Kentucky Folklife Program Gives Out 2023 Homer Ledford Award to George Wakim and Tommy Case

The Kentucky Folklife Program is pleased to announce the 2023 winners of the Homer Ledford Award! This award honors top Kentucky luthiers for their contributions to the craft of instrument making and service to Kentucky music communities and is given in honor and memory of master luthier, musician, and educator Homer Ledford. Throughout his life, Ledford was well known for his exceptional craftsmanship, impressive productivity, inspired innovations, generous spirit, and willingness to teach anyone interested in his art.  After a brief hiatus since 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the KFP will be honoring two exemplary luthiers this year, Tommy Case and George Wakim with this award. 

“Both Tommy and George demonstrate a dedication to the craft of luthiery and represent the dynamic variety of stringed instruments being created in the Commonwealth today.” shared Brent Bjorkrman, Director of the Kentucky Folklife Program and Kentucky Museum at WKU. “The Kentucky Folklife Program is excited to award these two outstanding luthiers with this year’s Homer Ledford Award.” 

George Wakim is a versatile and creative luthier from Lebanon, but has called Lexington home for many years and is well known as an violin maker, as well as ouds and percussive instruments. He has shown a commitment to evolving his craft, adding new instruments to his repertoire as a luthier, demonstrating his knowledge and understanding of the craft. This includes instruments that speak to the culture that surrounds him, like the Riq and Darbuka. Some of the instruments he has crafted are on display at public locations, including a violin at the Frazier Museum in Louisville. Other instruments he has created are being used by musicians all over the world. George is also a talented musician himself, a member of the only Flamenco-Arabic band in Kentucky, Alma Gitana. 

Tommy Case is based out of Scott County, KY and has been making violins and pochette violins for over two decades. He has a keen eye and sense of detail, ensuring every instrument he makes is of the highest quality. He has also taken on apprentices through the Kentucky Arts Council and is passionate about teaching others the craft. Tommy has gained a nationwide reputation as a talented Kentucky violin maker and teacher and has given demonstrations at events throughout the Commonwealth and carries on the tradition of fine Kentucky luthiers. 

The Homer Ledford Award was presented, along with its longtime partner, The Kentucky Arts Council, at the 2023 Kentucky Crafted Market at the Kentucky Horse Park Alltech Arena in Lexington on March 11th. This award is sponsored by The Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology at WKU, The Kentucky Folklife Program and The Kentucky Arts Council. 

While Tommy was unavailable to attend, his apprentices Greg Marsee, Daniel Graham and John Ryster accepted on his behalf. After the awards were presented, George, John, Daniel, Greg and past winner Art Mize participated in a narrative stage with Brent Bjorkman, where audiences got to learn more about the instrument making process and what makes each of these winners so special.


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