WAMFEST celebrates Appalachian Heritage
by W. Scott Giglio
The 2013 edition of WAMFEST was another in a long string of successful festivals, bringing world-class artists to campus to discuss their creative process, while offering short performances.
The Words and Music Festival is an annual series hosted by FDU’s Becton College and the Creative Writing Program that brings successful artists of various genres to campus to inspire and inform students who hope to one day follow in these artists’ creative footsteps. WAMFEST is an ongoing celebration and exploration of the relationship between creative writing and the popular arts; it brings together artists from various fields for unique conversations, collaborations, and performances. Past guests have included, among many others, Bruce Springsteen, Robert Pinsky, Paul Muldoon, and Eugene Mirman.
This year, WAMFEST received, for the first time, a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts. The theme was Appalachian Heritage and included bluegrass, country, and folk music, as well as poetry, film, and a conversation about the harmful effects of mountaintop removal coal mining. Bob and Patricia Pures also provided generous support to help make WAMFEST possible.
WAMFEST held an event at the Metropolitan Campus, another first for the series. That event, entitled “The Origins: A Conversation and Performance,”included legendary banjo player Tony Trischka, guitarist Tim Stafford of the Grammy-nominate Blue Highways, innovative bluegrass mandolin player Jesse McReynolds, and Steven Thomas. Wesley Stace (formerly John Wesley Harding) and WFDU disc jockey Carol Beaugard hosted the event.
The College at Florham hosted both events on Tuesday, October 29. “A Part of the History: A Screening of Director John Sayles’ Oscar-Nominated Matewan” was screened and was then followed by a discussion with Producer Maggie Renzi and production designer Nora Chavooshian. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the release of “Matewan”, which documents the shockingly violent labor disputes surrounding the coal mining industry in West Virginia in the 1920s.
Later that night, WAMFEST feature a two-part event in Lenfell Hall: “The Politics of Coal: Environmental Advocate Joe Lovett of Appalachian Mountain Advocates and Special Guests” with journalist Bob Hennelly, and “The Folk Song: A Conversations and Performance with Loudon Wainwright III” with Stace. Loudon Wainright III won a Grammy in 2010 in the category of Best Traditional Folk Album for “High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project.”
WAMFEST concluded on Wednesday, October 30 with three more events at the College at Florham. In the afternoon, Grammy-Winning Singer/Songwriter Rosanne Cash and National Book Award and MacArthur “Genius” Prize-Winning Poet C.D. Wright came together on stage for “Two Voices, Singing: An Historic Conversation and Performance.” Cash who won a Grammy in the category of Best Female Country Vocal Performance in 1985 for “I Don't Know Why You Don't Want Me.”
“Songs, Stories and All That Jazz: The Tradition Continues” featured a conversation and performance with Bascom Lamar Lunsford’s grandniece and Singer/Songwriter Tomi Lunsford and celebrated Songwriter/Story-Teller David Olney. Immediately following, The Folk Project performed “An Appalachian Music Gathering and Open-Jam,” featuring a number of very special guests.