Ernie Hawkins closes his eyes, deftly plucking notes from the strings of his guitar, as if invoking the spirit of his departed mentor and acoustic blues giant the Rev. Gary Davis.
Hawkins speaks of Davis with the hushed reverence befitting a man who also was a devout Christian. Davis died in 1972, but his teachings live on among his students, including Hawkins, who launched Musikfest's ''Art of Musik'' workshops Saturday with a tribute of sorts to Davis. The session was titled ''The Art of Piedmont Guitar,'' a style Davis helped make famous.
''Everything he was doing was the best way to do it,'' said Hawkins. ''He could play like anybody, but nobody could play like him.''
The free workshops, being held at Moravian College's Peter Hall every day at 1 p.m., feature musical acts from the festival, including jazz bassist Christian McBride and the Dixie Hummingbirds teaching ''The Art of Vocal Harmony.''
Sunday's workshop, ''The Art of the Steel Drum,'' was taught by Pittsburgh percussion group Resonance, whose full-bodied sound a mix of Caribbean jazz and global fusion music -- shook the small, stained-glass enclosure that is Peter Hall.
Resonance steel drummers Phil Webster and Dan Meunier took the audience on a musical journey through the history of music on the island of Trinidad, where the steel drum was born only about 65 years ago, said Webster. The government banned drums and later the bamboo percussion instruments that took their place, he said.
''The history is all about oppression and then creativity,'' said Webster. ''With each instrument they got better and better.''
Instruments were fashioned from junk metal scraps, pipes, coffee cans or whatever was around, said Meunier. To demonstrate, he had audience members -- including 4-year-old Michael Arechiga of Bethlehem -- choose from various items in a cardboard box and play with the group.
Eventually they got to the steel drum, a sophisticated instrument fashioned from an oil drum, that takes years to master, said Meunier who conducts master classes, workshops and clinics.
Hawkins' workshop was more technical, occasionally venturing into the theory of Piedmont, a style that integrates ragtime and blues and features a complex finger-picking method. It was made popular in the early 20th century, said Hawkins, who gave a brief overview of Piedmont's history before demonstrating various techniques.
Hawkins has refined his Piedmont skills since he was 18 and just out of high school in 1965. He left Pittsburgh for New York and showed up at Davis' doorstep to learn from who he considered the best.
''If I had known then what I know now, I never would have tried it,'' said Hawkins. ''I was so naive and stupid.''
Hawkins travels the country playing music and giving workshops. He was a little surprised that no one brought their guitars Saturday. His audience, an intimate group of nearly 20, was largely made up of guitar enthusiasts, though a few were novices.
Several stuck around after the workshop to ask questions, including Dave Hochella of Kutztown, who plays the mandolin and fiddle along with the guitar. Hochella, who considers himself an amateur musician, was particularly impressed by the workshop and planned to go at least once more.
''Any musician, professional or not, would come to a thing like this,'' he said. ''My only regret is not bringing my guitar.''
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