Virginia Folklife Program Announces Apprenticeship Class of 2016–2017

The Virginia Folklife Program at Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH) announces the 2016-2017 class of Master Artists in the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program. Master Artists are selected through a competitive process that includes all forms of Virginia’s expressive cultures. The nine new teams join more than one hundred pairs of masters and apprentices who have taken part in the Apprenticeship Program since its inception in 2002.

“Through this unique program, we work with incredibly accomplished musicians and craftspeople who are dedicated to passing along vitally important art forms to future generations,” said Jon Lohman, State Folklorist and director of the Virginia Folklife Program. “Participants in this year’s showcase exemplify the remarkable range and diversity of folk traditions in Virginia.”

Master Cambodian costume maker Sochietah Ung, photo courtesy the artist.
Master Cambodian costume maker Sochietah Ung, photo courtesy the artist.

Introducing the 2016–2017 Master Folk Artists and their apprentices:

  • Master songwriter David Via of Patrick County and apprentice Mason Via
  • Master papier-mâché sculptor “Mama Girl” Onley of Accomack County and apprentice David Onley
  • Master bluegrass fiddler and mandolinist Scott Freeman of Grayson County and apprentice Kitty Amaral
  • Master Cambodian costume maker Sochietah Ung of Washington, D.C., and apprentices Lena Ouk and Matthew R. Regan
  • Master square dance callers Eugene and Ellen Ratcliffe of Highland County and apprentice Hannah Johnson
  • Master old time duet singer Linda Kay Justice of Wythe County and apprentice Helen White
  • Master of Hindustani vocal traditions Humayun Khan of Fairfax county and apprentice Ved Sheth
  • Master of traditional photographic methods Richard Pippin of Staunton and apprentices Melissa Jones and Zoe Bearinger
  • Master hotdog purveyor Joey Mirabile of Richmond and apprentice Joey Mirabile Jr.
  • Returning master bluegrass mandolin player and composer Herschel Sizemore of Roanoke and apprentice Mike Walker
Master Eastern Shore papier-mâché sculptor “Mama Girl” Onley, photo by Pat Jarrett.photographed in her Painter, Virginia studio on the Eastern Shore on 5/25/14. Pat Jarrett/Virginia Folklife Program
Master Eastern Shore papier-mâché sculptor “Mama Girl” Onley, photo by Pat Jarrett.photographed in her Painter, Virginia studio on the Eastern Shore on 5/25/14.
Pat Jarrett/Virginia Folklife Program

Celebrating the completion of the 2015–2016 Master Folk Artists and their apprentices:

  • Master blues and gospel performer Sherman Holmes of Middlesex County and apprentice Whitney Nelson
  • Master bluegrass fiddler Billy Baker of Norton and apprentice Jack Hinshelwood
  • Master of accordion making and restoration Dale Wise of Orange County and apprentice Lori Sallade
  • Master blacksmith Rick Green of Franklin County and apprentice Jon Butler
  • Master salt maker Jim Bordwine of Saltville and apprentice Baron Bordwine
  • Master mandolin player Danny Knicely of Loudoun County and apprentice Jack Dunlap
  • Master balalaika player Andrei Saveliev of Fairfax and apprentice Aaron G. Mott

The Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program pairs experienced Master Artists with gifted apprentices for one-on-one, nine-month learning experiences, ensuring that art forms are passed on in ways that are conscious of history and faithful to tradition. More than workshops or lessons, apprenticeship learning takes place in the art forms’ traditional contexts, calling upon the complete engagement of the senses and contextualizing the practices within the larger cultural landscape.

Master songwriter David Via with apprentice and son Mason Via, photo courtesy the artists.
Master songwriter David Via with apprentice and son Mason Via, photo courtesy the artists.

On Sunday, May 15, from 12:00 to 5:00 PM, VFH will partner with Ash Lawn-Highland to host the Folklife Apprenticeship Showcase at Ash Lawn-Highland, the Home of James Monroe. Now in its thirteenth year, the showcase is a FREE, family-friendly event that celebrates the traditional music, crafts, and foodways of Virginia, introducing the public to the Master Artists and apprentices who keep the traditions alive. This year’s audience will enjoy more than ten live musical performances and a dazzling display of engaging demonstrations. Performers include National Heritage Fellow Sherman Holmes, the last remaining living member of The Holmes Brothers, and bluegrass performers Danny Knicely and Billy Baker, among many others. Featured crafts include real Brunswick stew, salt making, fried apple pies, and an oyster shucking competition.

The Apprenticeship Showcase is sponsored by

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