Cross-Border Mentor Apprentice Showcases
Meet South Arts' Folk and Traditional Arts Cross-Border Mentor Apprentice teams in our showcase events. The mentors and apprentices will share their work and discuss the importance of the traditions they are passing across generations.
Cross-Borders Showcase - Ballads Team
Sheila Kay Adams (Madison County, NC), Mentor Artist. Sheila Kay Adams, a former North Carolina Heritage Award and National Heritage Award recipient, has been singing the ballads she learned from her family for 60 years. She is also an accomplished storyteller and banjo player.
Ian Kirkpatrick (Claiborne County, TN), Apprentice. Ian Kirkpatrick is an accomplished clogger turned ballad singer. He grew up learning ballads as “secular songs” from his gospel-singing family and is excited to deepen his repertoire and strengthen his voice as he studies with Ms. Adams.
Ballad singing in Appalachia is a tradition going back to the earliest Scottish and English settlers to the area. Settlers brought the songs they knew from home, and according to Ian Kirkpatrick, “the artform continued to grow, and distinct American songs were added to the pre-colonial repertoire.” Ballads are traditionally unaccompanied and tell a story. Kirkpatrick explains that “historically, ballad singing was an important form of social entertainment that could be engaged [in] during any task or activity. It was also vital for remembering historical events in a majority-illiterate society, as the tunes and rhyme schemes aided memorization….At one time, this artform was commonly practiced by my family and my community” but it has largely died out in many areas. “I have friends and relatives who continue to sing those ballads that were able to survive in the bluegrass and country genres, though they often do not know the history of those particular songs.”
Cross-Borders Showcase - Appalachian Music/Fiddle Team
Bobby Taylor (Kanawha County, WV), Mentor Artist. Bobby Taylor, a 4th generation fiddler, was first introduced to the instrument by his father 55 years ago. He has actively participated in and run fiddling competitions since the 1970s.
L. Scott Miller (Boyd County, KY), Apprentice. Scott Miller has played old-time Appalachian music for 41 years as a multi-instrumentalist and turned seriously to the fiddle 16 years ago. He is an instructor for the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music at Morehead State University.
Although fiddling tunes and style may seem ubiquitous across Appalachia to an outsider, there are in fact tunes and styles that are distinct to specific communities and fiddlers. Traditionally, these tunes and styles are passed person to person, learned through imitation. As Scott Miller explains, “This musical art form has a rich heritage in all areas of Appalachia. As regional spoken dialects differ from region to region so does the music, in this case the style of the fiddling. These regional styles, both in tunes and stylistic performance, play an important role in the tapestry of Appalachian music.” Appalachian music is an integral part of traditional Appalachian culture. Miller continues, “Both the music and the dances were part of our social framework.” Fiddlers continue to gather and learn from each other at informal jam sessions, fiddling festivals, and through one-on-one and group instruction.