Virginia Folklife Program Announces Apprenticeship Class of 2017–2018

Master candy maker Gene Williams of Chesapeake and apprentice Lee Bagley (photo by Jon Lohman/Virginia Folklife Program).

The Virginia Folklife Program at Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH) announces the 2017-2018 class of Master Artists in the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program. Master Artists are selected through a competitive process in all forms of Virginia’s expressive cultures. The ten 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.”

Introducing the 2017–2018 Master Folk Artists and their apprentices:

  • Master candy maker Gene Williams of Chesapeake and apprentice Lee Bagley
  • Master spinner and weaver Evelyn Lahman of Wythe County and apprentice Dr. Terence Michael Gilley
  • Master of logsmithing Gary Horton of Carroll County and apprentice Tommy Horton
  • Master Sephardic ballad singer Susan Gaeta of Fairfax County and apprentice Gina Sobel
  • Master of soul food cooking Christine Ingram-Murphy of Henrico County and apprentice Cheryl Maroney-Beaver
  • Master of Bolivian mesa ceremonies and rituals Julia Garcia of Arlington and apprentice Marcela Alejandra Ardaya Barron
  • Master banjo maker Greg Galbreath of Giles County and apprentice Peter Keller
  • Master fiddler Nate Leath of Rockingham County and apprentices Eli and Aila Wildman
  • Returning Master decoy carver Grayson Chesser of Accomack County and apprentices Drew Sturgis, P.G. Ross, Mark Ross, and Andy Dunton
  • Returning Master of classical Iranian and Persian music Nader Majd of Fairfax County and apprentice Ali Reza Analouei

Celebrating the completion of 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 Rogers
  • Master bluegrass fiddler and mandolinist Scott Freeman of Grayson County and master of bluegrass singing Linda Lay of Bristol and apprentice Kitty Amaral
  • Master Cambodian costume maker Sochietah Ung of Washington, D.C., and apprentices Matthew R. Regan and Lena Ouk
  • Masters 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 Logan Caine
  • Returning Master bluegrass mandolin player and composer Herschel Sizemore of Roanoke and apprentice Mike Walker

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.

Cabin Creek Boys (photo by Pat Jarrett).

On Sunday, May 7, from 12:00 to 5:00 PM, the Virginia Folklife Program at VFH will partner with James Monroe’s Highland to host the Folklife Apprenticeship Showcase at the home of James Monroe. Now in its fourteenth 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. Special guests include the Cabin Creek Boys, one of Southwest Virginia’s finest old-time bands, among many others. Featured foods include real Brunswick stew, African cuisine from Chef Ida MaMusu of Richmond, fried apple pies, and oysters shucked by world champion oyster shucking sisters, Deborah Pratt and Clementine Macon Boyd.

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