Every year in July the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College offers several weeks of world-class workshops and performances in folk music, craft, and dance. This year due to the COVID-19 pandemic they’re taking their classes and concerts online. Here’s what you need to know and how you can participate.
Augusta (named after the former Augusta County of the Virginia colony) got its start in 1973 as a summer program designed to promote Appalachian heritage and craft. The focus soon grew to include music and all traditional culture. While West Virginian traditional music and craft has remained its core focus, Augusta’s courses have expanded to include many other regional and international traditional art forms like Blues, Cajun & Creole music, Country music, swing, Irish music, and dozens of crafts like black-smithing, basket making, cooking, herbal lore, and much more.
Normally participants choose a week-long intensive class in a particular art form, or a shorter “mini-course”, and can also enjoy lectures, concerts, and social dances. This year participants will be able to access not just one, but ALL of the classes and events. Lessons will be pre-recorded for participants to learn at their own pace, and there will be performances and panels that will be live-streamed. To register simply make an online donation for “Augusta Online 2020”. The online lessons will be available late June through October 1st and the live sessions will happen July 6th-24th. This year’s offerings include music lessons in a variety of instruments and genres, plus Cajun cooking!
To say that the artistry presented at Augusta is world-class is an understatement. Past performers and instructors come from all over the country and the world, including the UK and South Africa. Instructors have included GRAMMY winners and nominees like Rhiannon Giddens, the SteelDrivers, Missy Raines, Jontavious Willis, Rob Ickes, and Chance McCoy of Old Crow Medicine Show, just to name a few. The list also includes recipients of the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (that’s the highest award for traditional artists in the U.S.) like Melvin Wine, Phil Wiggins, John Morris, and John Cephas.
See their YouTube channel for a of taste of some past performances.