Playing for Keeps at the Savoy Music Center

Milton Vanicor (center)

Playing for Keeps at the Savoy Music Center

October 31, 2014  |  Cajun Zydeco

We visited Lafayette, Louisiana a few weeks ago for the first time. It was the 40th anniversary of the Festivals Acadiens et Creoles,and we were very excited to be there, to hear the music, dance a little, eat a lot, and soak up the history and culture of this unique part of the country. But a different experience was high on my list for Saturday morning. I wanted to visit the Savoy Music Center.

Marc Savoy is a much-respected figure in the Cajun music world as a musician and a craftsman builder of Acadian accordions. He is committed to sharing this music and handing it down in the traditional way, with seasoned musicians playing with and teaching younger ones. Mr. Savoy has been hosting a weekly acoustic Cajun music jam in his shop in Eunice, Louisiana since the 1960s.

The shop along Highway 190 was easy to find, just as his website suggests, because of the long line of cars parked outside. Mr. Savoy himself was behind the counter, musicians were all warmed up, folks were listening toward the front and visiting in the back. Clearly everyone feels at home here. We were welcomed as visitors, but they weren’t doing this to impress us. They were doing it for each other.

Mr. Savoy’s philosophy is evident on hand-lettered signs taped up throughout the store. The jams may be casual, but there is still an etiquette to be observed. “This jam session is not intended as a showcase for talent or the lack thereof. It is intended to be led by the older generation of master musicians offering beginners an opportunity to listen & learn, and play along in the background. It has been like this for 46 years and will continue as such.” His shop; his rules. And you can see on the faces of players and audience alike that it works. There was 96-year-old Milton Vanicor playing his fiddle and singing in French. That’s about as real as it gets.

Maybe it’s just what they do on a Saturday morning, but for me it was so special. It was a privilege. I won’t soon forget it.

Click on the first image below to enlarge it and scroll through the slideshow.

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