Showcase Highlights Year's Work of Virginia Folklife Masters and Apprentices

August 17, 2010

August 17, 2010 — The Virginia Folklife Program will present its seventh annual Folklife Apprenticeship Showcase on Sept. 12, from noon to 5 p.m. at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities Conference Center.

The one-day festival will feature the music, crafts and traditional skills of Virginia's "Folk Masters" and their apprentices. The Folklife Apprenticeships pair an experienced master artist with an apprentice for a one-on-one, nine-month learning experience, in order to help ensure that a particular art form is passed on in ways that are conscious of history and faithful to tradition.

The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities is at 145 Ednam Drive, Charlottesville, one mile from U.S. 29-US. 250 Bypass, just off Ivy Road and U.S. 250 West, in the Boar's Head Inn complex.

This year's showcase will feature masters of a wide range of traditional music styles, including Richmond's legendary gospel singers Maggie Ingram and the Ingramettes, the Northern Neck Chantey Singers and the Whitetop Mountain Band.

"I'm really excited about this year's apprenticeship teams," said Jon Lohman, director of the Virginia Folklife Program. "We're working with incredibly accomplished musicians and craftsmen and -women who all wish to pass along these vitally important art forms to their apprentices."

This year's showcase will illustrate the diverse range of folk traditions that thrive throughout the Commonwealth. Draft horses will perform traditional forest logging in the parking lot alongside a demonstration of traditional instruments made in Southwest Virginia. Master practitioners of maple syrup-making from Highland County will demonstrate their craft beside apple cider makers from Albemarle County. 

A list of the participants in this year's showcase attests to the range and diversity of folk traditions in Virginia:

•    Master old-time banjo-maker Mac Traynham and apprentice Robert Browder of Floyd County
•    Master gospel singer Maggie Ingram and the Ingramettes of Richmond
•    Master Persian drummer Ali Analouei and apprentice Behnaz Bibizadeh of Fairfax County
•    Master gunsmith John Buck and apprentice James Lumpkins of Pittsylvania County
•    Master maple syrup-maker Jay Eagle and apprentice Tyler Eagle of Highland County
•    Master apple cider-makers Chuck and Bill Shelton and apprentice Rob Shelton of Albemarle County
•    Master traditional hunter Olin Bare and apprentice Brian Watts of Rockbridge County

The 2010-11 master folk artists are:

•    Master menhaden chantey singers Elton Smith Jr., Edward Taylor, William Muse, Lloyd Hill, and James Carter and apprentice Lewis R. Blackwell Jr. of King and Queen County
•    Master clawhammer banjo player Emily Spencer and apprentices Amanda and Kilby Spencer of Grayson County
•    Master of Galax-style dulcimer Phyllis Gaskins and apprentice Blue O'Connell of Rockingham County
•    Master grist miller Bill Savage and apprentice Bob Savage of Accomack County
•    Master of Persian classical music Majd Nader and apprentice Ali Analouei of Fairfax County
•    Master flatpick guitarist Steve Kilby and apprentice Leah Hall of Grayson County
•    Master instrument-maker Randall Eller and apprentice Jonathan Plowman of Smyth County
•    Master of traditional forestry Jason Rutledge and apprentices Melanie Carrier and Adam B. Greene of Floyd County

The master artists were selected from an open competition for applicants in all forms of Virginia's traditional, expressive culture – from flatfooting to mandolin-making, from basket-making to quilt stitching, from country ham curing to old-time fiddle playing. The apprenticeships also feature folk traditions newer to Virginia, from Mexican folk dancing to Indian Tabla drumming.

"Apprenticeships accomplish more than the teaching and learning of a particular craft or skill," Lohman said. "During the duration of the apprenticeship period, the master artist and apprentice enter into a mutually enriching relationship, both cultural and personal, connecting to lessons and memories from the past and shared visions for the future." 

Folklife apprenticeships are awarded for nine months, starting in September and ending in May.  Apprenticeship teams demonstrate their skills at the showcase, and will share the creative results of the apprenticeship at the showcase the following year.

The Folklife Apprenticeship Program is an initiative of the Virginia Folklife Program, which documents, presents and supports Virginia's living cultures, traditions and folkways.

The Virginia Folklife Program is a program of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, a statewide organization created in 1974 to enhance the civic, cultural and intellectual life of the Commonwealth by creating learning opportunities for all Virginians.

For more on the Folklife Program, visit

About the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

Based in Charlottesville at the University of Virginia, the foundation is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the humanities, and to using the humanities to address issues of broad public concern. In all of its programs, the foundation works to make scholarship accessible; to promote understanding and discussion of enduring and contemporary issues; and to broaden the range of educational opportunities available to all Virginians.