Lake Charles student first to enter ULL music program

By By Nichole Osinski / American Press

Lake Charles native John Guidry is the sole student enrolled in the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s new traditional

music bachelor’s degree program.

The traditional music degree was

approved by the Louisiana Board of Regents last year. Along with

traditional music, a music

business program was also created — something Guidry said more

students gravitated toward. However, Guidry said he has noticed

a mounting interest in Cajun music and culture overall.

“Traditional music down here is pretty prevalent and students are excited about it,” Guidry said.

Guidry’s interest in Louisiana-style

music started while growing up in Southwest Louisiana. His family owned a

Cajun-influenced

restaurant in Lake Charles and at an early age he started playing

the guitar and harmonica. Along with the influence of Cajun

music and culture, he also was introduced to the blues.

At age 18, Guidry traveled around the country and immersed himself in various forms of traditional music. In Colorado he was

influenced by the bluegrass scene. When it came time for college studies, Guidry took his growing love for Cajun music and

culture back to Louisiana.

“When you move away or leave something, you don’t know you love it until you leave it,” he said. “Along the way I fell in

love with Cajun music.”

Guidry started out his freshman year at ULL planning to major in French. But when ethnomusicologist Mark DeWitt told Guidry

about the new music program opening in the 2012 fall semester, he quickly switched majors.

DeWitt — who helped start the program —

is the inaugural holder of the Dr. Tommy Comeaux Endowed Chair in

Traditional Music.

The late Comeaux, a musician and pathologist, is the reason the

program was initiated. After Comeaux’s death in 1997 his friends

set out to form a $1 million endowed chair in traditional music

within ULL. In 2008, after numerous campaign events and a

matching program through the state, the goal was met and the

School of Music began preparing for the new installment.

Guidry’s classes focus on Cajun and

Creole French dance music where songs are learned by ear. The program

also encompasses

traditional music history, theory and literacy among others. To

assist in his studies Guidry plans to minor in French and/or

an area related to traditional studies.

He has private instruction with area musicians and is part of the university’s traditional ensemble where he plays harmonica.

He is also taking accordion lessons.

Guidry said he wants to use his degree

to either teach or promote Cajun music in Lake Charles. He hopes to

eventually provide

young people who have an interest in Cajun culture an outlet for

their creativity — just like the university’s music concentration

has provided him.

“It’s different from what you usually see in a university music program,” said DeWitt. “The purpose of this program is to

help nurture the music so it keeps going.”