Since 2007, the Kentucky Folklife Program, based in the Department of Folk Studies & Anthropology of Western Kentucky University, has awarded the Homer Ledford Award to Kentucky luthiers who have demonstrated outstanding craftsmanship, mastery of making and setting up instruments for excellent tone and playability, and who have been recognized by the communities of musicians they serve.
This year’s winner, Doug Naselroad, is originally from Winchester, KY. He learned the craft of instrument making as an apprentice under Ledford. Naselroad has had an impressive career as a luthier, most recently accepting a Master Artist Residency at the Appalachian Artisan Center in Hindman, KY. In this position, Naselroad was integral in establishing the Kentucky School of Luthiery, as well as the Hindman Dulcimer Project. Naselroad’s career has taken him to different parts of the country, including a stint in Austin, TX. Jessica Evans, who nominated Naselroad, tells that:
In the 90s, Doug was offered a job at the then-new Collings Guitars factory in Austin, Texas where he made guitars for the likes of Lyle Lovett, Steve Miller, John Prine, Steven Spielberg and even Bob Taylor. Thousands of instruments later, Doug returned to eastern Kentucky to continue his own work, which alternates between more traditional patterns and experimental art guitars.
Naselroad has gone on to mentor new generations of luthiers, sharing his knowledge and experience with those wanting to carry on the tradition of instrument making. Evans notes:
Perhaps the most important facet of Doug’s work today is mentoring young (and old) instrument-makers in Hindman. Doug feels compelled to give back what he’s been given– a wealth of experience in instrument making. In a region fraught with rampant drug-abuse, coal industry decline, and growing loss of cultural identity, the creation of the Kentucky School of Luthiery in Hindman represents hope and tradition to those that walk through it’s doors.
Naselroad truly embodies the spirit of the Homer Ledford Award, not only through his outstanding craftsmanship and mentoring, but also in his relationship with the community of Hindman, KY where he now works. Evans describes:
Doug Naselroad goes above and beyond to create a community around music and luthiery in eastern Kentucky. He meets the struggle of individuals trying to achieve a valued place in the community by teaching them the traditional folk craft of instrument making. He can always be counted on to stop and play a song, or discuss a current project or the history of the dulcimer with visitors that stop in, including bicyclists just passing through on the TransAmerica Trail, community members, tourists and school groups. On most days, the studio is abuzz with the whirrs and bangs of saws and sanders and of people jostling around. The sleepy little town of Hindman is awake when Doug turns the studio lights on.
We are pleased to honor Doug Naselroad with the 2017 Homer Ledford Award. The Kentucky Folklife Program, along with our partner the Kentucky Arts Council, will present the award at Kentucky Crafted: The Market in Lexington Center on Saturday, April 22, 2017.
The Kentucky Folklife Program, based at Western Kentucky University and housed within the Department of Folk Studies & Anthropology, has a long history of working with the Kentucky Arts Council to document, present, conserve, and teach the public about the rich heritage of folk and traditional artists working in Kentucky today. This award celebrates the legacy and creative industry of traditional stringed instrument makers who are vital to Kentucky musical culture.
This award is given in honor and memory of master luthier, musician, and educator Homer Ledford. Known for his superb craftsmanship, impressive productivity, inspired innovations, generous spirit, and willingness to teach anyone interested in his art, Homer had a profound impact on musical communities throughout Kentucky and far beyond. Many luthiers and musicians remember visiting his basement shop in Winchester, Kentucky where he immersed himself in his work while sharing techniques, wisdom, and stories surrounding his cultural heritage. Ledford’s legacy lives on among today’s musical craftspeople, and this award symbolizes that legacy.
Past Homer Ledford Awardees include Warren May of Berea, Art Mize of Lexington, Donna Lamb of Lancaster, and Frank Neat of Russell Springs.
For more information, contact the Kentucky Folklife Program’s Folklife Specialist, Virginia Siegel: firstname.lastname@example.org
Standing the Test of Time: Kentucky’s White Oak Basket Tradition, an exhibit created in partnership with the Kentucky Museum at Western Kentucky University, has been extended through April 8, 2017. Make sure you take advantage of this extension to visit the exhibit!