Charles J. Horner

instrument maker, Rockwood
Tennessee Folklife Heritage Award (2009)

In a long career ,“Jean” Horner (1933- ) has distinguished himself as an extraordinary musical craftsman, but he didn’t stray far from home in doing it. For over 40 years he’s made fiddles and mandolins full-time in a shop near the cabin where he was raised in the Westel community on the Cumberland Plateau. He’s perfected his self-taught skills through resourcefulness and trial-and-error, and his hundreds of instruments have proven their quality in the hands of serious and demanding players, mostly traditional musicians in the surrounding region. Horner has demonstrated his craft in the Tennessee program at the 1986 Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife and occasionally at other public settings. He’s also played fiddle in bluegrass bands for years, but most of his creative activity has always taken place at his workbench, where he remains dedicated to making every instrument a little bit better than the last one.

Governor’s Arts Award profile

More Information

  • Beck, Ken, “A Master Fiddle Maker,” The Tennessean (January 16, 1996), p. 1-2D.
  • Bullard, Helen, “Stradivarius of the Cumberland Plateau,” Tennessee Conservationist 35, #12 (Dec 1969): 14-15.
  • ——-, Crafts and Craftsmen of the Tennessee Mountains (Falls Church, VA: The Summit Press Ltd., 1976), pp. 112-13.
  • Cogswell, Robert, Tradition: Tennessee Lives & Legacies (Nashville: Tennessee Arts Commission, 2010), pp. 72-77.
  • Venable, Sam, Mountain Hands: A Portrait of Southern Appalachia (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 2000), pp. 92-96.
  • Wilson, Joe, ed., Dixie Frets: Luthiers of the Southeast (Silver Spring, MD: National Council for the Traditional Arts, 1994).