Posts Tagged With: folk art apprenticeships

The dulcimer gets its due

The Homer Ledford Dulcimer Festival kicks off this weekend, Aug. 29-30. Then, get ready for the Hindman Dulcimer Homecoming, Nov. 6-9. What is all this festivity about, you say?

As stringed instruments go, the Appalachian mountain dulcimer is a recent development. The curvy, wooden instruments designed to rest on the player’s lap emerged in 19th-century Appalachia, borrowing characteristics from older European instruments. The dulcimer’s visual and tonal beauty, ease of tuning, portability and durability made it a popular vehicle for musical expression throughout the region. Kentucky has been a dulcimer hub thanks largely to the late-1800s dulcimer patriarch Uncle Ed Thomas of Knott County, and the 20th century’s innovative and influential Homer Ledford of Winchester. Today, enthusiastic communities of dulcimer players and listeners exist all around the world.

Master luthier Doug Naselroad just completed a Kentucky Arts Council Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship, teaching apprentice Mike Slone the techniques and culture behind dulcimer building.

Sit back a few minutes with this video and hear their story about discovering their personal connections to dulcimer history, and how their work together over the last year is having a big impact on Kentucky communities.

Mark Brown, folk and traditional arts program director

Categories: Folk and Traditional Arts | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Put this on your Market to-do list

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Typical Market checklist

When you go to Kentucky Crafted: The Market – because you are going, right? – you will encounter some of the best Kentucky has to offer in visual art, craft, music, and more. Your schedule will be tight. You will be busy going from aisle to aisle, talking to artists whose work you like the most, sampling food, collecting books, doing fun art activities with kids, and hearing master musicians play fiddle, guitar, banjo, Chinese pipa, marching drums, dulcimer, and washboard.

Between doing all those things, take a few minutes to view the special exhibit sampler in Heritage Hall, near the Kentucky Stage. You will be glad you did. For the first time ever, the Kentucky Arts Council is bringing together a sampler of three of our prized exhibits: Uncommon Wealth, identity, and The Makings of a Master.

Each exhibit includes amazing art that offers you new perspectives on arts scenes across Kentucky:

  • Uncommon Wealth features Al Smith Fellowship recipients over the past 30 years, recognized for their creative excellence.
  • identity features work by artists who have disabilities of many different kinds, which may or may not influence their identities as artists.
  • The Makings of a Master: Kentucky Folk Art Apprenticeships presents examples of the wonderful folk art that is created during the critical and momentous times when a master tradition-bearer teaches an apprentice.

Not only will you see all this artwork in one place, you will get to meet some of the artists as they work:

On Saturday, March 8, master basket maker Paul Rich of Mammoth Cave, Ky., and his apprentice Tim Brewster will demonstrate their acclaimed white oak basket style that developed over generations along Highway 31W in south central Ky. To find out more, visit the Mammoth Cave basketmakers’ website.

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Dr. Jim Middleton and Paul Rich at the 2006 white oak basket contest in Hart County

On Sunday, March 9, master quilter Patricia Brennan of Fort Thomas, Ky., will display and work on her beautiful quilts with her apprentice Helen Bailey. Visit their blog to find out more.

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Log cabin square

A stop at the exhibit sampler will be well worth your while, and will help make this one of the best Markets yet. See you there!

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Top secret exhibit sampler floor-plan drawn on a marker board, photographed with a bowtie that’s really a camera

Mark Brown, folk and traditional arts program director

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Jazz apprenticeship of the divine nature

My one-year apprenticeship studying jazz piano with Jay Flippin ended in July. Jay and I went out with a bang with a joint, two-piano concert June 13 at Natasha’s Bistro in Lexington, Ky. One of my friends described the event as an apotheosis, a Greek word meaning “elevation to divine status.”  That night I certainly experienced a period of elation and excitement, possibly bordering on the divine, after a celebratory glass of wine when it was over.

Playing Charlie Parker’s “Yardbird Suite” with Jay on one piano and me on the other was as good as it gets. But this pinnacle celebration could not have taken place without an intense and arduous year of disciplined practice and hard work on my part, along with Jay’s generosity and willingness to share his treasure trove of piano experience and knowledge. So I think this combination of intense study and working toward a goal of playing jazz for an audience, and then actually doing it, was the fruition of a realized dream called an apotheosis. The Kentucky Arts Council Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program allowed me the unparalleled opportunity to devote myself to this task.

I have always wanted to play jazz, and have been a piano jazz fan and dabbler for many years.  I started studying with Jay a year before my apprenticeship began, which was the year I retired from my job of many years teaching art. So I know a good teacher when I see one. Because there were no grades, no pressure except what I placed upon myself, and no deadlines except a faraway collaboration of some sort, Jay’s lessons were always inspiring.

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Jay is a fountain of knowledge about jazz theory, history, jazz players and traditions. Born in a small mountain town, Jay learned jazz the way traditional musicians almost always learn their art. He learned by watching and listening to artists he admired, practicing hours and hours, imitating what he heard and learned, and then taking a risk and going out and playing in public! Most of all, Jay is one of the best jazz piano players around, having won five Emmys for original composition. Not only does he know how to play, but he knows how to tell you exactly what he is playing in terms of jazz theory. That is indeed a rare combination.

I have played the piano almost all of my life. Now I play for contra and swing dances, belong to the Reel World String Band, and have done all kinds of ensemble and solo piano work over the years. All of my piano work is now informed and changed by what I have learned during this apprenticeship. Because I was a teacher for many years, I also know what it’s like to be a good student. Jay said he appreciated me because I actually would do what he told me to do. I would follow his instructions. I taped all my lessons, so I could work with these recordings when I got home. You can’t really cram for a piano performance, so what you do is a result of what you have done, but the practicing definitely got more intense closer to the end of the apprenticeship.

At the beginning of my study with Jay, I was sure I knew what jazz sounded like, but that I would never be able to play it.  Now I know what is involved. I still think that, as Jay and others have said, that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. I know that I am on my way. I have the tools to do it, and it is a matter of refining my skills through practice, interacting with other musicians, and performance.

What I have gained from the apprenticeship and from Jay is the confidence and the desire to share jazz music with other players and listeners. I learned that you don’t have to be perfect to get out there and play, you just have to do it. It is perfectly legitimate to learn from your mistakes, as anyone will tell you. Now when I play, I also have the desire and the ability to educate people about some facet of jazz based on my own experience of the medium. I did not have this knowledge and experience of jazz before the apprenticeship. I thank the Kentucky Arts Council for giving me this opportunity to be a successful student, for acknowledging that jazz is a traditional Kentucky art form, and for creating such a valuable program to connect and showcase master artists and their aspiring students.

Elise Melrood, pianist, Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program participant

Categories: Arts Education, Folk and Traditional Arts, Performing Arts | Tags: , , ,

An apprentice’s dream

When things “don’t go according to plan,” it typically invokes a negative thought. But my unplanned adventures with Grand Ol’ Opry star Bobby Osborne, through the Kentucky Arts Council’s Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program, were quite the opposite.

What were going to be bimonthly mandolin lessons and history chats turned into performing with one of the most famous artists in bluegrass music history.

I was able to perform at venues and locations throughout the South including: the Ohio Valley Opry; Mount Airy, North Carolina; the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History; the Kentucky Coal Rally; and the highlight, the world famous Bean Blossom Bluegrass Music Festival.

Bobby and Cory perform during the “Makings of a Master” debut at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History.

My experiences with Bobby were not limited to just musical ones. I believe it would be safe to say that I learned just as much, or even more, about the history of the music I was playing than the music itself. I was able to learn about the history and source of some of the most popular songs in bluegrass and country music. Also, I learned facts, stories and legends about some of the most famous icons in music; all told from a first-person perspective by a man who was there.

My experience with Bobby Osborne, through the generosity of the Kentucky Arts Council’s apprenticeship grant, has been a literal dream come true. I was able to be a part of something that many young musicians only dream of, and I am humbly thankful.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to: Mark Brown, Bob Gates and everyone at the Kentucky Arts Council; Bobby Osborne and all the members of the Rocky Top Express, and all of the other countless friends and family who have supported me through the amazing twelve months of my apprenticeship. You all have my deepest heartfelt thanks and gratitude.

And to all the other young musicians out there, dreams do come true.

God Bless and keep on picking!

Still dreaming,

Cory May, folk arts apprentice 

To learn more about folk arts apprenticeships in Kentucky, visit the Makings of a Master exhibition when it travels near you. The next application deadline for the apprenticeship grant program is February 15, 2013.

Categories: Folk and Traditional Arts, Performing Arts | Tags: , , , , , , ,

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