Beginning Harmony, Cajun Fiddle in C and D Positions, Cajun Vocals, Accordion Repair and Cajun Dance.

Instructed by Karen Collins and Ric Sweeney, Beginning Harmony allows students to learn by ear and practice basic two-part harmony singing in small groups. Collins is the lead singer of two bands, Backroads and Squeeze Bayou, and recently won Washington Area Music Awards for Country Vocalist and Country Recording. She often instructs harmony workshops with Sweeney.

Cajun Fiddle in C and D Positions offers a deep and specific exploration of Cajun repertoire as well as commonly used techniques. Instructor Gina Forsyth is an award-winning singer and songwriter who has toured and recorded with some of Louisiana’s greatest Cajun bands.

Cajun Vocals focuses on pronunciation, translation and phrasing with Cajun French. Instructor Jesse Lege is the winner of numerous Cajun French Music Association awards and is an inductee in the Cajun Music Hall of Fame.

Participants in the Accordion Repair class will learn how to perform common maintenance and repairs. Instructor Larry Miller is a charter member of the Cajun French Music Association and has built accordions for several years.

Cajun Dance is designed for all levels of experience and offers instruction in Cajun two-step, waltz and more. Instructor Michelle Kaminsky, a fiddler with a long love of Cajun dance, has learned from many Cajun and Creole musicians.

During Blues & Swing Week, July 14-17, mini-courses are available in Two Left Feet: Blues & Swing Dance, Self-care for Musicians, Images & Sounds of Appalachia, and Math & Music.

Participants in Blues and Swing Dance will learn a variety of forms to a range of tempos. No experience is required. Long-time Augusta instructors Dan and Mike Legenthal are award-winning dancers who teach together throughout the country.

Self-care for Musicians is open to all levels of dancers, vocalists and musicians who will learn several efficient and effective practices for the body, as well as how to boost their performance level. Instructor Judy LaPrade has 30 years teaching experience in various settings.

Participants in Images & Sounds of Appalachia will join folklorists Michael Kline and Carrie Nobel Kline for a journey of song, stories and oral histories that paint a portrait of the lives of people who have made their homes in central West Virginia.

Math & Music, led by D&E mathematics instructor and bass player Nathan Sams, focuses on patterns and connections between math and music in terms of notation, scales, chords and transposition. The course will be repeated during Bluegrass Week, July 28-31.

Irish Week, July 21-24, offers classes in Ceili Band, Appalachian Songs from Across the Sea and Connemara Sean-Nos Dance.

Ceili Band is open to musicians of all levels who will learn by ear. Instructor Daniel Neely, who leads the New York City group Washington Square Harp and Shamrock Orchestra, will assist students in forming a ceili band with an eye toward playing for dancing.

Participants in Appalachian Songs from Across the Sea will learn to sing Appalachian versions of songs that crossed the sea hundreds of years ago. Instructors Michael Kline and Carrie Nobel Kline are scholars of oral tradition.

Students in Connemara Sean-Nos Dance will spend the week mastering a repertoire of traditional Connemara steps from award-winning dancer Shannon Dunne, who has performed throughout the world. With attention to musicality and style, students will first learn the building blocks of the steps and then the patterns of the dance.

During Bluegrass Week, July 28-31, courses are available in Monroe-style Bluegrass Mandolin, Gritty Coal Mining Songs from the Southern Mountains, Clogging and Flatfooting 101 and Math and Music.

Students in Monroe-style Bluegrass Mandolin course will learn the fundamentals and delve into essential techniques. Instructor Jeremy Wanless is a founding member of Hardly Ever and veteran of multiple bluegrass bands.

Students in Gritty Coal Mining Songs will have a chance to sing with gusto and learn harmony lines from instructors Michael Kline and Carrie Nobel Kline’s repertoire of hard-hitting songs gathered over a lifetime in the southern Appalachians.

Clogging and Flatfooting 101 starts with the basics and gradually builds, giving students the tools to create their own steps. Instructor Matthew Olwell has been performing and teaching as a dancer and percussionist at festivals and theaters across North America and Europe since 1996.

The final week of Augusta, Old-Time, Vocal and American Vernacular Dance Week, Aug. 4-7, offers courses in Beginning Flatfooting, Songs of Work & Freedom and High Speed Cuisine.

Using the Tennessee walking step as a focal point, students in Beginning Flatfooting will spend the week learning to dance as drummers for live old-time music. Instructor Josephine Stewart grew up with Augusta. She’s won the flatfoot dance contest at Clifftop twice, and placed second three times.

Students in Songs of Work and Freedom will learn Appalachia’s wealth of songs that take a stand. Instructors Michael Kline and Carrie Nobel Kline teach these songs in ways that will implant their meaning under your skin.

High Speed Cuisine offers an informative and entertaining look at the history of rail dining that peaked with high cuisine prepared by some of the nation’s best chefs. The class, in teams of two, will prepare a light meal from the menu of Amtrak’s Los Angeles-Seattle Coast Starlight, using ingredients from California’s Central Valley. The class is instructed by James D. “Jim” Porterfield, director of the Center for Railway Tourism at Davis & Elkins College and author of “Dining by Rail.”

“We invite the local community to take part in Augusta – whether a mini-course, evening jam, dance or concert,” King says. “We have an amazing summer planned for everyone right here on the hill at Davis & Elkins College.”

To register for evening mini-courses or learn more about the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College summer sessions, visit, email or call 304-637-1209.

Programs offered by the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College are presented with financial support from the WV Division of Culture and History, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.

For more information, please visit the College website at or call 304-637-1243.