ELKINS – The Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College will take on new leadership with the appointment of Executive Director Ko Chá Ta “Seth” Young, a D&E alumnus, and Artistic Director Emily Miller. Both began their new positions June 3 in preparation of the upcoming Augusta Summer Sessions.
Young and Miller each have longtime ties to Augusta – both as students and Miller as an instructor – and have logged many miles as performing musicians. Together, they will plan Augusta’s year round programming including summer and fall workshops as well concerts and dances.
An Elkins native, Young said he is elated to work with the very program that instilled in him a lifelong passion for the heritage arts.
“I took my first Augusta class when I was 12,” he recalls. “I was always drawn to the incredible music, first-class instruction and the lively atmosphere. Even at that age, I just knew there was nothing else like it.”
As a performing artist, Young has toured the globe playing bass, resonator guitar and accordion in many ensembles and bands. At each stop along the way he considered himself an ambassador of his mountain home, and the Augusta Heritage Center to be the crowning jewel.
“I’m beyond excited to help keep our Appalachian traditions alive,” Young said of his appointment.
Though an avid performer, Young considers music education to be his true calling. Recently he has taught instrumental music for the West Virginia Governor’s School for the Arts, the Teen Band Lab at the Randolph County Community Arts Center, and has served as a music specialist for Randolph County Schools. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Davis & Elkins College and is currently completing his master’s degree in music education with an emphasis in folk music research through Capital University in Columbus, Ohio.
Miller’s musical training began at a young age singing American old-time and country music with her family band. She also has enrolled in many summer classes at the Augusta Heritage Center dating back to 1989.
“I am thrilled to be joining the Augusta staff,” Miller said. “As a longtime Augusta teacher and student, I have seen the impact that Augusta's classes can have on musicians and artists. I am very much looking forward to helping shape the program over the coming years and to increasing the opportunities for D&E students and the wider Elkins community to delve into this region's rich cultural history.”
Miller holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in linguistic anthropology from Brown University where she also received the 2005 Muriel Hassenfeld Mann award for music, and earned a Master of Science degree in speech pathology from Vanderbilt University. However, in recent years, Miller has focused on her performance career.
After performing with many different groups in her teenage years, Miller formed the honky-tonk country band The Sweetback Sisters in 2006 with fellow singer Zara Bode. They have recorded four full-length records for Signature Sounds Recordings and have performed their renegade retro style of country music in barrooms, concert halls and on festival stages around the world. She also performs old-time music as a duo with her husband, Jesse Milnes.
Miller has performed with her bands and as a solo artist on national radio programs including Mountain Stage and A Prairie Home Companion, and has taught vocal and fiddle workshops across the United States, including at Augusta’s Vocal Week and Classic Country Week, and in the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Australia and the Netherlands.
Since 2013, Miller has been directing the Davis & Elkins College Appalachian Ensemble String Band, training students in vocal technique, harmony and band dynamics as well as instruction on their individual instruments.
The Augusta Heritage Center Summer Sessions are set for July 7-12 with Cajun & Creole Week and Classic Country Week; July 14-19, Blues & Swing Week and Old-Time Week; and July 21-26, Bluegrass Week and Vocal Week. The annual Augusta Festival and Juried Craft Fair will take place July 27 in Elkins City Park. October Old-Time Week is scheduled for October 13-18 with the West Virginia Fiddlers’ Reunion and West Virginia Instrument Makers Gathering on October 19.
Programs offered by the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College are presented with financial support from Davis & Elkins College, the WV Department of Arts, Culture, and History, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the WV Commission on the Arts and the West Virginia Humanities Council, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Local support is provided by the Randolph County Commission.
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 fours west of Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit the College website at www.dewv.edu or call 304-637-1243.