Virginia Folklife Program

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

Master & Apprentice Program


The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities has announced the recipients of the 2009-2010 Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship awards.

2009-2010 Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Teams:

Master Artist: Ali Reza Analouei

  • Apprentice: Behnaz Bibizadeh
  • County: Fairfax
  • Folkway: Persian Tombak and Daf Drumming

Dr. Ali Reza Analouei, born in Esfahan, Iran, has made it the work of his life to apply the mystical traditions of Sufism and Irfan to the music he plays and teaches. He began playing the Tombak and Daf, pre-Islamic drums of Persia, at the age of ten, and as a young member of the Kakh-e Javanaan Ensemble met and performed with many prominent Persian musicians. Ali emigrated from Iran to the United States in 1986 and has since been playing and teaching Tombak throughout the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Currently a member of several music groups based in the mid-Atlantic, Ali has played internationally in many concerts and ensembles over the past two decades. His apprentice, Behnaz Bibizadeh, has been studying Tombak and Daf exclusively for many years and has herself begun teaching and inspiring many young students throughout Northern Virginia.

Master Artist: Olin David Bare

  • Apprentice: Brian Watts
  • County: Rockbridge
  • Folkway: Traditional Hunting Methods

There is a long history of traditional hunting in Rockbridge County and throughout Virginia. Olin Bare’s family traditions including hunting methods that have been faithfully handed down ever since his family settled in Virginia early in the 1800s. Olin is now passing these traditional methods on to his apprentice, Bruce Watts, including the arts of scouting hunting lands and tracking game by horseback; working with various breeds of hunting dogs; hand-crafting hunting calls using such natural materials as tortoise shells, slate, and turkey wing bones; and butchering and cooking game. Olin has become one of the most sought-after hunting guides in Rockbridge County, keeping these traditional arts vibrantly alive.

Master Artist: John Buck

  • Apprentice: James R. Lumpkins, Jr.
  • County: Pittsylvania
  • Folkway: Gunsmithing

The importation and manufacturing of firearms have been part of Virginia’s history since European settlement. The first documented firearms brought to Virginia in 1607 were muskets equipped with matchlocks, snaphances or wheel locks. Gunsmithing became an important trade in early America, first with repairs of European built guns, and later with American production. John Buck of Callands, Virginia, is recognized as a fine craftsman who produces accurate reproductions of historical firearms, specializing in seventeenth and eighteenth century matchlocks and firelocks. John builds the guns’ locks and hardware by hand, and is a skilled woodworker, often harvesting the wood for his handcrafted guns from his own farm.

Master Artist: Jay Eagle

  • Apprentice: Tyler Eagle
  • County: Highland
  • Folkway: Maple Sugaring & Syrup Making

Stunningly beautiful Highland County, Virginia is the southernmost site in the United States for the production of maple syrup, where “Sugar Camps” have traditionally been small-scale, family-run operations. The syrup-making process begins with the tapping of maple trees to collect the clear, almost tasteless sugar water. Collected in buckets or  through plastic tubing, the sap is boiled in kettles, pans, or evaporators until a barrel is finally reduced to a gallon of pure maple syrup. It is rugged work, conducted in often brutal winter conditions. The Eagle family of Doe Hill, Virginia, has been producing maple syrup from their sugar camp for more than six generations, using both traditional and more modern methods. Virginia Folklife Master Jay Eagle learned the craft from his grandfather, who tapped the family’s maple trees well into his nineties.  Now Jay is apprenticing his own grandson, Tyler Eagle, who is learning to carry on the maple-sugaring tradition.

Master Artist: Maggie L. Ingram

  • Apprentice: Cheryl Marcia Maroney-Beaver and Almeta Ingram-Miller
  • City: Richmond
  • Folkway: Traditional Gospel Storytelling and Singing

Richmond, Virginia has been recognized for generations as a “Gospel town,” with a vibrant tradition of African American gospel groups and choirs, and one of its most legendary figures is Pastor Maggie Ingram. Born July 4, 1930, on Mulholland’s Plantation in Coffee County, Georgia, Maggie worked in the cotton and tobacco fields with her parents. She began playing the piano and singing at an early age, developing a great love for the church and the ministry of the Gospel. Sister Maggie Ingram and the Ingramettes soon became a singing group sought after for appearances throughout Florida. Maggie moved her family to Richmond early in the 1960s, where she worked in the home of Oliver W. Hill Sr., the prominent civil rights attorney who had represented the Virginia plaintiffs in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case. With her children, Maggie began a prison ministry, partnering with the Mt. Gilead Baptist Church in the 1970s. The Ingramettes have since become gospel icons in Richmond and have received numerous awards, including the prestigious Virginia Heritage Award.  Maggie’s daughter, the Reverend Almeta Miller, has used her Virginia Folklife Program apprenticeship to record the story of her mother’s life.

Master Artists: Chuck and Bill Shelton

  • Apprentice: Rob Shelton
  • County: Albemarle
  • Folkway: Vintage Apple Harvesting and Cider Pressing

Thomas Jefferson experimented with eighteen or more varieties of apples at Monticello, only a few miles from the orchard faithfully tended by the Shelton family in North Garden, Virginia.  The most important use of apples in Colonial Virginia was cider, valued not so much for drinking fresh from the press as for fermenting into a wholesome beverage that could be stored and consumed year-round. “Hard” cider provided nutrients generally lacking from the American diet in the many years before refrigeration and mass transit filled our markets. The Shelton’s orchard is dedicated to exploring the varieties of apple that can thrive in Albemarle County, growing the dozen or so of those cultivars that are still extant as well as hundreds of other old-fashioned varieties. The Shelton family established Vintage Virginia Apples in 2000, and it has since grown to encompass a variety of tree fruits that are becoming increasingly rare. They have recently moved into the production of traditional hard cider, which is receiving rave reviews. The Sheltons are continuing to keep their family tradition vibrant through the apprenticeship of Chuck’s son Rob.

Master Artist: Thomas “Mac” Traynham

  • Apprentice: Robert “Bob” Browder
  • County: Floyd
  • Folkway: Old Time Banjo Making

While the first European and African settlers of Southern Appalachia carried with them a strong stringed-instrument music tradition, instruments were often difficult to acquire, leading players to be resourceful in creating their own.  The instrument-building tradition has flourished in Southwest Virginia to this day. Floyd County resident Mac Traynham built his first banjo in 1978 out of bird’s eye maple, preferring  the wood ever since for its beauty and strength. He has been influenced by such legendary regional banjo builders as Ahmet Baycu, Kyle Creed, and former Virginia Folklife Master Artist Olen Gardner. As a musician who seeks ease of playing and a superior tone, function is the primary goal of Mac’s craftsmanship, and the hallmarks of his work are a beautifully selected wooden neck and an instrument that is pleasing to hold.

The Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program

The Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program pairs an experienced master artist with an eager apprentice for a one-on-one, nine-month learning experience, in order to help ensure that a particular art form or folkway unique to Virginia is passed on in ways that are conscious of history and faithful to tradition. The nine month period of exchange already underway will culminate in a showcase at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities on September 12, 2010, when each group will share the creative and inspiring results of their apprenticeship with the public.

The apprenticeships accomplish much more than the teaching and learning of a particular craft or skill.  During the apprenticeship period, the master artist and apprentice enter into a mutually enriching relationship which is both cultural and personal, connecting to lessons and memories from the past and shared visions for the future.

The first five years of the Folklife Apprenticeship Program is chronicled in In Good Keeping: Virginia’s Folklife Apprenticeships. Written by Virginia State Folklorist Jon Lohman, with 224 pages of evocative photographs of Virginia Master folk artists and their apprentices, In Good Keeping celebrates a wide variety of folk traditions both old and new to Virginia.  Order your copy today!