(The Daily Advertiser) – Since 2005, zydeco music has brought musician Wayne Singleton five CDs and gigs stretching from the San Diego Bay to Raamsdonkveer, Holland. That’s not a bad resume for a self-taught accordion player who learned by watching other musicians play on TV.
“I was always a great mimicker,” said Singleton, leader of the band Same Ol’ 2 Step. “I just kept mimicking these musicians until I started picking up on it.
“I got a break, at a young age, to start playing with Zydeco Force. That’s where it took off.”
Singleton has been sharing his mimicking and squeezebox skills as an instructor in “Music in Our Community,” a project that pairs Cajun and Creole musicians with students in the Lafayette Parish School System. The results will be showcased in a free concert at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Vermilionville. Dancing is encouraged.
With help from a grant from the National Endowment from the Arts and local sponsors, LPSS students took lessons from Singleton, “Lil Nate” Williams of the Zydeco Big Timers, Mitch Reed of the Grammy-winning band BeauSoleil, Megan Brown of T’Monde and Brazos Huval of Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys. The musicians will perform with their students Wednesday night.
Students, who range from elementary to high school age, represent Myrtle Place Elementary, J. Wallace James, Alleman Middle, David Thibodeaux High/STEM Academy, Lafayette High and Acadiana High.
Singleton will play accordion, backed by students on keyboards, drums, guitar, bass and rubboard. He’s been teaching them for two months.
“It’s amazing the talent we have around the area,” said Singleton. “These students have never even played zydeco.
“It’s unbelievable. I’m actually thinking about wanting to hire some of them. They’re that good.”
A performer for 10 years, Megan Brown has been instructing fourth grade French Immersion students at Myrtle Place for more than a month. Brown has been teaching the students the “Mardi Gras Song,” “Bonsoir Moreau” and other tunes that are older than many of the students’ grandparents.
“They pick up really quickly on the music,” said Brown, a Grammy nominee with the Cajun trio, T’Monde. “I get to collaborate with other musicians that I normally wouldn’t see around town, which is good.
“(French teacher) Jimmy (Louis Marie) is an amazing musician, but he’s so busy with teaching, I would never really run across him otherwise.
“It’s really fun to get exposed to new people.”
Brown also worked with students at the Northside High School Broadcast Journalism Academy, who are also part of the project. Students were trained in folklore interviewing skills and worked with musicians to learn the connections between culture and music.
Northside students will record Wednesday’s event to rebroadcast on the school’s radio station, KNHS 93.1 FM.
Other partners in the project include Art Works, Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education, Center for Louisiana Studies, KRVS Public Media, AOC Community Media and Acadiana Center for the Arts.
Want to go?
What: “Music in Our Community” concert
When: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Vermilionville, 300 Fisher Rd.