Va. Foundation for the Humanities to Host Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Showcase

August 29, 2011 — The Virginia Folklife Program at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities will present its eighth annual Folklife Apprenticeship Showcase on Sept. 11, from noon to 5 p.m. at the foundation's conference center in Charlottesville. This free 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. This year's showcase will feature masters of a wide range of traditional music styles, including banjo player Sammy Shelor, the Northern Neck Chantey Singers, performers of Persian music and shape note singers.

"I'm really excited about this year's apprenticeship teams," said Jon Lohman, the 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."

Other featured crafts include real Brunswick stew, fried apple pies, artisan cheese, draft horses, instrument makers, bluegrass and old-time music.

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

Celebrating the completion of the 2010-11 Virginia Folklife Apprenticeships:

  • Master Menhaden Chantey Singers Elton Smith Jr., Edward Taylor, William Muse, Lloyd Hill, Christopher Harvey and James U. 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 Nader Majd and apprentice Ali Analouei of Fairfax County
  • Master flatpick guitarist Steve Kilby and apprentice Leah Hall of Grayson County
  • Master instrument maker Randal Eller and apprentice Drew Plowman of Smyth County
  • Master of traditional forestry Jason Rutledge and apprentices Melanie Carrier and Adam B. Greene of Floyd County

The 2011-12 master folk artists and their apprentices:

  • Master banjo player Sammy Shelor of Patrick County and apprentice Ashley Nale
  • Master cobbler David Young and apprentice Yvonne Young of Waynesboro
  • Master of oyster aquaculture Dudley Biddlecomb of Northumberland County and apprentice Peter Hedlund
  • Master cheesemaker Gail Hobbs-Page of Albemarle County and apprentice Kyle Kilduff
  • Master shape note singers John del Re and Kelly Macklin of Clarke County and apprentices John Alexander and Diane Ober
  • Master autoharp maker and player John Hollandsworth and apprentice Sam Gleaves of  Montgomery County
  • Master Mongolian mask-maker Gankhuyag Natsag and apprentice Zanabazar Gankhuyag of Arlington County
  • Master Caribbean carnival costume-maker Earl Blake and apprentice Scotie Blake of Hampton

The Folklife Apprenticeship Showcase is free and open to the public and will take place at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, off U.S. 250 west (Ivy Road) in the Boar's Head Inn Complex. For information, call 434-924-3296 or visit

The Folklife Apprenticeship Program is funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and is an initiative of the Virginia Folklife Program, which documents, presents and supports Virginia's living cultures, traditions and folkways. For information visit

Media Contact

Tori Talbot

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities