Work is Art and Art is Work

Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program

a TAAP participantIn 1983, the National Endowment for the Arts announced a new initiative to honor master traditional artists and encourage them to pass on their skills to the next generation. Missouri was one of the first states to receive funding for an apprenticeship program. Now in its twenty-third year, Missouri's Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program (TAAP) is the most prolific in the country and has supported over 300 apprenticeships in every corner of the state.
Luthiers have participated in TAAP since its inception.

  • A luthier since the seventies, Geoffrey Seitz of St. Louis first participated in TAAP during the program's inaugural year, 1985, as an apprentice to nationally renowned jazz violinist Claude "Fiddler" Williams. Seitz went on to serve as a luthiery master with Gregory Krone of New Haven in 1994. Like Seitz, Krone also first participated in TAAP as a fiddling apprentice to master Irish fiddler Niall Gannon of St. Louis Irish Arts.
  • Don Graves of Lebanon learned to hand carve a dulcimer from his father, Bill. For over fifty years, Don and his sisters Daisy and Vivian performed old-time ballads and gospel tunes at their father's side until his death in 2001. Bill Graves served as a master artist in Ozark balladry and dulcimer in TAAP four times between 1985 and 1990.
  • John Wynn led two apprenticeships, in 1987 and 1989, teaching his students to build mandolins. Wynn has been making mandolins and banjos for over forty years, using his cabinet-making skills and musician’s ear. He works from a converted red barn in Ozark, Missouri and leads a band, the South Wynns, with his wife, sons, and granddaughter.
  • Bernard Allen of Naylor first apprenticed in TAAP with James Price in 1987 to learn traditional wood joinery. Four years later, Allen took on a luthiery apprentice, Luther Medley of Poplar Bluff, to make fiddles. Allen travels a regional festival circuit where he both plays music with his band and exhibits his handmade instruments. Medley is now recognized as a master in his own right, creating a modified version of the upright bass fiddle.
  • Like all TAAP artists, these craftsmen are noted for artistic excellence and commitment to the next generation. Over the years, the masters have tested their apprentices, and their apprentices have grown to be masters.