Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Hometown Jam

We had planned to carry an eyewitness report today on the prediction of Pierre C. Shaddeaux, but that would have meant rising around 4:30 this morning to make the trip to New Iberia, LA, to observe the sunrise behavior of the town’s groundhog. Instead, we have had to rely on other sources.

The prediction: an early spring is forecast.

But back to events that we did attend....

"Do you have any guides to jams in the area?" we asked of the Tourist Information Center in Lafayette, LA.

"No, but you might want to stop at La Maison de Begnaud, the Heritage Visitor's Center in Scott. It's near where you're staying, and they have a jam on Friday evenings," was our answer.

Well, we learned that there are Visitor's Centers and then there are Visitor's Centers.

Scott’s Heritage Interpretive Center is home to tourist information (maps and brochures) and a Cajun gift shop. But then we experienced "something more". This 100-year-old Acadian home also is home to a small library area with the collection of the city’s history and memorabilia. There is the Heritage Interpretive Room in which documentaries of the area may be viewed and in which community organiza-tions hold meetings and gatherings on history, culture, and special cultural events--and Friday evening jams.

"Cajun music jam sessions provide beginners wanting to learn and veterans who are glad to share with a casual setting to pass on the knowledge" ( And it was this teaching/sharing quality that was clearly the main focus of the jams at this Center, which had all the trappings of community gathering in the kitchen of a home.

In one of two recent sessions we attended 86-year-old Don Montoucet and 6-year-old Andre were two of the partici-pants.

Mr. Don has the distinction and honor of being the first person invited to Russia to perform a program of Cajun music.

On both occasions Jacob LeBlanc, 14, had led the group on the accordion. In a recent article in The Scott Connection, Angela Jean-Batiste noted: "Since December 2010, Scott resident Jacob LeBlanc has found zeal in learning and playing the accordion.

"Extraordinarily, Jacob taught himself how to play the accordion and is still learning to this very day.

"That very determination has earned Jacob a nomination for the New Dawn Award with the Lafayette Chapter of the Cajun French Music Association." The annual Le Cajun Awards are the Grammy Awards of Cajun music.

And then there is Zack, who will be 15 this month. He is also self-taught on the fiddle and already is quite accomplished. He has been invited to perform in New Brunswick, Canada and then Wisconsin in the spring.

There will be quite an entourage from Scott accompanying him on this trip. Among the group will be "Mama" Redell Comeaux Miller, the guiding force behind the Heritage Visitor's Center. She is a remarkable person whose energy and personality have been responsible for spreading the word about the Center.

On the Center's brochure, the message reads: "A Visitor's Center where you can actually sit and visit!" A perfect description of the tone of the old home.

She emphasizes the teaching that occurs during the jams and educational work of the Center. Examples of this latter function that occurs beyond the borders of Cajun Country are: a film crew from Germany featured Scott artists in a visit to the area, a British crew is interested in filming Cajun musicians and dancers, and tomorrow she will be hosting travel agents from around Louisiana.

Her pride in the work of the young people who are carrying on the culture comes through in every sentence.

Lastly, this photo of a young teen, whose name I did not learn, took a turn at leading the group with her work on the accordion. What a wonderful setting in which to learn and perform.

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