Virginia's Master Folk Artists and Apprentices to Display Their Work May 9

April 30, 2009 — The Virginia Folklife Program will present its sixth annual Folklife Apprenticeship Showcase on May 9 from 1 to  5 p.m. at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities Conference Center in the Boar's Head Inn complex.

The festival, free and open to the public, will feature music, crafts and traditional skills of Virginia's "Folk Masters" and their apprentices.

The Folklife Apprenticeships pair an experienced master practitioner with an apprentice for a one-on-one, nine-month learning experience, in order to help ensure that a particular art or skill 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, from Richmond's legendary gospel singer Maggie Ingram to those showcasing musical styles newer to Virginia, such as Ethiopian Orthodox singing and Persian drumming.

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

This year's showcase will help illustrate the diverse range of folk traditions that still thrive throughout the Commonwealth. Oyster shucking from the Northern Neck will be displayed beside traditional equine leatherwork from Southwest Virginia. Master practitioners of maple syrup making from Highland County will demonstrate their craft alongside apple cider makers from Albemarle County.

This Year's Participants
Those completing the 2007-2008 Virginia Folklife Apprenticeships

•    Old-time fiddler Mark Campbell and apprentice Barrow Wheary of Richmond
•    Appalachian storyteller Kathy Coleman and apprentice Callie McCarty of Albemarle County, originally Wise County
•    Traditional Appalachian cook Frances Davis and apprentice Annie Elaine James of Franklin County
•    Oyster shucking champion Deborah Pratt and apprentice Teddy Bagby of Middlesex County
•    Brickwork master Jimmy Price and apprentice Alex Handley of Amherst County
•    Alfombra (Guatemalan sawdust carpet) artist Ubaldo Sanchez and apprentice Jorge Cabrera of Arlington
•    Ethiopian Church worship singer Moges Seyoum and apprentice Bililign Mandefro of Alexandria
•    Traditional leatherwork master Danny Wingate and apprentice Matthew Todd of Grayson County

2009-10 master folk artists and their apprentices

•    Master old-time banjo maker Mac Traynham and apprentice Robert Browder, Grayson County
•    Master gospel singer Maggie Ingram and "The Ingramettes" of Richmond
•    Master Persian drummer Ali Analouei and apprentice Behnaz Bibizadeh, 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 Nelson County
•    Master traditional hunter Olin Bare and apprentice Brian Watts of Rockbridge County

The master artists were selected from an open competition for applicants in all forms of Virginia's traditional, expressive culture – from flat-foot dancing to mandolin making, from basket making to quilt stitching, from country ham curing to old-time banjo 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. 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 May and ending in February. Apprenticeship teams demonstrate their skills at the Apprenticeship Showcase and share the creative results of the apprenticeship at the showcase the following year.

The Folklife Apprenticeship Program is an important initiative of the Virginia Folklife Program, which documents, presents and supports Virginia's living cultures, traditions and folkways. It is part 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 apprenticeship program, see the Web site at

— By Anne Bromley