Virginia Folklife Program

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

Master & Apprentice Program


Master Artist: Buddy Pendleton
Apprentice: Montana Young
County: Patrick
Folkway: Bluegrass Fiddle

Buddy Pendleton, of Patrick County has lived a life in bluegrass music. Buddy is one of the true pioneers of the genre, having played fiddle as a young man for Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys. During the 1970s, Buddy held the distinction of winning the prestigious first-place fiddle prize at the Union Grove Fiddlers Convention, commonly considered the “world championship” of fiddling, an unprecedented five times. In addition to his work with Monroe, Buddy played with the legendary Greenbriar Boys, Larry Richardson and Red Barker, and the Highlanders, a Galax band featuring Bobby Patterson and Willard Gayheart. Buddy chose to leave show business in order to spend more time with his family in Woolwine, where he now works as a rural mail carrier. Buddy’s apprentice is Montana Young, who at the tender age of ten has already won numerous fiddling contests including the Youth Fiddle Championship this past summer at the Fries Fiddlers Convention.

Listen to recordings of Buddy Pendleton and Montana Young in the Crooked Road CD series.

Master Artist: Ganell Marshall
Apprentice: Sarah Mullins
County: Wise
Folkway: Cornshuck Doll Making

A version of corn shuck doll making was likely first introduced to settlers in Southwest Virginia by Native Americans, though it was also a staple craft of early Mission Schools in the region. Cornshuckery resonated with many Appalachians, as they had already grown accustomed to creating much of their clothing, tools, and even toys by hand. Relying on a family heritage of traditional skills such as woodworking, spinning, weaving, and stitchery, Ganell Marshall has been using native materials to create cornshuck dolls and appleheaded cornshuck dolls for over forty years. Ganell has known her apprentice Sarah Mullins since she was a young girl, and the two have worked together with the shucks during school workshops. Sarah is excited to study the craft more closely with Ganell, so that she may one day master the tradition and sell her own wares.

Master Artist: John D. Clary
Apprentice: Chiles Cridlin
County: Brunswick
Folkway: Brunswick Stew

What began, according to area legend, as a communal meal prepared for a hunting expedition on the banks of the Nottoway River in 1828, the cooking of Brunswick Stew has since become a time-honored tradition—a staple at community gatherings, a source of regional pride, the focus of spirited competition, and a true Virginia culinary art. Recipes for stews, which are prepared to feed hundreds of people from one pot, are guarded vigilantly. Stew chefs traditionally apprenticed with “Stewmasters,” a title that takes years to attain. John D. Clary began helping cook Brunswick stew under the watchful eye of Stewmaster McGuire Thomas when he joined the Lawrenceville Volunteer Fire Dept. in the fall of 1973, and eventually ascended to the level of Stewmaster in 1988. John has been an avid participant in the “Stew Wars” with Brunswick, Georgia, which also asserts a claim to the stew’s origin. John’s crew has won numerous cook-offs in Brunswick County over the years, and he is the president of the Brunswick Stewmasters Association. John continues to cook for the Fire Department, the local Lions Club, Virginia Tech Athletic Dept., and the Capitol and State Fair in Richmond, where he met his apprentice, Chiles Cridlin.

Listen to the VFH Radio story on Brunswick Stew Making:

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Master Artist: Spencer Moore
Apprentice: Ben Moore, Jr.
County: Smyth
Folkway: Appalachian Song

When the late folklorist Alan Lomax set out on his now infamous “Southern Journey” in 1959, he stopped in Chilhowie, Virginia to record a tobacco farmer named Spencer Moore. Spencer was quite well known locally for his weekly appearances on the “Farm Fun Time” radio program out of Bristol, and for his spirited singing and guitar playing. Spencer enthralled Lomax with his playing, and with the sheer breadth of his repertoire. Spencer still lives in Chilhowie, and while he no longer farms tobacco, he plays regularly at weekly jams and dances throughout the region. No one can say for sure how many songs Spencer Moore knows, but suffice it to say that it is well into the thousands. Many of these songs are not written down or recorded, making Spencer’s apprenticeship with his great-nephew, Ben Moore, Jr. even that more significant.

Master Artist: William “Larry” Counts
Apprentice: Dee Puckett
County: Russell
Folkway: Broom Making

Broom making has enjoyed a long history in Appalachia and throughout Virginia. Initially, brooms were made primarily as a home craft, and then later became a vibrant cottage industry. Broom Makers set up shops in towns throughout Virginia, and it was quite common to see “broom corn” hanging to dry in homes and shops throughout the region. William “Larry” Counts has been making brooms for over 35 years, and has become a popular fixture at area music and craft festivals. Larry’s work is quickly recognizable by the distinctive face he carves into his brooms’ handles. Over the years, Larry has sought to pay back the older masters who taught him this time-honored craft by teaching his techniques to others. Larry has had several students over the years, but is particularly encouraged by the enthusiasm of his apprentice, Dee Puckett .

Master Artist: Asha Vattikuti
Apprentice: Janhavi Kirtane
County: Arlington
Folkway: Kathak (North Indian) Dancing

Kathak Dance is an ancient story-telling dance form, originally performed by bards to narrate the stories of Gods and Goddesses in the temples of Northern India. Asha Vattikuti has spent a lifetime working and studying the art of Kathak dance, having first learned it from leading Kathak masters as a child in India. She has been teaching Kathak for the past 20 years, first in Detroit, MI, and currently in Northern Virginia, and has trained several young dancers to the professional level. Asha has performed, both as a solo dancer and with her troupe, extensively in India, USA and Canada. She has also produced and choreographed several dance productions of Kathak with many of the leading dancers of India. Asha’s apprentice, Janhavi Kirtane, has been studying dance since her childhood, and hopes to one day teach the Kathak tradition to others.

Master Artist: Penny Stilwell
Apprentice: D. Gail Lawrence
County: Wythe
Folkway: Canning

Born out of necessity long before refrigeration, “canning,” the process of preserving traditional jams, jellies, relishes, and pickles by hand has been elevated by master canners such as Penny Stilwell into an art form. Canning has been nothing short of a way of life for Penny since she was 6 years old. Penny cans “everything,” from beets to okra, from apple butter to roasted tomatoes. Because most of her recipes are housed solely in her head, Penny hopes to teach her daughter and apprentice D. Gail Lawrence many of her unrecorded recipes, and share some of her most cherished canning secrets.

Master Artist: Mildred Moore
Apprentice: Bonnie Sears
County: King William
Folkway: Powhatan Blackware Pottery

The Pamunkey Indian potters have been creating their distinctive blackware pottery since before the first contact with Europeans in 1607. Born and raised on the Pamunkey Indian Reservation, Mildred Moore learned the art of traditional Powhatan Blackware as a child from the Elder Woman at the pottery school. Mildred is now one of the few elder women still practicing this important tradition. She will teach her apprentice Bonnie Sears to make the pottery using the hand-coil method where no pottery wheels are used. The women will dig their clay from a vein in the Pamunkey River that has been used for centuries, process the clay using burnt mussels shells, and work the clay into vessels that can be used as pots of various sizes.

Master Artist: Joe Ayers
Apprentice: Patrick Hester
County: Fluvanna
Folkway: Classic Banjo

Joe Ayers has literally rewritten the history books regarding the development of the banjo in America. His five-volume audio recording series, “Early Banjo Classics,” which covers the period of 1851-1868, is considered by many to be the most comprehensive anthology of early banjo music ever produced. Joe’s rediscovery of mid-nineteenth century banjo instructional books shook up the banjo world and has provided the most accurate depiction of the true sound of early banjo, in particular the down-stroke “Classic Banjo Style” of the Virginia Tidewater. This style, deeply rooted in Africa, preceded the more familiar “clawhammer” style of the Appalachian region. It is this classic style that he will teach to his young apprentice, Patrick Hester. Through his apprenticeship with Joe, Patrick, a dedicated Civil War re-enactor, will help to pass along this nearly forgotten early banjo method.