TRADITION BEARERs at the FestivaL
The following tradition bearers will display and demonstrate traditional Appalachian artistry at the festival:
- Leniavell Trivette - Crafts
- Rick Ward - Oldtime Banjo Player, Ballad Singer, Instrument maker
- Charlie Glenn - Instrument Maker
- Orville Hicks - Storytelling
- Mary Greene - Dulcimer Player, Shape Note Singing Specialist, Ballad and Folk Song Singer
Leniavell Trivette (Sock Monkeys, Quilts, etc.)
From BlueRidgeHeritage.com: "Leniavell Trivette, daughter of North Carolina Folk Heritage Award recipient, Elsie Trivette, has been making crafts since she was a child helping her mother pull apart strands of burlap to be used as yarn for hooking rugs. Growing up in Watauga County near Beech Mountain, Leniavell had six siblings. She and her two sisters helped their mother make hooked rugs. They used burlap for the back of the rug and sometimes they also used the rough burlap fibers for the yarn, unraveling discarded feed sacks to get the yarn. She remembers her mother giving the kids five cents to unravel the long strands of burlap and later selling the finished rugs in Blowing Rock for fifty cents.
For many years, Leniavell worked very closely with her mother. She mastered the various handicrafts that had been passed down through the women in her mother's family. She mastered the techniques of dyeing fibers with a variety of natural materials ranging from walnuts, barks and berries to tomato vines and rusty nails. She learned to spin wool yarns, make colonial knotted bedspreads and pieced quilts, and make dolls and sock animals.
Leniavell continues practicing these and other fiber crafts. In 2000, she received the Craftswoman of the Year award from the Village of Yesteryear at the North Carolina State Fair, where she has demonstrated for twenty-five years. She is part of the Heritage Crafts Affiliate, and she has been awarded an honorary membership to the Southern Highland Crafts Guild. She continues to display her work and demonstrate annually at the State Fair's Village of Yesteryear, at the Traditional Crafts tent at Merlefest, and at other venues.
Leniavell worked for a local craft co-op for eighteen years. During that time she actively visited and helped promote and sell the crafts of many local and regional artists in Watauga and Avery County.
Rick Ward - Oldtime Banjo Player, Ballad Singer, Instrument Maker
"Rick Ward is steeped in Beech Mountain and Watauga County cultural lore, and he continues long-established family musical and instrument-building traditions. Some of his gifts were evident when he was very young. He made his first banjo when he was only twelve. His interest in painting began even earlier, around age five, and has continued to the present. The Appalachian Cultural Museum in Boone has displayed his self portrait.
"Singing, crafts, and plant lore were part of community and family life. Rick sings many of the old ballads that thrived in the Beech Mountain community. His mother sang around the house, in church, and on gospel programs that were broadcast by local radio stations. His maternal grandmother had an encyclopedic knowledge of local herbs and healing techniques. She also made hooked rugs and sent them to wealthy families in New York who would send return packages with clothing and jewelry. From her, Rick learned plant lore, and he also learned to hook rugs.
"His style of banjo picking is a distinctive "double-knock" style that his grandfather Tab Ward perfected. Tab Ward was a regionally popular recording artist who frequented the state fair, was featured in Southern Living magazine, and was also known as a storyteller and maker of old-time toys. His toys were marketed and sold at Jack Guy's Beech Creek store. Rick has fond memories of visiting his grandfather, listening to stories, ballads, and banjo songs. "When the folklorist thing hit hard (in the mid-1960s)," Rick remembers, "People would come from all over to grandpa's house." Tab Ward passed away when Rick was a teenager, and Rick felt inspired to study the double-knock style and learn his grandfather's repertoire from memory and recordings.
"Building banjos and dulcimers is a craft that passed on to Rick through his grandfather and his father, N.T. Ward. N.T. learned to build banjos and dulcimers when he was a teenager, and he later learned to make fiddles. N.T. would often use only chisels and a pocketknife to carve his instruments, and he liked to experiment with wood, making fiddles out of dogwood, cedar, cherry, chestnut, and apple wood. "He wasn't really after the best sound," says Rick. "It was the wood that intrigued him." N.T. was mentioned in the Whole Earth Catalog as a dulcimer maker. As a result, he received many letters requesting instruments. Rick, like his father, learned to make banjos and fiddles. Rick makes traditional mountain-style fretless banjos using patterns created by his grandfather and father, and he continues to use groundhog hides for the head of the banjos. Taking a cue from his grandfather, Rick sold his first banjo at Jack Guy's store."
Charlie Glenn - Traditional fretless mountain banjos
From BlueRidgeHeritage.com: "Born in 1945 in Watauga County's Bethel community, Charlie Glenn learned how to make banjos and dulcimers from Stanley Hicks, a well-known instrument builder and humorous character who was the uncle of Charlie's wife Shirley. Charlie first became fascinated with building instruments when he visited a community barber, Willie Glenn, who made instruments in his basement. His grandfather had also made a banjo, which Charlie often admired as it hung on his grandmother's wall.
"Around 1968 Charlie made his first banjo with Stanley Hicks' help. The "fretless mountain banjo" that Stanley taught Charlie to make is a particular style of banjo that has been a tradition in Watauga County. After a few years, Charlie also began to make mountain lap dulcimers, an instrument that was quite popular during the folk revival. Years later, with the help of local luthier, Alfred Michels, Charlie made his first fiddle. 'Without Alfred,' says Charlie, 'I never would have finished my first fiddle.'
"Over the years Charlie has adapted his instruments adding frets to most of the banjos he makes, refining the banjo neck to use less wood, and changing the angle between the banjo's neck and head to increase the pressure from the strings helping to keep the bridge from moving around while the banjo is played. 'I don't make them with the patterns that I first started,' he says. 'We left a lot more wood in the necks than necessary. Everybody I know that kept building kept refining their instruments.'
"In addition to making instruments, Charlie also builds wooden coffin cases for his fiddles and dulcimers. He has lined a few of the instrument cases with old Sears and Roebuck catalog pages, adding to the old-timey feel. Charlie was a plumber for thirty years, but now spends his free time making instruments and working on old cars. Charlie lives in the Beech Creek Community where his wife Shirley was raised. Charlie and Shirley are very knowledgeable about Watauga County music and dance traditions, particularly those of the Beech Mountain Community where Shirley's family lived. 'Her whole family was involved with old-time music,' Charlie says. 'Of course, they didn't know it was old-time music; it was just music.'"
Orville Hicks - Storyteller
From BlueRidgeHeritage.com: "Born on Beech Mountain in Watauga County, Orville Hicks grew up in a family steeped in the storytelling tradition that he carries on today. His mother, Sarah Ann Harmon Hicks, told tales to her children as nighttime entertainment and to pass time while they were doing tedious farm work. Orville remembers her telling stories to keep the children happy while bundling galax for delivery to a marketer in Avery County and while preparing farm produce for canning and drying. From his mother, Orville learned the classic 'Jack and the Heifer Hide,' 'Jack and the Giants,' and other children's tales.
"As a young man, Orville often visited the home of Ray and Rosa Hicks, who lived over the ridge from his homeplace in western Watauga County. 'Ray would sit there and tell me a tale or two. I never thought there was anybody like Ray. So I learned from him and he encouraged me to tell tales. I got to knowing him like a second dad, and Rosie, like a second mom.' Ray Hicks, a National Heritage Fellowship Award recipient, encouraged Orville to develop his own style and repertory and began recommending Orville as a substitute when he himself could not accept an invitation. Orville represented Ray at the North Carolina Folk Heritage Awards in 1991 and accepted the award certificate for Ray.
"Orville has become a regular performer for groups visiting the Appalachian Cultural Museum in Boone; he was a featured performer at the N.C. Stories festival-opening of the new Museum of History. In 1997, the North Carolina Folklore Society presented him its Brown-Hudson Folklore Award.
"Conversations with Orville become extraordinary because of his ability to work in stories. Fellow workers and social acquaintances often enjoy Orville's taking a tall tale motif and incorporating it into a joke on himself. He also has a special skill of using a local story or joke to foster group relationships and connections to community history. A new context for his verbal art is Orville's job as a supervisor at the US 321-Aho Road Recycling Station between Boone and Blowing Rock. There Orville greets all kinds of people: locals, summer residents, tourists, and Appalachian State University students. His conversations have transformed a modern recycling site into a community institution that connects people and local traditions.
"What is most remarkable about Orville Hicks, however, is the bright delight he brings to the enactment of this process, for he is a tale teller who enjoys the joke as much as his listeners and catches us into his story world with infectious laughter that punctuates his tales."
Mary Greene - Dulcimer Player, Shape Note and Ballad Singer
"Mary Greene has continued to celebrate and present the traditions of her Appalachian community even while she pursued her educational goals at Appalachian State University. She grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Boone, North Carolina, the daughter of a hard-working farmer and a schoolteacher. Her parents instilled in her the deep love of community and tradition, and the sense of place that informs her programs.
"Her early musical experiences, provided by her hymn singing father and the local shape-note singing school leader, were in the religious music tradition. Later, she learned traditional ballads and folk songs (restoring a broken link to her ballad singing grandparents). Mary's years of academic study of Appalachian music and culture culminated in a master's degree in Appalachian Studies. Her expertise in the region's cultural arts coupled with experience as the director of educational services at the award-winning Appalachian Cultural Museum, at Appalachian State University, equip her with multiple views of Appalachian culture.
"The sparkle in Mary's eye, her thoughtful comments and stories, and a voice full of the richness and warmth of the Appalachians combine in her musical programs. Mary has presented folklore and music traditions at the Smithsonian Institution's Festival of American Folklife and has also taught and performed for more than a decade at the Appalachian State University's Dulcimer Playing Workshop. She has also provided educational sessions for groups such as the National Association of Music Librarians and the National Eastern Parks and Monuments Association. With funding from the North Carolina Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, in 1994, she produced a documentary recording on North Carolina Heritage Award winner Ora Watson, a traditional fiddler and singer. She completed her own recording, The Unclouded Day, in 1996. She produced and directed a documentary film titled Blue Ridge Shape Notes: Singing a New Song in an Old Way in 2004. Nearly two hundred regional shape-note singers participated in the production of this film.
"Her interest in traditional culture also includes crafts. In the early 1990s she conducted research documenting traditional basket makers in western North Carolina. She curated an exhibit on these basketmakers in 2005 at the Appalachian Cultural Museum.
"Mary has coordinated, and performed at, numerous festivals, events, and concerts presenting regional traditions to schoolchildren, adults, newcomers and tourists. She also taught a course in Appalachian Music at Appalachian State University and has conducted dulcimer playing and traditional arts residencies in the public schools. She teaches music in Ashe County Public Schools."