2018 Master Artist & Apprentice Feature: Doug Van Gundy & Annie Stroud, Old-Time Fiddling of the Greenbrier Valley

vangundydougstroudannie-5The fifth in a series featuring our five 2018 Folklife Apprentice pairs. View the previous features hereherehere and here

The West Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program offers up to a $3,000 stipend to West Virginia master traditional artists or tradition bearers working with qualified apprentices on a year-long in-depth apprenticeship in their cultural expression or traditional art form. These apprenticeships aim to facilitate the transmission of techniques and artistry of the forms, as well as their histories and traditions.

Doug Van Gundy, of Elkins led an apprenticeship in old-time fiddle of the Greenbrier Valley with Annie Stroud, of Charleston. Van Gundy is an eighth-generation West Virginian who learned old-time fiddle from Greenbrier County fiddler Mose Coffman through the 1993 Augusta Heritage Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program. Annie Stroud, of Charleston, is a Greenbrier County native who began playing violin at an early age, and through the apprenticeship, is now learning old-time fiddle tunes local to her home county. She plays fiddle with the Allegheny Hellbenders string band and is a member of the Morgantown Friends of Old-Time Music and Dance.


Apprenticeship Scope by Doug Van Gundy

I play the fiddle in the east-central West Virginia style, and I am particularly influenced by the music of the Allegheny Highlands. The music of the Hammons Family of Pocahontas County, Mose Coffman of Greenbrier County, and Henry Reed of Monroe County, all retain an archaic quality that reaches back into the British Isles and northern Europe, and have figured importantly in my development as a musician. The fiddle music of this region was frequently a solo music, and consequently often features a droning, lonesome quality that reflects the isolated, highland quality of the landscape. This is my favorite music in the world.

Doug Van Gundy – Artist Statement

I learned to play the fiddle 25 years ago from Mose Coffman (b. 1905) of Greenbrier County, through an apprenticeship program of the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis and Elkins College.  Through Mr. Coffman’s patience and generosity, I became the living repository of a fiddle tradition that has been a part of Appalachian culture since before West Virginia was a state. Through the current West Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program, I am passing that tradition on to a very worthy steward in Annie Stroud  This music belongs to her, and to me, and to all West Virginians, and the whole of the American people as a part of the rich mosaic of American culture as a whole.

I grew up in east-central West Virginia surrounded by the playing of such wonderful musicians as Woody Simmons, Dewey Hamrick, and the Currence Brothers, but I didn’t take much notice of it, nor value it in any real way. Now, in my 50s, I am proud to carry on the traditional music of West Virginia, and to have the opportunity to pass it on to others through individual teaching, workshops and performances throughout the state and beyond.

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Stroud performs at the 2018 New Story Conference. Photo by Tara Fowler

Annie Stroud – Artist Statement

I was born in Greenbrier County, WV and started playing classical violin around age nine. My parents played in a dance band so I picked up tunes around age twelve.  Attending regional folk festivals as a child exposed me to old-time and a few young female musicians, Rachel Eddy especially, who were a big influence for me envisioning a place for myself as woman in fiddling tradition.  I played old-time in college but really engaged when I found the recordings of West Virginia & Virginia musicians such as the Hammons Family, Melvin Wine, and Henry Reed. I had the opportunity to learn from Dave Bing at the Augusta Heritage Center thanks to the Augusta scholarship fund (A great program that supports young musicians) and his playing and knowledge of regional styles directly influenced my interests and focus on West Virginia fiddling.

Playing for regional square dances over the last seven years has re-affirmed the belief in the power of cultural heritage in creating strong community. The vitality of and connection to the cultural traditions and history in a place (also recognizing and taking responsibility for the uncomfortable history) have a huge impact on the quality of life, sense of belonging, and well-being of community. For me, even though my parents were not born here, the music, dance, agricultural and food traditions in West Virginia are all part of what makes me feel connected to place.

You can find me and the band on Soundcloud, Facebook. and Instagram as the Allegheny Hellbenders.

The apprenticeship program grants are administered by the West Virginia Folklife Program at the West Virginia Humanities Council in Charleston and are supported in part by an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. West Virginia Folklife is dedicated to the documentation, preservation, presentation, and support of West Virginia’s vibrant cultural heritage and living traditions.