By Dr. Bradley Hanson, Director of Folklife –
Master fiddler and guitarist Jim Wood of Shelbyville and his apprentice Ben Ayers of Winchester will perform a concert of traditional American fiddle tunes at 7:00 p.m. Friday, May 5, 2017. The event will take place at McCrory Hall for the Performing Arts on the campus of St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School. The duo will demonstrate how classic fiddle tunes can be distinctively framed by various traditional guitar accompaniment styles such as old-time, western swing, contest-style, Celtic, and swing. Showcasing virtuosic music, history, and discussion of fiddle and guitar styles, the performance will be both entertaining and informative. Wood and Ayers are one of eight teams funded by the Tennessee Arts Commission’s Folklife Program to pass down rare and endangered traditional art forms and skills through this year’s inaugural Tennessee Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program.
Wood has spent a lifetime accompanying traditional old time, bluegrass and contest fiddlers throughout the Southeast, and is today renowned for his innovations in the regional style. He has won 15 state fiddling championships and holds the all-time record for winning the Tennessee State Championship five times. A consummate traditional musician, he has won over 160 contests on fiddle, mandolin and guitar.
Ayers has performed and studied music since the age of eight, and currently plays acoustic and electric guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, tenor banjo, electric and upright bass, and keyboards with musical acts in a wide range of genres. For nine years, Ayers studied at Wood’s studio in Flat Creek, Tennessee. In 2011, he received a scholarship to study jazz at Middle Tennessee State University and graduated in 2014 with a major in Recording Industry Management and a minor in music.
Documentary photographs and video of the team’s work will be featured along with photographs and artifacts from the other seven teams in the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program Exhibition, which will be held May 19 through July 14, 2017, at the Tennessee Arts Commission Gallery in Nashville. The artists will discuss and demonstrate their work at a reception on June 1, 2017, from 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.