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Folklife Apprenticeship Program Preserves Tennessee Traditions

Nashville — The Tennessee Arts Commission Folklife Program announces its 2018 Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program awardees. In its second year, the Apprenticeship Program is designed to encourage the sustainability, continued development and proliferation of our state’s diverse folklife traditions.

“The Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program was created in part to help preserve folklife practices that are rare or endangered in Tennessee. Our state has an exceptional array of folklife traditions; however, many art forms have only a handful of living practitioners. This program works toward ensuring that such traditions are a part of our state’s future,” said Dr. Bradley Hanson, Tennessee Arts Commission Director of Folklife and the state’s folklorist.

Nine teams of master traditional artists and apprentices have been selected to participate. Each is committed to preserving a traditional folklife art form that is deeply rooted in their cultural heritage. The teams will embark on one-on-one training for a six-month period.

Each master artist is an exceptionally skilled tradition bearer. The master artists awarded this recognition from the Tennessee Arts Commission are considered to be of exceptional skill as recognized by fellow artists, community members, and folk arts leaders.

Selected by the master artist from within the community, each apprentice is a talented student who desires to strengthen his or her abilities. The awarded apprentices each demonstrate outstanding aptitude and potential in the chosen traditional art form. Folklife practices can include traditional music, crafts, dance, foodways, clothing and adornment, and occupational skills.

“Tennessee’s cultural heritage is rich and ethnically diverse. This program encourages and incentives artists from many communities to commit to passing their heritage to future generations,” said Ritchie Bowden, Tennessee Arts Commission board chair.

Folklife art forms are learned and passed down informally by imitation, word of mouth, observation or performance in cultural communities that share family, ethnic, tribal, regional, occupational or religious identity. Folklife is defined by its continuity with tradition and its accordance with collective and enduring values of its originating community.

“Traditional arts are essential to the story we tell about ourselves, and that we tell to visitors,” said Anne B. Pope, Executive Director of the Tennessee Arts Commission. “Folklife practices enhance livability and the pride of place in all Tennessee communities, especially in our rural areas. For many of the selected teams, this program is an investment in the sustainability of their family business or in a way of life that has been deeply held and carried on for many generations.”

Each team will also share their work together in public performances, demonstrations, and in an exhibit at the Tennessee Arts Commission Gallery in the spring of 2018.

A panel of specialists in traditional arts and folklife was convened to review a deep and highly competitive applicant pool. The nine awarded teams include:

Willie Artison, master, and Kenneth Artison, apprentice, of Memphis, TN. Willie Artison, a singer, musician, and manager for over forty years in family and quartet Gospel music group, will instruct Kenneth Artison in the singing, playing, and technical aspects important to the city’s historical Gospel traditions.

R.L. Boyce, master, Kesha Burton, apprentice, of Brownsville, TN. Bluesman and drummer R.L. Boyce will guide Kesha Burton in the drumming and historical performing techniques of the highly endangered African American Fife and Drum Tradition—knowledge Boyce mastered as a member of Othar Turner’s Rising Star Fife and Drum Band.

Malvina Carrera, master, Angela Webb, apprentice, of Knoxville, TN. Malvina Carrera, a second generation seamstress, will teach Angela Webb the traditional complete method of Panamanian pollera making, a dress style significant to the communities cultural festivals and celebrations.

Michael DeFosche, master, Trenton Caruthers, apprentice, of Whitleyville, TN. Micheal DeFosche will instruct Trenton Caruthers the fiddle tunes and styles distinct to the Cumberland Plateau region, including those of Leonard Rutherford and Clyde Davenport.

Manuel Delgado, master, Ava Delgado, apprentice, of Nashville, TN. A third generation luthier, Manuel Delgado will direct Ave Delgado in acquiring the foundational skills and techniques used in the construction of several stringed instruments, including classical guitars, guitarrones, bajo sextos, vihuelas, and more.

Louis Frazor, master, Daniel Rothwell, apprentice, of Smyrna, TN. Louis Frazor, a second generation square dance caller, will teach Daniel Rothwell his style of dance calling and instruction, as well as his collection of square dance figures and steps.

Thomas Maupin, master, Jake Fennell, apprentice, of Murfressboro, TN. 2017 NEA National Heritage Fellow Thomas Maupin will train Jack Fennell in his percussive and musical form of traditional flat foot buck dancing.

Mark Newberry, master, Malika Scheu, apprentice, of Red Boiling Springs, TN. Fifth generation chair maker Mark Newberry will teach Malika Schue the traditional design elements and construction techniques that have been in his family chair making business since before the Civil War.

Sue Williams, master, Michelle Hennessee, apprentice, of Morrison, TN. Sue Williams, one of a only a few remaining white oak basket makers in Cannon County and Warren County, will teach Michelle Hennessee how to build a basket from scratch, including selecting and cutting down the tree, processing the splints, and learning the Cannon County Tie basket style.


The Folklife Program collaborates with nonprofits, traditional artists and culture workers across the state to document, preserve and present Tennessee’s diverse folklife. Folklife is comprised of arts, expressive practices, and skills that are learned and passed down in cultural communities that share family, ethnic, tribal, regional, occupational, or religious identity. For more information on the Tennessee Arts Commission Folklife program, visit


For media inquiries, contact Dr. Bradley Hanson, 615-532-9795 or