Music at the Top

In our planning, the one event that seemed to hold the most promise as an ideal event was the Augusta Heritage Festival in Elkins, WV. This is a three-day event that begins with a square dance on Friday night, continues with an all-day multi-stage event in the city park, continues with an evening concert followed by another square dance on the Davis and Elkins campus, and concludes with a gospel sing on Sunday morning. We missed the Friday evening square dance, but we spent the whole afternoon and evening at the festival today.


The multi-stage event in the park was as extraordinary as I hoped it would be. There were many craft vendors with high-quality wares, some food vendors, three stages, a “pickin’” tent, and a great ambiance in this tree-shaded city park. The stages featured some of the same performers we had seen on Thursday evening, and in this setting we had a chance to meet and talk with them one-on-one or ask questions of them in their performance setting.


It was a wonderful opportunity to meet Emily Eagen and tell her personally that her performance was such a treat. I found out that she is teaching in New York City, but that she originally hails from Cincinnati. It was a real joy to be able to encourage her. I hope she continues to follow and achieve her dreams.

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Ann Downey and Emily Eagen

I had my mandolin with me, and Elaine and I joined in on a sing-along in the afternoon, led by Don Friedman, the same leader who had led the Thursday night jam after the concert. A lot of the same people were there today. It’s clear that singing is a central joy of their lives.

The evening concert was a live (recorded for future broadcast) performance of the Mountain Stage radio program. It was a great evening! In addition to a number of lesser-known performers we had the opportunity to hear two big-name bluegrass bands: Flatt Lonesome and the Blue Highway band. Flatt Lonesome is a group of young people that is gaining popularity and winning awards; Blue Highway is a band that has been performing for over 20 years. I liked them both, but I enjoyed Blue Highway more. I think their experience shows. It was interesting to learn that their bass player had recently suffered a heart attack and this was his first performance after his recovery. Way to go, Wayne Taylor!!

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One fascinating connection happened. The opening act featured a young woman singer-songwriter-guitarist – Dori Freeman. She was accompanied by her father on mandolin: Scott Freeman. We had met Scott last year on our Crooked Road trip. He was part of the two-man band that was playing at the Blue Ridge Music Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I believe it was he that I asked for advice about buying a decent beginner mandolin, and whose advice I followed in purchasing my Kentucky mandolin. Small world!


Author: eduJamesE

Loves Jesus, but not religious. A bit of an outdoorsman. Academic. Loves learning; loves teaching. A writer and a reader. Guitarist and a beginning mandolinist.

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