Audrey Hash Ham grew up in Whitetop, Virginia where she first learned to make dulcimers, then fiddles, from Albert Hash, her father. Audrey followed her father around from the time she was about three years old watching the way he worked. She made her first dulcimer in 1966 or 1967, and continued making them for years beside her father as he worked on fiddles.Eventually, with the guidance of her father, she decided to try making a fiddle. When the instrument was finished, she was sure it wouldn’t play, but her father pulled the bow across the strings, and it did play. She gave that fiddle to her father for his birthday, and he said he would rather have that instrument than a new Cadillac.Since then, Audrey has continued making fiddles, and she has made more than 1,000 dulcimers and some other string instruments. She has worked with Archie Elmer Powers, who also apprenticed under Albert Hash, and has helped a number of people get started making instruments, including Archie’s son Carl and WTMB member, Jackson Cunningham. Audrey has made fiddles that have sold for as much as $13,000, and she was once featured on Country Music Television, but she has also been very generous with her craft helping musicians in need get their hands on an instrument. Audrey enjoys singing folk songs around the house, and she and her daughter harmonize well with each other. With her shop right beside her house, she spends at least a little bit of each day working on making instruments. She particularly enjoys carving figures in the peghead of her fiddles. Audrey has lived in Ashe County, NC for about 15 years. She welcomes visitors interested in her fiddles, and she tells great stories with a wonderful sense of humor.
Archie Elmer Powers is a fiddlemaker from Lansing, NC. He apprenticed under Albert Hash for many years and is known for making fiddles in the Hash tradition. Many of his fiddles have carved heads, and beautiful enlayed/etched backs. He has worked with Audrey Hash Ham in building many instruments and been featured on tv programsand articles for his musical instruments. Above is a fiddle Archie and Audrey carved together:
Jackson Cunningham builds fiddles and guitars, lives in Rugby, VA. Jackson grew up around music and woodworking; his step-father was a carpenter, and Jackson started doing woodwork at a young age. After moving to Virginia, he apprenticed under Audrey Hash Ham in the Whitetop fiddle making tradition. His fiddles have been displayed at many festivals in the region; his fiddles have been played all the way from Whitetop to California to UK and Australia. You can visit his website HERE.
Buddy Blevins - Buddy lives at Seven Mile Ford. He is a maker of several different musical instruments: mandolins, fiddles, banjos and guitars. He also does repair work. He calls his business Deer Valley Musical Instruments; his shop is at his home. Both Del and Ronnie McCoury have played his instruments at the Paramount Theater. Mike Goodman owns one of Buddy's banjos. Buddy says he builds to order, and he usually has some instruments to sell as well. You can contact him at (276) 646-4264, or you can visit Buddy's website.
Walter Messick- Walt tells about his mountain dulcimer, bowed/plucked saltry, and upright piano dulcimer building:"After moving from Philadelphia to the mountains to pastor two small Lutheran churches, I fell in love with the musical heritage of the area. In 1981, one of my parishioners, good friend and national treasure, Albert Hash, and his talented daughter, Audrey, apprenticed me for a year prior to his death, starting me on a path that changed my life forever. Making musical instruments has become a passion and way of life. The lives of several instrument makers have touched me deeply and for which I am eternally grateful. As I mentioned earlier, Albert Hash and Audrey Hash-Ham not only taught me instrument making skills, but even more importantly, the values of sharing, giving, helping, caring, accepting and loving. Russ Sturgill, Bob Mize, Wayne Henderson, Gerald Anderson, all well known local instrument makers, have shared friendship, time and knowledge, especially in the beginning when I was a novice getting started back in the early 80’s After being “on the road”, so to speak, for over 20 years exhibiting at craft shows up and down the east coast, Because of the excellent foundation my mentors imparted to me I was able to exhibit at many of the finest craft shows in the country and have won many awards and honor, including exhibiting at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, The National Folk Festival in Richmond, Virginia and The Abby Rockefeller Museum in Williamsburg, Virginia. I am a member of Holston Mountain Artisans, Virginia Carolina Craftsmen, The Artisan Center of Virginia, Round the Mountain Southwest Virginia Artisan Network, including being juried into Heartwood."
Chris Testerman is a fiddle maker from Whitetop, VA. He has apprenticed under Audrey Hash Ham for several years. Many of his fiddles have carved scrolls and backs, in the style of Albert Hash's. Chris is also a multi-instrumentalist, and artist. He performs with the Cabin Creek Boys. He has won many awards in old time fiddle competitions. Chris will also have art for sale at the festival. Chris' website
Larry Hicks is a guitar maker from Castlewood, Virginia. He and his father Allen Hicks have both been making instruments for over ten years. He has made over 40 guitars and has had his instruments on display at Heartwood Center in Abingdon, and many other luthiers shows in the Blue Ridge. Larry says, "I have a love for working with wood – it's exciting to hear what it sounds like when you get them made."
Randal Eller has always been a talented carpenter. In 1980 he had the good fortune to meet the most famous and accomplished instrument maker in Southwest Virginia, Albert Hash. Albert Hash immediately recognized Mr. Eller's talents in carpentry and invited him into his home to learn instrument making. A quarter of a century later Mr. Eller continues to make fiddles and mandolins in the Hash tradition at his home-workshop in Chilhowie, Virginia. www.ellerinstruments.com
Kevin Fore "I am a native of the Round Peak section of Surry County, North Carolina. I didn't start playing the banjo until I was 26 years old, but it didn't take me long to discover that playing and making banjos was my passion in life. Around 1999, I went to see Benton Flippen's band, The Smokey Valley Boys, at the Alleghany Jubilee in Sparta, North Carolina. It was at this time that I decided that I wanted to learn how to play the banjo, but it wasn't until September of 2000, that I bought my first banjo and took a few bluegrass style banjo lessons, I found this style of playing the banjo was not for me. I wanted to play the local, old-time style of music. I basically taught myself to play by listening to older musicians from the Round Peak area.Naturally as a result of my interest in playing the banjo, I had the desire to build a banjo of my own. Just as my banjo playing is influenced by Kyle Creed, so are banjo making skills." Kevin's website
Mac Traynham of Floyd County became interested in handmade instruments in 1975 when he commissioned a friend build him a Gibson RB-100 copy on which to play a three finger style of Bluegrass and other experimental music. He became even more interested after commissioning Wayne Henderson to build him a Martin D-28 style guitar in 1976. Being attracted to beautiful woods and a serious player of Southwest Virginia style clawhammer banjo music, Mac built his first banjo in 1978 using recycled birdseye maple flooring that had been previously made into a door. During the late 70s and early 80s, he continued to make banjos and was part of an instrument makers seminar at the 1981 National Folk Festival. Being interested in all aspects of instrument making and playing, he visited the shops of and got tips from many of the area’s renown instrument makers including Olen Gardner, Kyle Creed, Arthur Conner, Albert Hash, and Wayne Henderson. Over the years, he has experimented with classic tone designs and today is known for making beautiful banjos that have a superior tone. He most recently was a master banjo maker in the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities’ 2009 Apprenticeship program. Mac's website
Dewey Cole is an old time fiddle and banjo player/maker. His dad was Calvin Cole, a well known banjo and fiddle player from near Galax,VA. if you are interested in a Dewy Cole instrument, you can call him at 276-236-0497
Joe Sweeney, of Galax, Virginia is a multi-instrumentalist, dancer, and instrument maker.