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  • terrassier 5:11AM

Any experience attending Augusta Heritage Center, Blues Swing Week?

Jim GallaherJim Gallaher Staunton, VAâś­ 2012 ALD La Brune
Looking for summer instructional camp closer to home. Does anyone on the forum have experience with Augusta Heritage Center for swing guitar?

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  • Been going since 1996 and am looking forward to going again in less than two weeks. The program has been operating for even longer than that, and its strong suit is workshops that combine some rigor (the instructors are really good at what they do) with support--it's not competitive or high-pressure. There's a lot of continuity of staff--I've known my guitar instructor, Tom Mitchell, since he was a staff musician more than 20 years ago, and I watched my vocal teacher, Miss Tess, grow up. (Her parents have been on staff since before I started.) There's new blood as well, and I'm looking forward to seeing what this year's bunch has to offer.

    Lots of jamming, some of it explicitly designed to introduce the less experienced to repertory ("Slow Jam"), and a swing dance on Thursday. (There used to be a dance every night, with staff-led bands, but the new schedule has paired blues & swing with old-time, so the pavilion is hosting square-dancing on other nights.)

    What drew me to Augusta was that it was once the only multi-instrumental music camp of its kind. I'd been to workshops and camps focusing on solo guitar, but Augusta was not only explicitly about music and dance (there were years when the swing dancers outnumbered the musicians) but offered the whole range of instruments: guitar, fiddle, horns, keys, bass, vocals, and drums. The student-band component was enormously useful for players who had never had the experience of putting together a unit and a performance. (That component has also been somewhat reduced in the last couple years, but it's still on the schedule.)

    So: For music-as-technique, music-as-social-activity, and music-as-performing, it's an excellent program. There are now others--notably Ashokan--but Augusta is the original. (It's also the model that Swannanoa was built on--though Swanny still strikes me as more solo oriented.) Cafeteria food's pretty good, too, though the dorms aren't air-conditioned.
  • I should add that Tom Mitchell is a hellacious multi-genre player who spent a year studying with (if I recall correctly) Fapy Lafertin. My earliest memory of Tom is of him and Kevin Wimmer (later of The Mamou Playboys) leading informal Django jams after dinner.
  • jonpowljonpowl Santa Cruz, CAâś­âś­âś­ Dupont MD-100, Cigano GJ-10

    My cousin lives in Elkins and I happened to visit one year during Augusta. We went to a dance at the pavilion and it was fun. My cousin Rob's wife runs El Gran Sabor, a Venezuelan restaurant close to the D & E campus with great food; and entertainment several nights weekly, probably more during Augusta. Say hi if you stop by. As I recall, Jason Anick taught at Augusta a couple of years ago.
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