Virginia Folklife Program

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

Master & Apprentice Program


Master: Wayne Henderson
Apprentice: Jayne Henderson
Folkway: Guitar Making
County: Grayson

Wayne Henderson was born, raised and still lives in tiny Rugby, Virginia in Grayson County. He built his first guitar using traced patterns and the wood from the bottom of a dresser drawer. More than four hundred guitars later, Henderson is considered one of the most extraordinary instrument makers in the world. He learned much of what he knows from the legendary Albert Hash, an old-time musician and instrument maker who lived a few miles away. In 1995 Wayne received the National Heritage Fellowship, the nation’s greatest honor for those who practice traditional arts. He has performed throughout the United States and the world, taking first place 13 times in the Galax Fiddler’s Convention guitar competition, and is honored annually by friends and neighbors at the Wayne C. Henderson Music Festival and Guitar Competition. Wayne will teach his daughter Jayne the fine art of guitar making. In just a few years working with her father, she has already begun crafting instruments worthy of the Henderson name.

Master: Gaye Adegbalola
Apprentice: Lorie Strother
Folkway: Blues Singing
City: Fredericksburg

The blues is a name given to both a musical form and a genre of music that originated in African American communities of the United States toward the end of the nineteenth century. It is a deeply soulful music rooted in spirituals, jazz, work songs, field hollers, shouts, and rhymed narrative ballads. Virginia has made tremendous contributions to American blues music with such legendary artists as Ruth Brown, Pearl Bailey, John Jackson, and John Cephas, among many others. Gaye Adegbalola of Fredericksburg is one of Virginia’s, and the nation’s, master torch bearers of this musical craft. As a founding member of the award-winning all-woman blues band Saffire: The Uppity Blues Women, and in her solo career, Gaye’s singing and guitar and harmonica playing have delighted audiences across the globe. As well as being an acclaimed performer, Gaye taught in the Fredericksburg Public Schools for 18 years, where she was recognized as Virginia’s Teacher of the Year. No doubt she will put both her musical and teaching skills to great use in working with her gifted apprentice, Lorie Strother.

Master Jimmy Boyd
Apprentice Jared Boyd
Folkway Clawhammer Banjo and Moonshine Stories
County Franklin

The “clawhammer” banjo style is an essential aspect of “old time,” an ensemble-based, hard-driving music form which has inspired dancers across Southern Appalachia for generations. Unlike the more popularized bluegrass style which moves the banjo into the forefront, the clawhammer technique essentially turns the banjo into a rhythm instrument, with the player’s thumbs bouncing off the short fifth string and stroking down on the others. Jimmy Boyd, of Franklin County, Virginia, is a true master of this playing style. Jimmy grew up in a family of old time music players, including the legendary Uncle Charlie Boyd (who was buried with his fiddle). In 1981 Jimmy and his brother Billy Boyd founded the Dry Hill Draggers, who remain one of the most beloved old time bands in Virginia. Along with old time music, Franklin County has been known historically for the manufacturing and distribution of “moonshine,” or homemade corn liquor. Jimmy is well versed in this craft as well. He will be teaching his promising young grandson, musician Jared Boyd, the tricks of the clawhammer banjo, and passing along some of the legendary stories and history of Franklin County’s other trade.

Master Jessica Canaday Stewart
Apprentice Vanessa Adkins
Folkway Chickahominy Dance
County Charles City

The Chickahominy Tribe, currently the second largest tribe in Virginia, is based primarily in Charles City County. Because of their historic proximity to Jamestown, members of the autonomous Algonquin-speaking Chickahominy Tribe were among the very first native Virginians to encounter Europeans upon their arrival in the beginning of the seventeenth century. The Chickahominy host numerous cultural events, most prominently the annual Fall Festival and Powwow which features resurgent and vibrant forms of Indian dance. Jessica Canaday Stewart grew up watching her aunt dance traditional Chickahominy dances across the powwow circuit. Unlike many of her young friends who gravitated toward the contemporary powwow dance styles known as “jingles” or “fancy dances,” Jessie dedicated herself to mastering the traditional Chickahominy dances of her ancestors. At 26, she has already been named “Miss Chickahominy” five times, representing the tribe as a dancer at powwows across the East coast. The youngest Master Artist ever to participate in the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program, Jessie will be apprenticing her young cousin, Vanessa Adkins, who, much like Jessie as a young teenager, is eager to learn to dance in the true Chickahominy tradition.

Master Walter Messick
Apprentice Chris Testerman
Folkway Dulcimer Making
County Grayson

The hills of Grayson County, encompassing the small mountain communities around Mt. Rogers, are a veritable hotbed of luthiers—builders of fretted, stringed instruments. Some of America’s finest guitars, mandolins, fiddles, autoharps, and dulcimers are built in this part of Virginia. The amazing instrument building tradition of this region can be traced largely to one man, the late Albert Hash, a gifted craftsman, fiddler, and generous soul who taught fiddle and guitar making to many of the area’s premiere artists. These include many current or former Master Artists in our Apprenticeship Program, such as Wayne Henderson, Gerald Anderson, Audrey Hash Ham, and now Walter Messick, of Whitetop, Virginia. Walter studied with Albert during his final years, and since has become a true master builder of the mountain dulcimer, also known as the lap or Appalachian dulcimer. Belonging to the family of instruments known as zithers, the mountain dulcimer is believed to have been in existence in Southwest Virginia since the nineteenth century. Walter specializes in the hour-glass shaped dulcimer, modeled after various versions he has studied from the late nineteenth century. His apprentice is the gifted fiddler and promising young luthier Chris Testerman.

Master Garrett Queen
Apprentice Lana Lambert
Folkway Job-shop Letterpress Printing
City Charlottesville

Prior to the advent of photocopiers, short run quick print, email, and “social media,” the local letterpress (job-shop) was the primary producer of the vast majority of materials for mass communication.  “The printer was a necessary actor in any number of community actions—from church bulletins to wedding announcements to commercial advertisements,” explains Master Job-shop Letterpress Printer Garrett Queen. “The job-shop was responsible for the printing of a wide swath of social interactions that escaped the threshold of journalism.” Garrett was first exposed to traditional printing techniques in high school, when he had the unique opportunity to apprentice with some of the last of the true trade/job printers on a Vandercook letterpress. For the past fifty years, Garrett has continued to work at mastering a process that was in many respects perfected in the 1450s. Thanks to him and to others devoted to the perpetuation of the craft, it continues to thrive today. For the past several years, Garrett has been the Program Coordinator and Printer in Residence at the VFH’s own Virginia Arts of the Book Center (VABC), where he has been an invaluable resource to many who have come to learn the craft, including his gifted apprentice Lana Lambert.

Master Harold Mitchell
Apprentice Dale Morris
Folkway Instrument Contest Emceeing
City Galax

If you have attended the Galax Old Fiddler’s Convention any time in the last forty years, you will quickly recognize the familiar voice of Galax native Harold Mitchell. Always impeccably dressed, donning a white cowboy hat, Harold has served as the instrument contest emcee at Galax since 1972. Even before he began emceeing, Harold’s voice was long familiar to locals as the regular deejay at WHHV radio in neighboring Hillsville, spinning the records of Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, and other founding fathers of bluegrass. He has emceed countless musical performances in and around Galax, ever since introducing his first artist, the great Charlie Monroe, some fifty years ago. Harold remains the gold standard of emcees against which all others are judged. He will work with Dale Morris of Elk Creek, a fine banjo and guitar player and member of the Wolfe Brothers String Band.

Master Wallace Gusler
Apprentice Bruce Larson
Folkway Gunsmithing
City Williamsburg

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. A self-taught gunsmith inspired by a passionate interest in Virginia’s frontier, Wallace Gusler first made a percussion pistol at age 14, when reconstructing a historic firearm held far more fascination than going to school. A decade later Wallace was the first artisan in modern times to recreate all of the processes involved in making an eighteenth-century longrifle, including forging the barrel. He established the Gunsmith Shop at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, where he worked as a Master Gunsmith, curator, and in other capacities during his 41-year career. Wallace is a prodigious author of books and articles on the history and craft of gunsmithing, and is viewed by his peers and by collectors as one of the finest craftsmen and scholars of gunsmithing in the nation. Wallace will apprentice Bruce Larson, himself an accomplished gunsmith.

Master David Conroy
Apprentice Mark Smith
Folkway Stone Masonry
County Montgomery

The craft of stone masonry has existed for thousands of years, a building art in which structures are created by shaping rough pieces of rock into accurate geometrical forms. David Conroy, of Pilot, Virginia, has been mastering the craft of stone masonry for nearly thirty years. David came to the craft through his work as a truck driver for a local independent stone mason. David showed an immediate talent for masonry, and what was originally a truck driving gig became an extensive apprenticeship, during which he learned all aspects of the trade, including building new structures and assisting on historic restorations. David is now the owner of Stone Age Masonry in Pilot. His work, often constructed from limestone or sandstone, can be seen throughout Southwest Virginia, and includes the recent ambitious restoration of the foundation of a two-hundred-year-old barn at the Blue Ridge Institute Farm Museum in Ferrum. He will work with Mark Smith of Dublin, Virginia.