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-American gospel singing to Mexican folk dancing.

More about the Apprenticeship Program and how to apply »

Apprenticeship Teams

Walter Messick and Chris Testerman

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,… Read More»

Jessica Canaday Stewart and Vanessa Adkins

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… Read More»

Jimmy Boyd and Jared Boyd

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… Read More»

Sammy Shelor and Ashley Nale

Enslaved Africans brought the earliest versions of the banjo to Virginia. By the nineteenth century, the banjo was America’s most popular instrument, but it was not until the 1940s when… Read More»

Emily Spencer and Kilby Spencer

The “clawhammer” banjo style is an essential aspect of “old time,” an ensemble-based, hard-driving music form that has inspired dancers across Southern Appalachia for generations. Unlike the more popularized bluegrass… Read More»

Phyllis Gaskins and Blue O’Connell

Phyllis Gaskins of Elkton, Virginia, is a master of the Galax dulcimer, an instrument distinguished from the regular mountain dulcimer in numerous ways, with four equidistant strings of the same… Read More»

Randal Eller and Drew Plowman

Southwest Virginia boasts some of the finest makers of stringed instruments in the United States. Much of this is a result of the wide-reaching influence and mentoring of the late… Read More»