Instruments from “Crafting the South Louisiana Sound,” an exhibition, Sept. 8-Oct. 15, 2017, in conjunction with Festivals Acadiens et Créoles
On Oct. 11, 2017, I attended a tour of the exhibition “Crafting the South Louisiana Sound,” which ran Sept. 8-Oct. 15 in the A. Hays Town House at the Hilliard University Art Museum, University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The exhibition was held in conjunction with Festivals Acadiens et Créoles, which in 2017 celebrated the makers of South Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole musical instruments.

The tour was led by the exhibition curators, Anya Burgess and Chris Segura. Instruments in the exhibition made by Louisiana craftsmen included accordions, fiddles, guitars, amplifiers, and percussion instruments like frottoirs, t-fers (triangles), spoons, and drumsticks, I arrived a little early to take photos of the display. I managed to get photos of most of the instruments but missed several fiddles. Each photo includes the text of the museum display card with the name of the instrument builder and a description, followed by abridged biographical information in brackets drawn from a guide written by curator Anya Burgess.

Here is the Curatorial Statement by Anya Burgess and Chris Segura:
There is a long tradition in south Louisiana of people making musical instruments. In the early days it was done out of necessity. Music was all around, but ready-made instruments were not. Makers relied on their own ingenuity to craft musical instruments by hand, often using the few existing instruments as patterns for their work. Modern instrument builders in Acadiana continue to rely on traditional methods, but have far greater access to high-quality tools and information. Although musical instrument making has largely shifted from a labor of necessity to a labor of love, local instrument builders have long provided the tools for Cajun and Creole musicians to carry on their musical heritage and move it forward. Crafting the South Louisiana Sound highlights the work of musical instrument builders in South Louisiana from the 1930s to the present. The exhibit features hand-built accordions, violins, guitars, amplifiers, triangles and rubboards, as well as photographs and video footage, offering a glimpse into the minds and workshops of local makers. It showcases work from some of the early local instrument builders, such as violin maker Emar Andrepont of Prairie Ronde and accordion builder Sidney Brown of Lake Charles. It also includes instruments made by modern craftsmen such as accordion builder Marc Savoy of Eunice, rubboard maker Tee-Don Landry of Sunset, and amplifier builder Jason Harrington of Lafayette. Crafting the South Louisiana Sound was sponsored by LUS Fiber and the Haynie Family Foundation.

I don’t have photographs of violins in the exhibit made by the two curators, Anya Burgess and Chris Segura, though two photos show them playing their violins at the end of the tour. I also do not have photos of violins in the exhibit made by Emar Andrepont, Royne Fontenot, Louis Jouett, and Tom Pierce.

Here is information about these six violin makers drawn from longer profiles written by Anya Burgess and provided to exhibition visitors:

Anya Burgess (1975- ) learned to repair and build violins in a two-year program at Indiana University in Bloomington. She apprenticed with Otis Thomas, a luthier in Nova Scotia. After moving to South Louisiana in the early 2000s, she opened a fiddle repair shop and subsequently established Sola Violins, a full-service violin shop in downtown Lafayette. She plays fiddle in two bands, Bonsoir, Catin and the Magnolia Sisters. For more information, go to solaviolins.com/.

Chris Segura (1984- ) learned to play fiddle while growing up in Berwick, LA. At about age 12, he was a founding member of the band Feufollet. After completing college, he fulfilled his interest in building a violin by obtaining a fellowship grant from the Louisiana Division of Arts for an apprenticeship with Anya Burgess, spending a few days a week at Anya’s Arnaudville shop over a two-year period. He has built 11 violins. Chris is an archivist at the Center for Louisiana Studies, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and also works at Sola Violins.

Emar Andrepont (1863-1941) operated a general store in Prairie Ronde in St. Landry Parish. He built some 60 violins, most in the 1920s and 1930s, passing all of them down to family members. He used both local and imported woods, keeping the finishes simple without much inlay work. His fiddles have a look that Anya Burgess describes as “clean and refined.”

Royne Fontenot (1920- ) of Eunice, LA, is a self-taught craftsman who has made 42 violins and one cello. In 2009, he won first place in the tone category in a competition sponsored by the Arizona Violin Makers Association.

Louis Jouet (1922-1989), a band director at Northside High in Lafayette during the mid-1960s and early 1970s, played drums and upright bass with a big band group. A self-taught violin maker, he built about 15 violins, some on his kitchen table with glue mixed in a single poached egg cooker.

Tom Pierce (1950- ) sells and repairs fiddles at Tom’s Fiddle and Bow, his shop in Arnaudville, LA. A retired submarine electronics technician, he attended the Violin Craftsmanship Institute in Durham, NH. He moved to South Louisiana from South Berwick, ME. Anya Burgess describes his shop as “home to a monthly jam session (first Sunday of the month), music lessons, and lots of fiddles.” For more information, go to www.tomsfiddleandbow.com/.

For a listing of Cajun and Zydeco bands and Mardi Gras photos included on these Flickr pages, go to www.cajunzydecophotos.com or www.cajunzydecophotos.com/mobile.
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