Apprenticeship Program

The 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 is passed on in ways that are conscious of history and faithful to tradition. Since 2002, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has provided funding to support more than 100 pairs of masters and apprentices in all forms of Virginia’s traditional, expressive culture—from decoy carving to fiddle making, from boat building to quilt making, from country ham curing to old-time banjo playing, from African Merican gospel singing to Mexican folk dancing.

More about the Apprenticeship Program and how to apply »

Apprenticeship Teams

Thornton Spencer and Martha Spencer

The early song collecting journeys of folklorists informed the rest of America about the remarkable breadth of fiddle tunes in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, many of which closely resembled… Read More»

Elton Williams and Earl Sawyer

The steel drum, or “pan” as it is called in the Caribbean, was invented in Trinidad about the time of World War II. Afro-Trinidadians resourcefully crafted this musical instrument out… Read More»

John Cephas and Marc Pessar

While perhaps not as well known as the Mississippi Delta style, Virginia has long been home to its own style of blues—the Piedmont Blues. And, just as it is in… Read More»

Laura Ortiz and Ariel Hobza-Ortiz

Mexicans comprise one of the fastest-growing immigrant populations in Virginia. This emerging cultural community has already contributed a plethora of traditional folkways to the diverse tapestry of Virginia Folklife, including… Read More»

Olen Gardner and Ross Matthews

The Folklife Apprenticeship Program includes various styles of banjo playing, so it was a natural fit to add one in banjo making, along with the invaluable skill of vintage instrument… Read More»

Gerald Anderson and Spencer Strickland

Southwest Virginia has always had a rich tradition of luthiers—the builders of stringed, fretted instruments, and mandolin maker Gerald Anderson is considered among today’s true masters. Gerald spent more than… Read More»