THE INTER-MOUNTAIN - A student showcase full of talented musicians and singers from all over the United States and other countries attracted a standing-room only crowd Friday as part of the Augusta Heritage Center’s Blues and Swing Week.
Augusta’s popular weekly sessions, which take place each summer on the campus of Davis & Elkins College, feature music, dance, crafts, cooking and more, in both in-depth courses as well as mini-sessions for all ages. Family-friendly dances, concerts featuring world-class talent, jam sessions and craft showcases also are part of what keeps Augusta participants coming back year after year.
The student showcase included a number of performers who create a band for the week. The students of various backgrounds and levels organize themselves, select a tune, practice during the week and then perform during the showcase.
Russell Letson, of Saint Cloud, Minnesota, performed Friday with other members of the group Half-Baked. Letson said he first began attending Augusta classes in 1996 to study guitar and vocals.
“I’ve been in a band every year,” Letson said, noting he enjoys swing week the best, particularly because there are many bluegrass and blues festivals, but not many that focus on swing.
“When I started doing this, there were no other programs like this in the country,” he said. “There’s almost nothing for swing. There’s a little bit, but nothing like this.”
Other members of Half-Baked included Pete Senkowski, of Atlanta, Georgia, on string bass; Julie Siegel, of Takoma Park, Maryland, on trombone; and Glenn Sigler, of Joplin, Missouri, on alto sax.
Siegel said she has attended Augusta for 11 consecutive years, and she enjoys it every time.
“For me, it’s become my musical family,” she said.
Augusta will continue next week with Bluegrass Week, and then Aug. 6 to 11 will be Old-Time Week and Vocal Week.
The annual Augusta Festival, set for Aug. 12, will include a juried craft fair in Elkins City Park, musical performances and family-friendly activities to celebrate the grand finale weekend of the summer.
More information about classes, jam sessions, dances and many other activities that are part of the Augusta Heritage Center can be found online at augustaheritagecenter.org or by calling 304-637-1209.