2020 Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program: John P. Williams & Cynthia Mackey
It is with great pleasure that we continue with the roll out profiles of the 2020 Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program (TAAP) teams of master artists and apprentices. Stay tuned for several updates in the next several days. [Be sure to click on hyperlinks for more of the story.]
John P. Williams & Cynthia Mackey, Old-Time Fiddling
John P. Williams (Madison, Mo.) is another Then & Now: Apprentice Journeys featured artist. In 2017, Missouri Folk Arts recorded his story of apprenticing with the late, great Boone County fiddler Pete McMahan in the late 1990s, then of teaching a new generation of fiddlers in the 21st century.
This year, Williams and his apprentice Cynthia Mackey (Tebbetts, Mo.) spent several hours working on new tunes, perfecting older tunes, bowing, and phrasing. Rest assured, Williams shared with Mackey the stories embedded in the tunes, as passed down in central Missouri, including the history and traditions that set regional styles apart from each other. Williams learned those lessons well from master fiddlers like Mr. McMahan and several others, including the teachers at Bethel’s Youth Fiddle Camp, where Williams was once a camper and is now a master teacher.
Back in March, Missouri Folk Arts was almost ready to announce its annual series of TAAP performances and demonstrations. Of course, all had to be canceled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Luckily, once things opened up a bit, John Williams and Cynthia Mackey got together with Robert Mackey on rhythm guitar to play a few tunes that Cynthia has been working on in her apprenticeship. And, they video-recorded the tunes to share with Mo Folk Arts. Now, we’re excited to share the video with you, with our thanks to John, Cynthia, Robert, and video editor Rachel Krause of Banjo Creative. We are proud of Cynthia’s growth as a fiddler this year–and of John for being a steadfast mentor to Missouri fiddlers.
YouTube Video Premier, June 22, 2020 at 12:00 p.m. Central
The heart of Missouri Folk Arts Program is its Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. Master artists work one-on-one with apprentices to keep folk arts knowledge and practices alive. In Missouri, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Missouri Arts Council, and the University of Missouri, the first master-apprentice lesson took place on December 10, 1984. Since then, Missouri has supported over 400 apprenticeships in which 200+ master artists have mentored more than 500 apprentices in every region and many communities in the state. Many apprentices have in their turn grown in their artistry and later recognized as master artists in TAAP. They forge anew living links in the chain of Missouri’s folk arts. Some TAAP artists practice traditional regional crafts that date back to Missouri’s Native American peoples and early European settlers. Some newer immigrants, such as Latinxs, Sudanese, and Bosnians, have sustained their artistic traditions in their new homes in Missouri. Still more traditions have migrated to Missouri from other regions of the U.S. All are re-imagined and honed into dynamic Show Me State traditions. Among the arts that have been fostered in TAAP over the decades are blacksmithing, cowboy poetry, old-time short-bow fiddling, African-American storytelling, Ozark Riverways paddle carving, Vietnamese dragon dancing, Western saddle making, old-time clawhammer banjo, wood joinery, square dance calling, German bobbin lace, turkey calls, Mexican paper flowers, and Slovenian button-box accordion.
Published June 22, 2020