Virginia Folklife Program

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

Master & Apprentice Program


Master: Flory Jagoda
Apprentice: Aviva Chernick
Folkway: Sephardic Jewish Ballad Singing
City: Alexandria

Flory Jagoda was born in 1925 in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and was raised in the city’s Sephardic Jewish community. When the Sephardic Jews were forced into exile from Spain and Portugal in the fifteenth century, many settled in other Mediterranean countries but preserved their native language, called Ladino. Through her grandmother, Jagoda learned songs that had been passed down in her family for generations. She also became familiar with the region’s Balkan cultural traditions. Flory escaped the destruction of Sarajevo’s Jewish community and immigrated to the United States after World War II. She has been recognized as a critically important carrier of a unique musical heritage and also as a composer and arranger of new Sephardic songs. Her composition “Ocho Kandalikas” (“Eight Candles”) has become an international anthem of Hanukkah. In addition to teaching the Sephardic musical tradition to her children, she has taught many students who now perform Ladino music. Today, she tours widely and her music is circulated through recordings and in The Flory Jagoda Songbook. Flory’s performances are distinctive not only for their musical beauty, but also because of her commitment to finding meaning through affirmation of community in her personal experience. Flory was one of the first Master Artists in the Apprenticeship program, sharing her songs and stories with local performing artist Susan Gaeta. Now, a decade later, she has generously decided to take on another promising student, international recording artist Aviva Chernick.

pendletonsMaster: Buddy Pendleton
Apprentice: Aila Wildman
Folkway: Bluegrass Fiddle
County: Patrick

Buddy Pendleton is one of the true pioneers of bluegrass fiddling, having performed as a young man with Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys. In the 1970s, Buddy won the prestigious first-place fiddle prize at the Union Grove Fiddlers’ Convention, commonly considered the world championship of fiddling, five consecutive times, an unprecedented feat. In addition to his work with Monroe, Buddy has played with the legendary Greenbriar Boys and the Highlanders, a Galax band featuring Bobby Patterson and Willard Gayheart, and toured briefly with legendary folk singer Joan Baez. Buddy chose to abandon the life of a touring musician in order to spend more time with his family in Woolwine, where he recently retired from his job as a rural mail carrier. Buddy is a returning participant in the Apprenticeship Program, having apprenticed fiddle prodigy Montana Young, then eleven years old, who has since become one of the finest fiddlers of her generation. Now, a decade later, Buddy will work with another gifted young fiddler, Aila Wildman. Like Montana at the time of her apprenticeship, Aila is eleven, but she already leads her own bluegrass band, the Blackberries, based in Floyd County.

Master: Cheryl Marcia MaroneyFamily of Praise Gospel Choir
Apprentice: Robinette D. Cross
Folkway: Traditional Gospel Choir
City: Richmond

Many forms of traditional music in Virginia have risen from the church, and the Apprenticeship Program has featured many different styles of gospel singing, including Tidewater gospel singing, Old Regular Baptist hymn singing, and shape-note singing. Much of gospel music, a uniquely American style of religious song, can trace its roots to African American spirituals. While we have featured African American a cappella singers, a United House of Prayer shout band, and small family groups, we have never featured a full gospel choir, arguably the most dominant form of gospel in urban areas. Cheryl Maroney, granddaughter of Richmond gospel legend Maggie Ingram and member of the much-beloved Ingramettes, formed the Family of Praise Gospel Choir in 2012. They have been rocking the house and spreading the gospel ever since. Cheryl, known for her energy and enthusiasm on stage, will apprentice member Robinette Cross.

Master: Jim KingJIm King
Apprentice: Jackson Cunningham
Folkway: Bee Keeping
County: Smyth

Beekeeping is the care of honeybee colonies, commonly in hives, to stimulate crop pollination and to ensure the production of honey and other hive products, including beeswax, propolis, and royal jelly. The first honeybees in America were likely shipped to Virginia from England in the early seventeenth century. While methods and equipment have evolved (the movable comb hive, for example, facilitates bee handling), beekeeping remains a vital branch of agriculture. In recent years, colony collapse disorder (CCD)—the mysterious disappearance of bee colonies—has threatened the survival of the honeybee. Between 2011 and 2012, the honeybee population in the United States reportedly decreased by a staggering 22 percent. CCD has had a significant impact on the commercial beekeeping industry as well. An estimated 10 million beehives, each worth about 200 dollars, have disappeared since 2006—a total loss of 2 billion dollars. This and other factors make beekeeping, often practiced at home, more important than ever. This year, master beekeeper Jim King of Chilhowie—who learned beekeeping from his grandfather and has practiced it ever since—has taken on local musician, fiddle maker, and honey enthusiast Jackson Cunningham as his apprentice.

Master: Francisca Ramirez AcostaFrancisca Garza and Laura Ortiz
Apprentice: Laura Ortiz
Folkway: Mole Sauce Making
City: Arlington

The word mole can refer to any of a number of richly flavored sauces traditionally used in Mexican cuisine, or to dishes based on these sauces. Varieties of mole include black, red, yellow, Colorado, green, almendrado, and pipián. Modern mole is composed of ingredients from North America, Europe, and Africa, making it the first international dish created in the Americas. Traditional mole is notoriously time-consuming and labor-intensive to make. According to master mole maker Francisca Ramirez Acosta, the making of mole most often signifies the coming of a “convive”—a special gathering of family, friends, and neighbors—yet, she adds, “just making the mole makes it a special occasion in itself!” Francisca is from the state of Aguascalientes, Mexico, and came to Arlington about fifteen years ago to be closer to her children. She learned to cook from her mother and other women in her small town, and estimates that she has been making mole for more than forty years. Her apprentice is Laura Ortiz, who previously participated in our program as a master of Mexican folkloric dancing. Laura is eager to learn the subtleties of this cherished Mexican foodway.

Master: Danny WingateDanny Wingate
Apprentice: Sam Linkous
Folkway: Traditional Green Woodworking/Farm Implement Construction
County: Grayson

Appalachia, a region that includes Southwest Virginia, could arguably be called America’s first frontier. As early as the eighteenth century, European settlements began to expand west, with many colonists making their homes in Appalachia and its neighboring mountain ranges. Those settlers worked the land with traditional farm implements and hand tools they made themselves from local wood, employing both woodworking and blacksmithing techniques. Danny Wingate, of Elk Creek in rural Grayson County, is a longtime practitioner of the technique of wooden tool making, along with other traditional mountain crafts, such as axe-split shingle making and leatherwork. A regular demonstrator at the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Danny attends to his craft with great expertise and unceasing enthusiasm. He will be sharing his skills with Sam Linkous, a blacksmith who is particularly interested in greenwood joinery.

Master: Sharon TindallSharon Tindall and Nancy Chilton
Apprentice: Nancy Chilton
Folkway: Quilt Making
County: Fairfax

Quilting, a method of sewing together two or more layers of material to make a thicker material, has been practiced for thousands of years. While the term “quilting” technically refers to the technique of sewing often-intricate patterns that hold quilt layers together, it is more commonly understood to include all stages of making a quilt, including design and patchwork. Originally a craft born out of necessity, quilting has become a thriving art form and often an integral part of creating and maintaining social networks and community. Sharon Tindall, of Centerville, has more than thirty years of sewing experience and has been making quilts for more than twenty years. Tindall specializes in early African American quilt patterns and in working with fabrics that are not typically used in quilting, such as Malian mud cloth—woven cotton fabric dyed by Bamana women using a process that uses tree leaves, teas, and mud. Sharon will share her talents and historical knowledge with promising quilter Nancy Chilton, of Fairfax.

Master: Sean SamoheylSean Samoheyl
Apprentice: David L. Rogers
Folkway: Traditional Chair Making
County: Lousia

Sean Samoheyl is a resident of the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa County—an intentional community founded on the principles of egalitarianism and sustainability. One of numerous intentional communities created in rural Virginia during the back-to-the-land movement of the 1960s and 1970s, Twin Oaks residents reject the throwaway consumer culture prevalent in America for a more subsistence-based style of living. It was this philosophical grounding in part that led Sean Samoheyl to pursue the craft of chair making in addition to other traditional building skills. To both learn and hone his craft, Sean sought the guidance of elder masters in the region. In a relatively short period of time, Sean has become a first-rate craftsman, recognized both within and outside of the Twin Oaks community as a master of his craft. David Rogers, an aspiring woodworker from Winchester, is eager to work as Sean’s apprentice.