I only went once (1999) when I was somewhere beyond absolute beginner and somewhat less than competent:
the experience was well worth it from the perspective of someone who rarely has the chance to be in direct contact with other persons playing Cajun music.
The beginner level instructors (John Vidrine and Charlie Terr) have good reputations (although I've never taken a lesson from either one).
Some of the commentary here lately has been about whether it was worth going for yet another year. Once you've got some basic ideas of fingering and rhythm, you can teach yourself a lot from slowed-down recordings and DVD's. But a week at Augusta will get some momentum in your learning process, and give you some ideas about how to connect up what you hear with what your fingers could be doing.
I'm thinking of going this year, but I haven't told "the boss" yet!
I know that Augusta offers mini-classes apart from your main class. These are usually held in the evening or late afternoon, they do cost extra. But I believe they offer a fiddle mini-classes, not for sure what level. They also offer other few mini-classes for example, steel guitar,French lyrics,dances etc etc. Check their website and see what they offer.
If you've never been, its a great experience. Its even a great experience a couple of years running. Hell, its always a great experience. Just can't afford it this time around.
They offer a fiddle-from-scratch mini-class. Cost is about $35.
Don't know that John Vidrine is teaching this year. Charlie Terr's class was muy excellente, and one I should have done from the outset.
What can you play on accordion at this point, and how well?
First time attending can be a very good sweeping experience, it was for me at any how.
I was fortunate (as was others) to have been at a place and time that exposed me to the music and some great cultural experience weekly... when Danny Poullard was alive. Everyone in that mix was very committed to attending Augusta, perhaps because Danny was a mainstay and believed in the program intensely. Instructors have changed naturally, but my first Augusta (beginning) instructor was Eddie LeJeune. Eddie was a genuine person and a great patient instructor that fostered many people towards sticking with it and feeling good about it.... no matter how crappy a person played HA.
It was an amazing experience to discover like minded folks that migrated from all over to attend such a place as this. The sights and the sounds and the energy was very magnetic. Although I was (still am)somewhat a loner in most large gatherings, I was very satisfied to to simply watch and absorb all the intense immersion that this camp produced, all week long.
If nothing more, I walked away self assured that I would stick with this instrument and cultural adoption as a part of the bigger question; "Is this commitment something I really want to do? "
One thing that is very important however to understand:
a.) Learn to appreciate little suttle improvements rather than jumping light speed into becoming a master of the instrument.
b.) Realize that many gatherings house people that use these gatherings to explode/expand their egos. Playing better than someone else and as a result "clicks (certain associations) can become a competitive sometimes damaging trait through a form of political/musical coup."
c.) Do this for yourself and insist upon getting your fair share of the overall experience that you pay for.
Beyond the classes there are jam sessions.
I recall as a beginner, getting a fair amount of jam time and feeling good about it (regardless of being a beginning student). I have seen this choked by advanced players that dominate with the instructors and jocky their way in to eliminating the newer folks out of these important social past time activities. It is a tremendous violation for preventing many hopeful beginners and intermediate players alike, getting a quality week. Instructors (especially the older ones) were very keen at preserving a student from becoming or feeling left out... many are gone now, so it is somewhat a new crop of instructors that teach, some that have forgotten (or do not bird dog) this important aspect.
These are my observations alone for what I have seen and for what I have experienced with music camps, especially Augusta.
My advise would be to detail your expectations and share those with a potential instructor (email or snail mail) prior to the event, and, determine if it is what is doable from the instructors perspective. Remember that there are dozens of others that vie for equal time, so set your goals according to reasonableness for a week long camp.
Best.... Nonc D