Milnes, Chesser, and Hill

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Milnes, Chesser, and Hill is an old-time trio that re-envisions and arranges traditional old-time tunes using percussive dance as if it was a drum set. The trio consists of claw-hammer banjo, fiddle, voice and feet. All three artists have spent significant time in West Virginia learning from master elder musicians and dancers with the goal of respecting the tradition while pushing the boundaries of what old-time music is.

Jesse Milnes grew up in the world of West Virginia old-time music (his father is fiddler and folklorist Gerry Milnes). Although he is widely known as a fiddle player, Jesse’s first instrument was a guitar, and he has developed a personal style of finger-picking, drawing on influences from blues to bluegrass to country. He has played fiddle and guitar with many country, old-time, and bluegrass bands over the years, including the Sweetback Sisters, a country band for which he was also a main songwriter. Jesse has won many local and regional fiddle contests, including the WV State Folk Festival in Glenville, WV, and the Ed Haley Fiddle Contest in Ashland, KY. Jesse and his wife, Emily Miller, recently toured in Australia and California and recorded their first album as a duo. They live in Valley Bend, WV.

Kevin Chesser is a musician and writer living in Elkins, WV. He performs regularly on banjo & guitar at square dances and community events around the state. In 2016, he took first place in old-time banjo at the WV Open Fiddle & Banjo championship, and has also won prizes for his playing at the Vandalia Gathering & the WV State Folk Festival. In 2016, he recorded an EP with Jesse Milnes & Becky Hill. It is set for release in 2017.

Becky Hill is a percussive dancer and budding square dance caller. She apprenticed with both Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble and Rhythm in Shoes and has studied with an array of percussive dance luminaries such as Eileen Carson, Sharon Leahy, Sandy Silva, and Ira Bernstein. She’s won flatfoot competitions at several old-time musicfestivals, including the Appalachian String Band Festival, and teaches at traditional music camps and festivalsthroughout Appalachia and the Midwest. Together with noted folklorist Gerry Milnes, she produced an Augusta Recording documentary on West Virginia dance traditions entitled Reel ‘Em Boys, Reel ‘Em. In 2013, she was involved in Wheatland Music Organization’s Carry It On… Project where she was commissioned to choreograph two dance pieces under the mentorship of Sharon Leahy and in honor of the festival’s 40th anniversary. In 2014 & 2016 she was awarded a West Virginia Division of Culture and History Professional Development Grant to further her study of percussive dance. Becky is the Coordinator of The Mountain Dance Trail for Augusta Heritage Center and has organized Dare to be Square West Virginia. She is often seen performing with Good Foot Dance Company along with Matthew Olwell and Emily Oleson. She believes there is always more to learn and is dedicated to creating innovative choreography rooted in tradition. She hopes her work will bring people together and honor those that have inspired her.