CAJUN ACCORDION DISCUSSION GROUP
I attended Augusta once. I had a great time, but don't plan on doing it again. I'd rather spend my money on a trip to Louisiana or on a new accordion.
I'm teaching my wife to play my version of Danse de Mardi Gras in A minor. One-on-one instruction is the way to go. She's making better progress than I did on my own or with group instruction. So if I opted for instruction I would pay for private lessons from a master.
I'm thinking the same way. I'd rather fork over some cash to Ray Abshire or Steve Riley for example, than to invest in another camp, where I learned very little. I'm at a point after 4 1/2 years of playing in the Cajun vacuum of the Northeast to where I desperately need to spend a few hours with an articulate master of the accordion. I don't know how to help myself at this point but I know I need something to get to the next level. So when the cash flow is availble I intend to infuse some directly into the economy of Southwest Louisiana.
My wife and I did something similar several years ago. We subleased an apartment in Quebec City, took lessons with musicians we admired (we just called them and asked for lessons once we got there, there were many possibilities but we were happy with who was available). We stayed for 2 months -- we were on "academic" calendars at the time, with long summer vacations. Our rent was relatively inexpensive, we attended very cool sessions, concerts, and festivals, improved our French somewhat, experienced the people and culture, made friends, went to museums and traveled throughout the area extensively. In the end, the amount spent on lessons was very little! But we got much more out of it. Someday we'll travel somewhere else to do something similar -- perhaps Central France. I thoroughly recommend it, even if for only one week.
However, those camps also have the benefit of gathering everybody in one place for a concentrated period of time.
This is interesting.
I'm going to Balfa camp next month for the first time. After that, perhaps next year, I'd be interested in participating in an "informal" camp. Keep me posted. The whole package for us here in Canada is quite expensive when factoring in currency exchange, flight, camp and extra accomodation.
I'm interested in exploring this avenue further, but only for next year on.
My Cajun playing is not advancing well due to this subject on instructors. My triple row playing is moving along well. No, no Zydeco coaches where I live, but quite a few Tejano/Norteno players who will show me a thing or two. My ears will move it over to Zydeco.
Self-study and practice at home are the basic requirements for learning the button box. If you're lucky enough to live near a skilled teacher and you set up a series of private lessons over the course of several months, your playing will take off. But for sheer horsepower and fun combined, there's nothing like Augusta. It beautifully combines all the elements of a festival (killer bands, great dancing, and some serious all-night parties) with the chance to work hard twice a day with the teacher of your choice. Remember that the teachers expect you to ask for one-on-one sessions. It's good to have a series of graduated classes from beginner to advanced, so you can find your level. And the teachers are chosen not just because they're good players, but also because they're good teachers. I'd be hard-pressed to line up anything comparable to the Augusta experience in a DIY trip to Louisiana. The first time I attended (1998), I was 2 years into playing (with the band Chanka Chank) and came away from Preston Frank's class with the simple realization that I was indeed a musician. It was a tremendously validating experience. I had done the academic music thing (trumpet and musicology), but there's nothing like playing roots music and connecting with it on a deep level. The second time I attended (2005), I was directly inspired by sitting in with Zydeco Force at their campus bar gig to resign from a band that was playing a variety of styles and to assemble the strongest zydeco group I could manage up here on the north coast (Rochester, NY). That new band (RedLine Zydeco) has met with some acclaim over its first 6 months (we're playing the Memorial Day CZ Springtime Reunion Festival), and it would not have happened without the "a-ha" experience ("So that's what it feels like to play in a zydeco band . . ."), courtesy of Augusta and Z Force. Everyone's experience is unique, but don't underestimate the value of gathering with like-minded musicians and dedicated teachers for a week at Augusta. And those all-night jams . . .
I agree that Augusta is a phenomenal experience. However, I've gone 4 years in a row, and not learned all I've recorded yet. Its tough to justify that for every year.
I was looking at an Augusta flyer today, saw some folks I've seen for the last 4 years, and immediately wanted to go. But, I just can't justify the bucks to myself this time around. Maybe in another year or more.
I spent today looking at campsites near Elkins. $5 per day. But then, who watches your stuff during the day while you're at Augusta. I called about a cabin for rent. 4 people would be $150 per night. Cabin sleeps 8, but I didn't inquire about that per night price. Two people in the cabin was $125 per night, so I'm extrapolating that 8 people would be $200 per night. That's $25 per day for lodging, which is close to what a shared dorm room would cost.
I've inquired about volunteering, but haven't heard anything back yet.
Anyway, its the travel and lodging expenses that throw it over the top. I don't think the $400 tuition is out of line.
If anyone wants a great place to experience LA from, the Blue Moon guest house has a few private rooms and a couple of dorm style hostel rooms with shared bath, and, the Saloon on the back porch is just about the best place in Laf. to catch live music. I also recommend hitting all the jam sessions while you are here. Nothing like jumping into the thick of things to sharpen your skills.
Best of luck with your travels and there are plenty of us here willing to share info if anyone plans a trip.
Well good news, we pine leaf boys have been joking about starting our own camp too. It's called the "Cajun Fantasy Camp". I basiclly means that some lucky person from out of state comes and pays to live in the Pine Leaf House with us and learn by doing. You play when we play, learn to cook, clean, you get into the Blue Moon for free, all the beer and whiskey you can drink and we feed you and you get to come with us to any shows we might be playing while you here. You get all of the real cajun and creole abuse we can dish out in the shortest amount of time. Definatly not for the faint of heart.
And how much will you pay me for this honor?
Pay you? No you pay us