Judith Avers brings song-writing lessons to Pocahontas County students
Marlinton, W.Va. –
Listening to Judith Avers music, it becomes clear that pop hooks and loud thumping beats are not what drives this talented singer-songwriter. This is music that draws you in with its quiet intimate sound and unusual lyrics. She’s is in Pocahontas County this week sharing her gift for putting words to music with budding artists in a High Rocks Academy song writing school.
“It’s called Song School 101, and it’s mostly for beginning song writers ages 13 to 18,” she says. “We started it through High Rocks a couple of years ago and the West Virginia division of Culture and History. Depending on the grant that High Rocks gets, they’ll hire me to come in and teach different song writing classes.”
Sometimes it’s traditional Appalachian style music, sometimes ballads, sometime Appalachian with a modern twist.
“This week is general song writing which is always fun because then the students can write any song they want and they really seem to like that a lot,” says Avers. “I’ve done this for a couple of years; we try to do one in the spring and the fall and then in the summer. So hopefully it’ll grow to be about 4 times a year in this area.”
Avers is impressed with the number of county kids who are already well acquainted with various traditional instruments and she gives credit to the many adults who’ve fostered that love of playing.
The results of the song school will be display this Saturday during the Autumn Harvest festival in Marlinton.
“Yes, Saturday morning at 11 o’clock, it is at the Opera House and the students will all be playing at least one of the songs they write,” she says. “Hopefully they’ll all have two songs that they’ve written, and then group songs. And they’ll get to be playing with professional musicians that’ll come in Friday.”
Avers volunteered as tutor for the High Rocks about five years ago, and fell in love with both their mission and the students. Since that time, she’s been a frequent volunteer as cook, teacher, or just about anything else she’s been asked to do. Avers new album is “God Bless the Brooders”. She says it came out of period in her life when she experienced some very personal losses.
“I recorded this at the very end of the year 2010,” she says. “And when I was recording it I was working with my dear friend the producer on the record, Anand Nyack. While we were picking the songs my father was very ill and he was dying when I was recording it so Anand and I were just kind of having these dark periods between the two of us. We were recording late at night and we just picked songs that seemed to fit what we were going through at the time.”
Although recorded in 2010, the album release was further delayed by the sudden loss of Avers sister last year and the loss of her mother in early 2012.
“I have to release it this year because I don’t want another year to go by so I’m releasing it,” says Avers. “It ended up being this very hopeful cd for me. It means a totally different thing than when I started and I love that about it.”
God Bless the Brooders not only reflects Avers personal journey through loss, but also the stories of other lost souls she’s encountered in her travels.
“I have this song called “Dove” on the cd, and it’s about a couple people I’ve met – they’re true stories about people,” she says. “I met this guy and we hung out this night in Liberal Kansas outside in the country; he had confessed to me that he had killed this person. You know, I didn’t know what to do, I was sixteen and kinda wild. We just talked and the song about him and also this stripper I met in the desert; shady characters that I’ve been friends with that have done terrible things, several friends who are in prison for murder and things like that, but they’re really still good people.”
She and her new band, The Early Mays will be performing at the Opera House Saturday, Sept 29th as part of a fundraising event for the High Rocks Academy. They’ll also be part of a cd release party at the Lewis Theater in Lewisburg, WV Sunday night. For more information on the line up of artists at the Opera House Saturday, visit pocahontasoperahouse.org.