Interview by Christian Feuerstein ’94
Jennie Knaggs ’01 is one half of the musical duo Lac La Belle, an acoustic duo from Detroit, Michigan, that juxtaposes the early decades of recorded rural American music with decaying Rustbelt aesthetic. They’ve recently released their second album, but their first as a duo, Bring On the Light. Here, Knaggs talks about how Environmental Field Program was a great introduction to touring, self-designed majors, and cabaret.
How did you hear of Antioch College?
I think it was that my mother had the book Colleges that Change Lives. I found it and was looking through, and Antioch was the one that stood out, because of the co-op program. The focus was on commitment and [being] an active person in society.
What was your major?
It was self-designed: Performing arts and community development. Theater, music, and social work.
Who were your favorite professors?
Louise Smith—she was my advisor. We had a very special relationship; knowing someone who was a creative professional. Another advisor was Steve Schwerner—he had a passion for jazz and music history.
What was your favorite co-op?
They were all memorable! And all valuable, in different ways! Somewhere in me I knew I wanted to be performing and playing music. I really wanted to learn about the world around me, not just perfect scales (scales are still important). I spent a lot of my co-ops seeing what I could do. I worked at a community radio station in Austin; I worked at a community garden in Dayton; and I taught [music]. I went to Sweden and worked with a theater troupe—I wrote a lot of songs for them.
A track from the newest Lac La Belle album.
I also did EFP [Environmental Field Program]. That has been very influential. We went to central and southern Appalachia. It was really an amazing and beautiful trip. It taught me how to work through problems. Definitely prep for the touring life! I did an independent study project about music in that region. It’s the root of American folk music.
What are your favorite memories of being on campus?
There are so many! I loved cabaret. I hosted a couple of cabarets—it was always a good time. I rode in Camelot, but I don’t know if that’s positive or negative. Since I travel a lot, I get to connect with all my Antiochian friends—it’s quite a network!
What advice would you give the current students?
That’s a tough one. Only thing I wish I had done differently was to try harder to follow my heart in choosing co-ops. I created all of them, I didn’t do a single list co-op. I wish I had done more musical-centered co-ops.
On the new album and tours:
We were a trio for a few years, but our bass player moved on to other projects. This is our first album as a duo. We just finished an international tour, and we’re hoping to play in Europe in the spring. When I’m home in Detroit, I teach voice and guitar. We just bought a house, where we hope Antiochians will come and visit!