Instructors and Class Info
Our stellar 2017 lineup:
Our Balfa Week staff features an incomparable selection of teaching artists. Nearly all of our staff members have been part of Balfa Week for a number of years.
Gina Forsyth is an award-winning singer/songwriter, fiddler and guitarist. While living in New Orleans, she grew to love Cajun music and moved to Lafayette to immerse herself in the music of the region. She is the longtime fiddler for Bruce Daigrepont’s Cajun Band at their twenty-five-year-plus regular Sunday fais-do-do at Tipitina’s in New Orleans; she also plays guitar for The Malvinas. Gina has been a full-time fiddle instructor at BW for several years and is one of the most popular BW instructors.
Master musician Paul Daigle is regarded as one of the finest Cajun accordionists currently playing and touring. His long-running band Cajun Gold has been a fixture in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Cajun dance scene for nearly thirty years and is a popular draw at all local music festivals. Paul has taught the Cajun accordion to students across the country and abroad; he is the most-requested instructor for BW’s advanced accordion classes.
Great-nephew of Cajun fiddler Dewey Balfa, Courtney Granger is widely-regarded as one of the most talented of the younger generation of Cajun musicians. His soulful fiddle style and evocative singing earned him his first solo recording at the age of 16. He currently plays fiddle and sings in Balfa Toujours, and can be found playing at numerous events sitting in with other bands. He has taught fiddle extensively, and in 2006 he won the Fiddler of the Year award from the Cajun French Music Association.
David Greely is a versatile Louisiana-based fiddler and vocalist who plays Cajun, country, swing, Irish, and traditional style fiddle. Self-taught, David has played Cajun music since 1985, learning first from recordings and then later from friends and colleagues from the Mamou area. Motivated by a desire to “study and promote the growth of the traditional music of my ancestry,” he received a Louisiana Folklife Apprenticeship grant in 1992 to study Cajun fiddle with master Cajun musician Dewey Balfa. David is a founding member of the Grammy-nominated Cajun band Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys, and he has been a fiddle and vocals instructor at BW for several years. His Vocals classes conducted in French are becoming one of the most popular activities at BW.
Enthusiastic multi-instrumentalist and music instructor Brazos Huval plays several instruments in several bands, including the Cajun bands The Huval Family Band and High Performance, and he is the bass guitarist for Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys. He has a deep knowledge of and appreciation for the songs and styles of Cajun and zydeco music, and he is a highly sought-after guitar instructor for students of all ages in our area.
Master fiddler Ed Poullard is one of only a handful of musicians currently playing publicly and keeping the Creole fiddle tradition alive. Hailing from a musical family spanning several generations, he played for house parties and parish dances in his father’s family band when he was a youngster, starting out on drums and guitar, and later learning accordion and fiddle. He has played in such notable ensembles such as the Ardoin Family Band and BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet. To further his own knowledge of the Creole fiddle style and its vast repertoire, Ed apprenticed with the late, legendary Canray Fontenot. Ed and Canray played and toured extensively until Canray’s death in 1995.
Classically trained violinist Kevin Wimmer relocated to south Louisiana when he received a fellowship to study Cajun fiddle with master fiddler Dewey Balfa, after which he became widely regarded as one of the finest Cajun fiddlers in the region. A long-time member of the Cajun band Balfa Toujours, he is currently the fiddler and vocalist for Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys, replacing David Greely when David retired from the band in 2012.
Award-winning guitarist/songwriter Sam Broussard has been prominent in the Lafayette music scene for many years, and has worked with such diverse artists as Michael Murphy, Jimmy Buffet and Stephan Eicher. He has been the guitarist for Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys for many years, and is also a member of the popular oldies rock/blues group Stop the Clock. Through the years, he has perfected the technique of adapting classic Cajun and Creole fiddle tunes to a finger style played on the guitar.
Jonno Frishberg has been playing the music of southwest Louisiana for over 20 years, from Cajun dancehalls to the Kennedy Center, the White House, and Lincoln Center in New York. In the 1990s, he toured and recorded (on fiddle and accordion) with the ground-breaking Cajun folk-rock band Mamou. His original compositions and recordings have been adapted into ballet works and featured at the Los Angeles Museum of Art. He performed regularly at Mulate’s and Cajun Cabin in New Orleans; he’s also active as a teacher, workshop instructor, and school presenter in the New Orleans area. He currently teaches in the Gifted and Talent Program locally.
A native of Iota, Louisiana, Blake Miller began his professional music career at the age of 18 performing and touring worldwide with the Grammy-nominated Cajun band the Pine Leaf Boys. Grandson to Bon Cajun Accordions founder Larry Miller, Blake is a talented multi-instrumentalist who shines on the accordion, fiddle, bass, and guitar. He was a member of the premiere Louisiana roots band The Red Stick Ramblers, and he has also served stints in other renowned Cajun/Creole bands including Balfa Toujours, Les Malfecteurs and Cedric Watson & Bijou Creole. He is currently a member of the very popular band The Revelers, which was nominated for a Grammy in 2015.
D’Jalma Garnier is equally proficient at fiddle, guitar, tenor banjo, and vocals. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, his Creole father’s huge family kept him close to his roots and musical heritage of seventh ward New Orleans, and Plaquemines and St. Martin parishes. He studied composition, arranging, and orchestration with master arranger/composer Lyle “Spud’ Murphy, as well as Creole fiddle under a grant from Texas Folk Life Resources with N.E.A. National Heritage Award winner Canray Fontenot. For years he was a member of the seminal Cajun group Filé, and most recently is a member of the Creole Cowboys.
Intensive Class Descriptions – Which class or classes is/are right for you?
Here’s a list of the basic classes we typically offer at each Balfa Week along with some background information on why we teach the way we do.
Beginning Cajun Guitar: Recommended for students who are just getting comfortable with two or three chords, playing an acoustic guitar with a flatpick, and have the goal of becoming rhythm players in Cajun and/or Creole music. Students will complete the week with an ability to play good rhythmic backup in slow jams, especially with our camp songs.
Intermediate/Advanced Cajun Guitar: Recommended for students who can play acoustic guitar backup through a song, change chords without breaking rhythm and play with a flatpick. Students will complete the week with solid fundamentals to begin accompanying advanced lead instrumentalists effectively, and will also explore lead playing.
Beginning Cajun Accordion (Key of C – 10 button diatonic only): For folks newer to the instrument, goals will be to start building understanding and control of the instrument as well as basic learning tools to pick out melodies, and strategies to self-teach as skill levels develop through and beyond our week. If you’re already starting to be able to pick out some simple tunes, this class will offer an opportunity to further your learning as emphasis is placed on developing techniques for learning basic melodies (watching, listening, imitating). Students will aim to complete the week with an ability to perform our camp songs in basic form in rhythm, and will leave with the basic tools necessary to continue learning on their own.
Intermediate Creole/Zydeco Accordion and Intermediate Cajun Accordion (Both Key of C – 10 button diatonic only): These classes assume basic knowledge of the instrument, ability to “hunt and find” simple melodies and play them in rhythm. Focus will be on learning unique fingering techniques that take the student from simple melodies to true Cajun- and Creole/Zydeco-style songs.
Advanced Cajun Accordion (Key of C – 10 button diatonic only): This is for those who are comfortable with the accordion, can play a repertoire of songs in rhythm, and can participate in a call-and-response method of teaching melodies. Camp songs will be briefly visited before embarking on deeper explorations of tunes and techniques specific to the interest of the instructor.
Beginning Cajun Fiddle: Recommended for students with some familiarity with the fiddle, or who are intermediate players on another instrument. We’ll start with the basic bowing patterns that are fundamental to the music, second fiddling techniques and simple fingering of our three camp songs that all instrument classes learn so that we can play together.
Intermediate Creole/Zydeco Fiddle: For students who are comfortable with the fiddle (in Cajun or other styles), can play solid rhythm, improvise bowing patterns and participate in a call-and response method of teaching melodies and fingering techniques, and have an interest in and appreciation for our Creole/Zydeco fiddle styles, techniques and repertoires.
Intermediate Cajun Fiddle: We are offering two separate sections or classes at this level for students who are comfortable with the fiddle (in Cajun or other styles), can play solid rhythm, improvise bowing patterns and participate in a call-and-response method of teaching melodies and fingering techniques. Camp songs will be covered before embarking on deeper explorations of tunes and techniques specific to the interest of the instructor.
Advanced Cajun Fiddle: This class is recommended for students who can learn quickly by watching and imitation. Camp songs will be briefly visited before embarking on deeper explorations of tunes and techniques specific to the interest of the instructor.
Cajun & Creole Vocals: This class is offered twice daily, at 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday-Thurday, and offers call-and-response-based singing immersion in the poetry of Louisiana French music. The same general subject area will be addressed each day, though songs will not repeat in the morning and afternoon sessions. This class is designed for everyone with an interest in working on their singing, pronunciation and comprehension of our unique Cajun and Creole song traditions.
Why we teach the way we do
It’s only fitting that we think a little about the vital elements of Dewey Balfa’s teaching formula as guiding principles for the experience of our camp. While at first our camp may feel to you like other educational experiences you may have had (such as school or professional training), in fact there are subtle but very important differences.
It is no accident that this knowledge has successfully been passed down over many generations in extremely trying conditions … all without the luxury of written systems, or classrooms, or even audio recordings. So we ask that you put aside your expectations and past experience, and allow us to share this knowledge in a way that is much more true to the culture and thus honors those who have passionately carried it through time to us.
Here are some key tenets of our methodology – why we teach the way we do – put together by our longtime friend, colleague and advisor Peter Schwarz.
1. EN TOUS ENSEMBLE: “All together”
a. Playing together is more valuable than playing solo
b. A good song is like a warm conversation between instruments
c. Practice your mechanics alone (“woodshedding”), but the more important learning happens when playing AND fitting into the whole sound
2. RYTHME: “The groove”
a. Rhythm is harder to teach than melody, but it is far more important
b. If you don’t start with the rhythm, you can end up in the trap of not sounding “wrong” but still not finding the feel of this music.
c. Think “essential ingredients” rather than “exact recipes”
3. ECOUTER: “To listen”
a. Masters can’t pass along their wisdom if apprentices can’t listen
b. Listen, Watch, Imitate, Emulate
c. This is an oral tradition not a written tradition
4. PAS PENSER: “Don’t think”
a. Intellectual learning will only get you so far
b. Need time, repetition for things to soak in
c. Hard to learn a song actively without knowing it subconsciously
5. LA MÊME CHOSE: “The same thing”
a. Music and dance cannot be separated
b. All music is for dancing, all dancing is to the music
c. Participation, not performance