ELKINS - Davis & Elkins College’s Appalachian Ensemble has been invited to share their cultural heritage in two performances in the Southeast this month. On April 28, the students will travel to Johnson City, Tenn., to perform with East Tennessee State University and Warren Wilson College, and on April 29 the group will be the opening act for the Georgia String Band Festival in Calhoun, Ga.
“The Ensemble's string band has been working hard this year to bring more traditional songs and tunes from West Virginia into their repertoire, and are looking forward to bringing these West Virginian musical gems to audiences outside the state,” says Emily Miller, director of the string band.
The Appalachian Ensemble is a student performance group that includes a string band and percussive dance team under the direction of Miller and Emily Oleson. The Davis & Elkins College Appalachian Ensemble presents traditional music and dance from the Appalachian region and beyond, focusing on the intersections of different American vernacular forms and their roots, ranging from old-time music and flatfooting to jazz music and tap dance, to Irish Sean nós dance and numerous traditional American styles of harmony singing.
Members of Appalachian Ensemble String Band are fiddler Scotty Leach, a senior from Centralia, Wash.; banjoist and dancer Kaia Kater-Hurst, a senior from Ontario, Canada; percussionist and dancer Matthew Olwell, a junior from Elkins; bassist Devon Rose, a sophomore from Benwood, W.Va.; fiddler and mandolin player Ben Zorn, a freshman from Chicago, Ill.; and guitarist Dakota Peak, a freshman from Berkeley Springs, W.Va. Dancers in the Ensemble are sophomore Jonathan Callahan of Harrisonburg, Va., sophomore Katharine Manor of Rockville, Md., junior Will Roboski of Lansing, Mich., sophomore Eli Lucchesi of Elwell, Mich., sophomore Alina Soltis of Saline, Mich., senior Mia Gresak of Bridgeport, W.Va., and sophomore Isabella Nieves of Elkins.
This is the first time Appalachian Ensemble will perform in the annual intercollegiate collaboration between East Tennessee State University and Warren Wilson College’s string band programs. The show will take place at 7 p.m. at The Down Home in Johnson City, Tennessee.
“These two colleges both have established string band programs and we are so excited to perform with them,” says Becky Hill, Appalachian Ensemble's manager. “We plan to collaborate on a finale together and hope that our students will make musical connections for the future.”
For the Georgia String Band Festival opening concert, Appalachian Ensemble will focus on old-time music, flatfooting, and traditional songs and tunes. The performance begins at 7 p.m. at Harris Arts Center.
Appalachian Ensemble members will also participate in the Gordon County Fiddlers’ Convention banjo, fiddle, flatfooting and band contests, in conjunction with the Festival, on April 30.
The festival, dating back to 1924, is an annual celebration of Georgia old-time string band musical traditions with performances from such legendary old-time music groups as The Skillet Lickers and The Georgia Yellow Hammers.
“The Appalachian Ensemble quite dynamically represents our mission of educating and entertaining our local folks on the great importance and cultural worth of the music of our ancestors here in our hills and valleys,” says Paul Shoffner, director of the Georgia String Band Festival.
This will be the last tour of the Appalachian Ensemble for the 2015-2016 season and for Kater-Hurst, Leach and Gresak. The spring showcase in Elkins is slated for 7:30 p.m. May 12 in Boiler House Theatre.
Related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Davis & Elkins College is located in Elkins, 2 hours east of Charleston, 3 hours south of Pittsburgh and 4 hours west of Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit the College website at www.dewv.edu or call 304-637-1243.
Photo Caption: Appalachian Ensemble, the Davis & Elkins College student string and dance group, will complete its spring tour with performances in Johnson City, Tenn., and as the opening act for the Georgia String Band Festival in Calhoun, Ga.