Augusta Mini-Courses add to students’ daily learning experiences and allow busy local residents to be part of the Augusta experience. You DO NOT need to be enrolled as a full-time Augusta student to sign up for Mini-Courses. (You DO need to be a full-time student to stay on-campus.) Check out the wide array of subjects, listed by week, from which to choose! A real bargain, Mini-Courses cost only $60 for four evenings of instruction by world-class artists. Some Mini-Courses may require a small materials fee (which is paid to the instructor in the first class).
All summer Evening Mini-Courses meet Monday–Thursday evenings from 6:00 pm to 7:15 pm unless otherwise noted.
Jesse Lége is the real deal. Growing up in a rural, pre-electricity home in Gueydan, Louisiana, Jesse spoke Cajun French and learned music from relatives, neighbors, and the family’s much-loved battery-powered radio. Today he is one of the most admired Cajun accordionists and vocalists in the world. He has won numerous CFMA (Cajun French Music Association) awards: Traditional Band of the Year, Accordion Player of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, Band of the Year, and Song of the Year. In 1998 he was inducted into the Cajun Music Hall of Fame.
Class Description Coming Soon
Christy Leichty and Jim Phillips are artists and educators who love to dance to Cajun and Creole music. They loved it so much that even before they moved to Louisiana to help rebuild and work in education after the 2005 hurricanes, they bought an old Texaco distribution center, moved it to a secret location, and created the South’s premiere underground dancehall and honky-tonk called The Whirlybird. There, legendary dance parties and music events erupt spontaneously. They have thrown dance parties and showcased Lousiana dance joie de vivre at Augusta, Ashokan Fiddle and Dance Camp, Louisiana Folk Roots Dewey Balfa Camp, and Festivals Acadians et Creole.
Look’n for some fun? Come to the dance party mini-course with Christy Leichty and Jim Phillips, who have come all the way from Opelousas, LA, to dance on one of their favorite dance floors – the Augusta dance pavilion. Their approach to getting you to feel comfortable with Cajun and Creole two-stepping and waltzing is to create a social context for dance fun.
Debbi Kauffmann was lucky to be born into a musical family outside of Boston, Massachusetts. She began singing and playing guitar as a teen and was introduced to both Irish and country music in her early adult years. After moving to the Baltimore area, Debbi had the opportunity to sing and play with great bluegrass musicians at the Sandpiper Inn and Arcadia Bluegrass festival. Later, she began singing with old-time musicians in York County, Pennsylvania, and at many festivals in West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. Debbi has attended Irish, Old-Time, Vocal, and Classic Country weeks at Augusta. She has studied harmony singing with Ginny Hawker and Tracy Schwarz, and has attended several other harmony workshops. Debbi has also greatly benefited from individual vocal instruction with Dede Wyland. In 2001 she began singing professionally with mandolinist Henry Koretzky in the duo Rootbound, recording in 2004. Debbi has also had the honor of joining Ginny Hawker and Tracy Schwarz for several performances. She has been a member of two all-female string bands and two bluegrass bands, singing lead and harmony, playing guitar and bass. Debbi has been singing lead and harmony with teaching partner Tom Cook for the past few years. Southern harmony is what drew Debbi to this music and has always been at the heart of her love for the music.
Participants who can can carry a tune and would like to learn Southern harmony singing will enjoy this mini-course. No knowledge of music theory is needed. The instructors will demonstrate the basics and guide participants in learning, by ear, to sing both two-part and three-part harmony. The class will find the close harmonies of great early country, classic bluegrass, and gospel songs, creating the sound that touches hearts and souls.
Courtney Granger was born in Eunice, Louisiana. A master fiddler and extraordinarily strong singer, Courtney hails from the Balfa family lineage, which is evident in his powerful vocals and heavily Balfa-influenced fiddling. Courtney produced his own solo CD in the mid-’90s, which brought him praise from the Cajun music scene and several CFMA awards. In 1999, he joined Balfa Toujours on bass and fiddle, playing alongside the great Kevin Wimmer. Courtney’s endless repertoire of both Cajun and classic country tunes, as well his impeccable, thoughtful fiddling and soulful singing, has made him one of the most sought-after Cajun fiddlers in the world, playing with legends Jason Frey, Dirk Powell, and Horace Trahan. Courtney has been a member of The Pine Leaf Boys since 2008. He released a solo country album in 2016, entitled Beneath Still Waters.
Throughout his years of teaching Cajun fiddle, Courtney Granger has learned that everyone wants to learn tunes, which is wonderful, but without the knowledge of chords and the basic rhythm and groove of the songs, all they have are notes. This mini-course will take its time to cover the basic chords on the fiddle, easy transitions between chords, and most importantly, the rhythm. All of this can be incorporated in every tune participants play, and they will be able to sit in on any jam session and back up any accordion or fiddle player. Courtney will teach participants what the backbone of Cajun music is.
Bio Coming Soon
Revered as a master player, teacher, custom harmonica pioneer, researcher, and historian, Joe Filisko is arguably the world’s foremost authority on many aspects of the diatonic harmonica and a key figure in today’s harmonica scene. Over the past 20 years he has had a tremendous influence on developments in the culture of the instrument. His much sought after custom harps are used by a remarkable roster of players and are prized for their superb response and tonal qualities by a client list that includes a large proportion of the world’s diatonic harmonica elite. Since the early 1990s, his groundbreaking work in improving the playability of the instrument has directly affected the production of all major harmonica manufacturers. In 2011 Joe Filisko entered into a close cooperation with Hohner as Head of Certification Process for the company’s new Affiliated Customizer Program, a bold move to guarantee standards for purchasers of custom harmonicas which is without precedent in the harmonica industry. He also made important design contributions to the latest model of Hohner’s Marine Band range, the Thunderbird, which bears his signature and has been cited as the finest low key harmonica available on the market today.
Fueled by his desire to preserve historical harmonica styles from extinction, Joe Filisko has amassed not only an encyclopedic knowledge of the entire gamut of traditional harmonica techniques, but has mastered them to an extent unrivaled among contemporary players. His passion for both the well-known and the unsung heroes of the 10-hole diatonic has made him a riveting performer in his own right, with a fluid command of a wide range of styles and possibly the most powerful hand effects ever heard. A master of tone and complex, nuanced tongue block rhythms, he has for many years shared his knowledge with students on five continents and so contributed enormously to the widespread understanding of traditional harmonica styles among a new generation of players.
In recent years, Joe’s reputation as a performer and recording artist has been catching up with his legendary status as a customizer and teacher. Since he first hooked up with guitarist/vocalist Eric Noden in 2003, the duo has released three highly regarded CDs, and has performed at concerts and festivals around the globe. Reflecting their deep affinity with the tradition, their exciting explorations of seminal pre-war styles have won them an enthusiastic international audience and cemented their reputation as one of today’s premier acoustic country blues acts. Joe Filisko was awarded “Harmonica Player of the Year 2001? by the SPAH organization in the US and performed at the induction of Grand Ol’ Opry star Deford Bailey into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006. Documentaries that feature Mr. Filisko include Harmonica Summit, Imagination is Limitless, In the Reeds, Tin Sandwich, and Pocketful of Soul. A native of Joliet, Illinois, Joe lives in the shadow of Chicago, the Windy City, and performs there regularly as well as teaching popular weekly classes at the city’s Old Town School of Folk Music.
Though his work as a scholar and a craftsman has rightly earned him a place in the harmonica pantheon, it is as a player that he truly shines. Joe Filisko coaxes sounds from the harmonica which few before him have ever created and which open up new perspectives for countless players and lovers of this remarkable little instrument.
Class description coming soon!
Amy and David discovered their passion for swing dancing in Southern California in the early 2000s, Amy under the tutelage of Erin Stevens of Pasadena, and David under the Bobbysox Brigade of Fullerton. Now based in Morgantown, WV, they teach community classes in Lindy Hop, Charleston, Collegiate Shag, Balboa, and Blues through the WVU Swing Dance Club and Morgantown Swing. Their teaching style emphasizes connecting with the music, developing comfortable partnerships, and communicating clearly as the foundation for every good social dance.
Amy and David will walk and dance participants through the fundamentals of partnered Lindy Hop, a joyful swing era dance that emerged from American dance halls during the Great Depression. Lindy Hop is a testament to the high-spirited enthusiasm of swing and blues music lovers; the dance form comes from the music, and if you’re not smiling while you do it, you may just be doing it wrong. In this mini-series, Amy and David will help participants connect with the music and their partners, and show them how to invent new moves just as the jazz musician invents new riffs. This series will be accessible to beginner dancers as well as the experienced, and will focus on drawing inspiration from the music and from each other. Courses similar to these have received high praise from dancers from Amy and David’s home scene, so be prepared to have a good time!
Thomas Bryan Eaton is the most fun, patient, organized yet relaxed teacher you will ever come across. He currently lives in the Nashville area where he is in demand as a studio musician. He writes and performs his own songs in solo performances and tours with Miss Tess and The Talkbacks. You may have heard the old saying that someone is “eat up with music”? Well, that is Thomas. He can stay up all night playing steel guitar, slide guitar, and singing whatever the jam or performance calls for. He knows all the old classic country songs and sings them with feeling that belies his young years. A young student wrote last year, “This man is a phenomenal musician, teacher, and human. He made the hardest instrument there seem not so daunting.” Believe it.
This class will seek to bridge blues and swing music using the 12-bar blues form as a vehicle. The class will be mostly dealing with chords and will start with some basic theory to help participants through. Beginning with the simplest 12-bar blues, participants will then start adding / changing chords to the progression and discussing why these different chords work. Listening to and playing examples along the way, participants will discover jazz and swing chord progressions popping up in the 12-bar blues all over the place! If time permits, the class will get into more advanced concepts of reharmonization. There’s so much that can be done!
Kevin Chesser is a musician and writer living in Elkins, WV. He performs regularly on banjo & guitar at square dances and community events around the state. In 2016, he took first place in old-time banjo at the WV Open Fiddle & Banjo championship, and has also won prizes for his playing at the Vandalia Gathering & the WV State Folk Festival. In 2016, he recorded an EP with Jesse Milnes & Becky Hill. It is set for release in 2017.
Historically known as drop-thumb, or overhand, clawhammer style banjo is an integral part of the traditional music of southern Appalachia and beyond. Participants need not have ever picked up a banjo to take this class. The class will go over tuning, chords, and how to play a simple melody. Then participants will take apart, piece by piece, the down-picking pattern that gives clawhammer its distinctive sound. Participants should bring their own banjo, electronic tuner, and personal recording device.
Bio Coming Soon
Maureen Farrell is a West Virginia transplant living in the mountains outside Beverly. She has been putting down roots and expanding her knowledge of the local ecosystem while growing food and making herbal preparations that can be found at the Elkins Farmer’s Market. Maureen is always continuing her education while simultaneously passing on her knowledge through frequent classes given at her mountain home with her partner, Ivan Farrell. She has been and will continue to study herbalism with Herbal Medics University and through a horizontal passing of knowledge from other herbalists in her life.
Join Maureen Farrell for an introduction to herbal medicine! In this mini-course, participants will learn how to identify, harvest, and use 5 basic herbs that are either native or gregarious in our ecosystem. Participants will learn some basics of wild crafting and plant structure as part of getting to know our medicinal allies. The instructor can also help identify some herbs growing right in participants’ front yards for use at home. This will involve at least one field day on a very easy trail on campus. Then participants will take what they have learned and use it to explore the basics of herbal medicine making. Participants will make tinctures, infusions, and more to take home!
Rina Rossi grew up playing bass in orchestra and meanwhile listening to traditional music on Michigan public radio with her parents who met folk dancing in the 1970s. She left Michigan to attend college in Minnesota, met some members of the St. Paul-based Wild Goose Chase Cloggers, and started dancing with the group shortly after graduating in 2005. Rina broke her shoes in dancing with the Wild Goose Chase Cloggers, a precision clogging team founded in 1979 when a midwest tour by the Green Grass Cloggers inspired some dancers in St. Paul, Minnesota, to get their own clogging group going. About the same time, she started learning fiddle from a local old-time fiddler, took up the bass again, and learned to call square dances from great callers coming through Minnesota such as Phil Jamison, Dot Kent, Bob Dalsemer, Sue Hulsether, and many more. Currently Rina fiddles with the Cloggers, calls regularly at the Monday Night Square Dance in Minneapolis, and plays bass with the Bootlicker Stringband.
Tired of simply tapping your toes? Ready to take it to the next level? Join Rina for an introduction to basic flatfooting steps and get some tips on how to put them together into interesting rhythms that compliment your favorite old-time tunes. Participants will learn steps like the Tennessee walking step, practice dancing on and off of the beat, and practice putting rhythms together in their own way. Next time you hear a hot band, you’ll be ready to bust down!
Bio Coming Soon
Gerry Milnes has collected old-time music in West Virginia for the last 45 years. He also plays old-time music, and has for the last sixty years. He accompanied and presented some of West Virginia’s best known old-time musicians, like Melvin Wine and Ernie Carpenter, to music events throughout the country. He performed with the old-time stringband, Gandydancer, and recorded two CDs with the group. His most recent recording, Cherry River Line, is with his son Jesse and daughter-in-law, Emily Miller. While folk arts coordinator at the Augusta Heritage Center he produced 20 recordings of old-time music on the Augusta label. As a filmmaker, he produced 16 films concerning West Virginia folklife, including Signs, Cures and Witchery, which earned him the title of West Virginia Filmmaker of the Year in 2007. Other more recent music awards include the Robert C. Byrd Fiddling Award, The Footbridge Award, the Worley Gardner Award, the West Virginia Governor’s Arts Award and the Vandalia Award (West Virginia’s top folklife honor). His musicianship has brought him top honors on fiddle and banjo at the West Virginia State Folk Festival, the Ed Haley Festival, the Vandalia Gathering, Mountaineer Week at West Virginia University, and at the Appalachian Stringband Music Festival at Clifftop.
Before retiring from Augusta after 25 years, Gerry instigated the Mountain Dance Trail which is still coordinated by the Augusta Heritage Center. He oversaw the West Virginia Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program for 22 years. His roughly 12,000 still images, 700 audio field recordings, and 400 digital video tapes are housed in the Augusta Collection, the Center’s archive that Gerry set up in 1995. He currently serves on the Board of the West Virginia Humanities Council and helped with the formation of the Mountain Music Trail of which Augusta is a member. Gerry’s writing about West Virginia music and folklife has appeared in Goldenseal magazine, the Old-Time Herald, West Virginia History, and Appalachian Journal. His books are published by Alfred Knopf, August House, University Press of Kentucky and the University of Tennessee Press.
Still an active musician, having performed widely across the country, he currently fiddles for square dances throughout the state. His repertoire of regional fiddle and banjo tunes is extensive, and West Virginia folksongs and ballads have been a long-standing interest. Other current interests are in regional folk architecture, obscure railroad songs and tunes, and another writing project dealing with the folk music, folk artists and folk culture of the state.
This class will present numerous old-time songs from Gerry Milnes, gathered from traditional singers in West Virginia. To give the songs context and meaning, Gerry will exhibit photographs and field recordings of singers from whom he has learned. From children’s ditties to Child ballads, railroad songs to humorous folksongs, the class will be an overview of traditional song in the Mountain State with many examples made available to participants to learn and sing.