NATCHITOCHES – The Cajun accordion will be the focus of a workshop at the upcoming Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival to be held Friday and Saturday in air-conditioned Prather Coliseum on the Northwestern State University campus. Master musicians Jamie Berzas and Bruce Daigrepont will lead the workshop, which will take place from 3 p.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday. Festival patrons will pay no additional charge to participate in the workshop. Workshop attendees will be introduced to a wide range of knowledge and techniques related to the Cajun accordion, as well as a sense of the cultural importance of the instrument to Cajun music. Space in the accordion workshop is limited to 20 participants and accordions are to be tuned to ‘C.’ The Festival is unable to provide instruments. The workshop is free to Festival attendees.
Berzas and Daigrepont are both legendary players of the Cajun accordion. Berzas was born in Mamou. Berzas’ musical background began when he was 10 when he learned how to play the accordion from his father. He later learned how to play the guitar and the drums as well and now is the lead vocalist of Jamie Berzas and the Cajun Tradition Band, founded in 1979 in Mamou. The band played at the 1984 Louisiana World’s Fair and at the 1987 Annual Cajun Music Festival at Loretta Lynn’s Dude Ranch. Berzas was honored at the 2000 Mamou Cajun Music Festival for his contributions to Cajun music. In 2005, he was inducted into the Cajun Music Wall of Fame in Fred’s Lounge. The band’s 1988 album, “A’ La Veille Facon,” received a 1989 Grammy nomination for Most Traditional Folk Music Recording. In 1987 the band was awarded the title Musicien Du Bal as first place winners in a Bal Du Maison contest held at Acadian Village in Lafayette. Performances for the Cajun Grand Ole Opry in Eunice and other engagements have led the National Park Service in New Orleans to say, “At each performance, this band did an excellent job of demonstrating and interpreting Cajun music and culture in a very intelligent manner.”
Born in New Orleans in 1958, Daigrepont grew up in a Cajun family from Avoyelles Parish. The family was deeply imbued in folk music, and Daigrepont took up the guitar at five and the five-string banjo at 10. In 1978, after attending Festival Acadiens in Lafayette, Daigrepont was inspired to devote himself to the French accordion. By 1980 he had his own Cajun band, and was honing his skills at fais do do dances. Daigrepont has emerged as one of Cajun music’s finest cultural ambassadors. He has performed at such prestigious venues as New York’s Lincoln Center and the National Folk Festival. Over the past 10 years, he has performed in France, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. At the request of the American Embassies, Daigrepont and his band have performed in El Salvador and Venezuela. Daigrepont is fully immersed in the singer-songwriter tradition, and several of Bruce’s compositions such as “Marksville Two Step” and “Nonc Willie” have entered into the standard Cajun dance band repertoire. Daigrepont’s recording career began in 1986 with his first Rounder Records release, “Stir Up the Roux.” He sings in the traditional Cajun way: in French.
The 40th Annual Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival will be held July 26-27 in Prather Coliseum, located at 220 South Jefferson Street on the NSU campus in Natchitoches. The site is wheelchair accessible and the festival is family oriented. Children 12 and under receive free admission to all events on both days. Tickets can be purchased at the Coliseum. The ticket booth opens at 4:30 p.m. on Friday and at 8 a.m. on Saturday. The Festival features three stages of music and food on both days, and on Saturday the Festival will also include crafts, narrative sessions and the Louisiana State Fiddle Championship.
Support for the Festival is provided by grants from the Cane River National Heritage Area, Inc., the Louisiana Division of the Arts Decentralized Arts Fund Program, the Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and Foundation and the Shreveport Regional Arts Council. Additional support comes from City Bank, the City of Natchitoches, the Natchitoches Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Cleco.
For more information call (318) 357-4332, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, go to louisianafolklife.nsula.edu/ or visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/NSULAFOLKLIFECENTER.