Union/University of Richmond Virginia Folklife Area

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Virginia FolklifeVirginia Foundation for the Humanities

The Virginia Folklife Program at the 2016 Richmond Folk Festival will be announced later this summer.

Virginia Folklife Program at the 2015 Richmond Folk Festival Presents

Youth Will Be Served

Many folklorists look to document, celebrate, and present the eldest tradition bearers. The senior members of our communities are our closest connections to our folk roots. With their experiences, stories, and insights, they are the greatest keepers of our history. The Virginia Folklife Program believes strongly that we should celebrate them, and over the last ten years we have presented hundreds of amazing artists still performing and thriving in their later years in the Virginia Folklife Area. At the same time, we delight in the young folks who carry on community-based arts with enthusiasm and dedication, remaining faithful to their traditions while infusing them with their own spirit.

The 2015 Virginia Folklife Stage and Area will celebrate the master practitioners and the youth they’ve guided. Many superb young artists will perform onstage, be they jaw-dropping pickers from the hills of Southwest Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley, awe-inspiring singers from Virginia’s churches and places of worship, or energetic dancers upholding traditions from around the globe that have thrived in Virginia. Our crafts demonstration area will feature many young tradition bearers upholding time-honored crafts, from furniture making and instrument building to more underground activities, such as making good old mountain moonshine. Some of these artists were raised up in these traditions; others have come to them more recently, in the hope of reviving and preserving traditional ways of life in an increasingly digital world.

Stage Performers


Richmond, Virginia

While she is often categorized as an R&B artist, Anhayla proudly draws from many genres to create a sound all her own. “I just take a little bit from every genre and put it into my music,” she says. “I sing about life so I try not to put myself in a box.” The Virginia Folklife Program is proud to showcase the stylings of a rising local star on the Virginia Folklife stage. MORE


Ash Breeze

Fayetteville, North Carolina

Formerly known as the Smith Family Band, Ash Breeze has become a crowd favorite at fiddler’s conventions and festivals throughout the South. They follow in the footsteps of Virginia’s renowned family bands, from the Carter Family and the Stonemans to the groups flourishing throughout Appalachia today. MORE


Bud's Collective

Winchester, Virginia, and Wardensville, West Virginia

Though often overshadowed by Southwest Virginia and its famed Crooked Road, the Shenandoah Valley and Virginia’s northwestern counties have long been fertile ground for traditional music. MORE

Bolivian Traditions

Bolivian Traditions

As immigrants, Bolivians are deeply attached to their native rituals and customs, and their culture is thriving in Virginia, even within communities that have lived here for decades. These communities have shown a remarkable resistencia cultural—a refusal to die culturally. MORE

The Church Sisters

bluegrass gospel
Galax, Virginia

Nineteen-year-old twin sisters Sarah and Savannah Church were born in the coalfields of Dickenson County, Virginia. After residing in Haysi, Virginia, for a short while, they moved to Danville, hometown of their mother, Stephanie. At age eleven they won a local talent competition, and their careers took off from there. MORE

Close Kin

Close Kin

Youth Old-Time/Bluegrass Project
Galax, Virginia, and Round Peak, North Carolina

In 2014 Williams gathered some of southwestern Virginia’s most talented young players, ages eleven to seventeen, to meld together bluegrass and old-time styles on a second CD project called Close Kin: Our Roots Run Deep. The project’s young musicians possess strong family and community connections to old-time and bluegrass music, and together they make music that draws from both styles and bridges their differences. MORE


Danny Knicely

Taylorstown, Virginia

Danny has become one of the most respected and versatile multi-instrumentalists of his generation, collaborating with prominent musicians in the United States and abroad. He has won many awards for his mandolin, guitar, and fiddle playing, and flatfoot dancing, including first place in the mandolin contest at the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival. MORE


Frank Newsome

Old Regular Baptist a cappella gospel
Haysi, Virginia

An elder in the Old Regular Baptist Church, Frank Newsome is a master practitioner of lined-out hymn singing, one of the oldest musical traditions in Virginia. MORE


Harold Mitchell

Instrument-Contest Emcee
Galax, Virginia

If you have attended the Galax Old Fiddlers’ Convention in the last forty years, you will recognize the familiar voice of Galax native Harold Mitchell. MORE


The Ingramettes, in loving memory of Maggie Ingram

The Ingramettes, in loving memory
of Maggie Ingram

Richmond, Virginia

For more than five decades, Maggie Ingram & the Ingramettes brought their music and ministry to congregations in the Tidewater and Piedmont. For evangelist “Mama” Maggie Ingram, who sadly passed away on June 23, 2015, music was always a family affair, and three generations were represented in the group. Their commanding, spirit-filled performances demonstrated the extraordinary depth of talent in American gospel music. The group is one of Virginia’s premier gospel ensembles. MORE


Johnny and Jeannette Williams

Galax, Virginia

Johnny and Jeanette often perform and write songs independently; each has won the prestigious Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest, in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, and collaborated with distinguished songwriters Dixie and Tom T. Hall. But their greatest joy is playing together as the much-beloved Johnny and Jeanette Williams Band. MORE


Kitty Amaral and Presley Barker

Elk Creek, Virginia, and Traphill, North Carolina
Bluegrass and Old Time Fiddle and Guitar

Fiddler Kitty Amaral and guitarist Presley Barker met at a fiddler's convention in 2013, and instantly found themselves to be kindred spirits. MORE


Sam Shelor

Sammy Shelor

Bluegrass Banjo
Meadows of Dan, Virginia

Sammy Shelor, of tiny Meadows of Dan in Patrick County, Virginia, is one of the greatest bluegrass banjoists of our time. Sammy’s mountain musical pedigree runs deep. The Shelors are one of nine families who have carried on the Patrick County music tradition for more than two hundred years. Sammy started playing the banjo at the age of four, and was performing with local bands by the time he was ten years old. MORE


Washington Bailaika

Washington Balalaika Society Orchestra featuring Andrei Saveliev and Aaron Mott

Russian Folk Music
Fairfax, Virginia

The balalaika, a traditional Russian stringed instrument with a triangular wooden body, is often referred to as the Russian three-string guitar. Considered a folk instrument in Russia, the balalaika was played at community and family gatherings rather than in the country’s esteemed concert halls. MORE


Wayne Henderson

Wayne Henderson

Luthier and Guitar Player
Rugby, VA

Wayne built his first guitar using traced patterns and the wood from the bottom of a dresser drawer. More than four hundred guitars later, Henderson is considered one of the most extraordinary instrument makers in the world. MORE


Wayne Henderson

Zion’s Voice Community Youth Choir

Richmond, Virginia

With its strong gospel music scene, Richmond has been home to legends such as the late Maggie Ingram and the Ingramettes and to emerging groups, including Zion’s Voice Community Youth Choir. The members of this recently formed youth choir range in age from thirteen to thirty-two and come from many different parts of Richmond. MORE


Craft Area Demonstrators

Virginia Folklife Craft Area – Focused Demonstration Schedule:

Saturday, October 10:


Salt Making


Mongolian Mask Making and Dance


Traditional Photographic Methods – Tintypes


Moonshine Making


Bolivian Mesa Ceremony


Sunday, October 11:

12:30 Chair Making
1:00 Moonshine Making
1:30 Traditional Photographic Methods –Direct Positive Printing
2:30 Guitar Building
3:30 Oyster Shucking Contest
4:30 Bolivian Mesa Closing Ceremony


Sean “Purl” Samoheyl

Sean “Purl” Samoheyl

Traditional Chair Making
Louisa County

In the relative isolation of the backcountry, continental traditions thrived, particularly furniture making. Sean “Purl” Samoheyl is a resident of the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa County, one of the intentional communities created in rural Virginia during the back-to-the-land movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Twin Oaks residents reject throwaway consumer culture for a more subsistence-based style of living. It was this philosophical grounding in part that led Sean to pursue the craft of chair making. MORE


Jackson Cunningham

Jackson Cunningham

Guitar and Fiddle Maker
Whitetop, Virginia

In 2005 Jackson Cunningham moved to Southwest Virginia and met the late Audrey Hash Ham, a master fiddle maker who learned her skills from her father, the legendary luthier Albert Hash. Under Audrey’s guidance Jackson, a lifelong woodworker, immediately began making fiddles. MORE


Gankhuyag Natsag and Zana Gankhuyag

Gankhuyag Natsag and Zana Gankhuyag

Mongolian Dance and Mask Making
Arlington, Virginia

The tsam is a Buddhist ritual performed by dancers wearing elaborate costumes and masks. It was introduced to Mongolia in the eighth century, when the Indian saint Lovon Badamjunai sanctified the first Tibetan Buddhist temple. The tsam is a secret and subtle ritual, the meaning of which is often known only to those who perform it. MORE


Jimmy and Jared Boyd

Jimmy and Jared Boyd

Moonshine Still Demonstration
Franklin County, Virginia

Franklin County is famous for its long history of producing and selling moonshine, or homemade liquor. Virginia colonists were distilling corn whiskey— boiling a fermented mash of milled grain and then cooling the alcoholic steam into a liquid—by 1620, just thirteen years after Jamestown was established. MORE


Deborah Pratt and Clementine Macon Boyd

Deborah Pratt and Clementine Macon Boyd

Oyster Shucking Champions
Middlesex County

For communities on Virginia’s Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula, the oyster fishery was perhaps the largest and most influential industry from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s. Men and women employed by the industry worked a variety of jobs, from boat cook, captain, and crew, to shore-based scow gangs and shuckers. Shucking in particular provided many employment opportunities for African Americans throughout the Chesapeake region.  MORE


Wayne Henderson

Jim and Baron Bordwine

Salt Making
Saltville, Virginia

Nestled in the southern Appalachian Mountains, Saltville is named for its unusually high number of salt marshes, or, as locals call them, salt licks. Saltville’s natural salt deposits have influenced the history of the region since at least the late Pleistocene period. MORE


Wayne Henderson

Richard Pippin and Melissa Jones

Traditional and Historic Photography
Staunton, Virginia

Traditional and historic photographic methods have not been abandoned: a small number of photographers and photography enthusiasts are working to revive the old techniques. Richard Pippin, owner of Manu Propia Studio in Staunton, Virginia, and his apprentice, Melissa Jones, practice historical photographic methods that date back to the 1800s. MORE