Camp Washington-Carver will continue its new musical entertainment series, Sweets and Sounds, on Saturday, Oct. 6, with Dr. Ethel Caffie-Austin of Dunbar, West Virginia’s “First Lady of Gospel Music.” The one-hour concert will start at 7 p.m., and is followed by homemade desserts in the Great Chestnut Lodge. The series will continue on selected Saturdays through the end of October.
Born in Bluefield, Caffie-Austin grew up in a home steeped in African-American heritage and culture. Her father, David, was the son of a first generation slave and he planted the roots of the old songs and old ways of the Alabama indentured slave culture in Ethel as he shared his father’s experiences and his own.
Her musical talent was nurtured by her parents. She began playing piano at the age of six, started accompanying church services at nine and directed her first choir at age 11. At 14, Caffie-Austin was organizing and directing the first state choir in Southern West Virginia for the Churches of God in Christ.
Throughout her life, she has carried on a rich tradition of African-American gospel singing, piano playing and worship. She has taken her music and ministry into prisons, schools and government projects, and has performed at festivals across the country and in Africa and Europe.
Caffie-Austin also is in demand as a clinician and often presents gospel workshops in conjunction with the Vandalia Gathering in Charleston. She founded the Black Sacred Music Festival at West Virginia State University in Institute and has several recordings and an instructional videotape to her credit. She was the subject of a 1999 documentary film entitled “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” and a 1997 Goldenseal magazine article, “Hand-Clapping and Hallelujahs: A Visit with Ethel Caffie-Austin.”
Caffie-Austin graduated from West Virginia Institute of Technology with a bachelor of arts degree in language arts, taught for 30 years in public and private schools in Fayette and Kanawha counties, and received an honorary doctorate degree from Davis & Elkins College in Elkins. In 2006, she received the Vandalia Award, West Virginia’s highest folklife honor, from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. She also was a two-year recipient of the Teagle Fellowship at Davis and Elkins College.
Reservations for the concert are recommended, but tickets also will be sold the evening of the performance. Tickets are $10 per person for the performance and dessert.
For more information about the Sweets and Sounds musical entertainment series or to make reservations for the concert, call (304) 438-3005 or (304) 558-0220, ext. 171.
Sweets and Sounds will continue on Oct. 13, with Everett Lilly and the Lilly Mountaineers of the Beckley area who specialize in bluegrass, country, southern rock and gospel music. The series concludes on Oct. 27, with the Washington Street Strutters, a Lewisburg-based band that plays Dixieland, old-style pop, blues and popular songs from the 1920s and 1930s.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. Its administrative offices are located at the Cultural Center in the State Capitol Complex in Charleston, which also houses the state archives and state museum. The Cultural Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. The agency also operates a network of museums and historic sites across the state. For more information about the Division’s programs, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
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MEDIA NOTE: Download a high resolution version of the above photograph. She can be reached by phone at (304) 206-1646.