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Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Awards

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Samuel Herman and Micah Ling
2015 master artist and apprentice
Lansing (Ingham County)
Old time banjo

Samuel Herman and Micah Ling both grew-up in families that exposed them to and fostered their interests in traditional music. Through their apprenticeship, Herman will be passing on advanced banjo styles and techniques and helping Micah to grow in volume and confidence.

Samuel was introduced to the “many flavors and varieties of traditional music” by his uncle, who is a musician. Banjo was an element of Herman’s early education in a home school curriculum. He took formal lessons from Carry Potter and Neil Woodward, but his music education also included self-taught skills gained through watching, asking, and listening during travels in the Midwest, Mid-South, and Appalachia. According to Samuel, “old time banjo functions as a melodic, sympathetic, and rhythmic element in traditional dance and community sessions” and “is a tradition that can be learned formally as well as organically, and good participation in the old time music requires both.”  Today Samuel is a music teacher and performing artist who plays at festivals, dances, concerts, and house parties. He performs in several string bands including New Money, Bowhunter, The Haywire Railchasers, and The Key Killers.

Micah Ling comes from a “folk and traditional music household.” Her parents were both involved in their church’s folk choir and her father plays the fiddle, guitar, and mandolin. Micah began playing cello classically at age seven and took a path as an old-time cellist when she joined her father’s band, Hawks and Owls, while in high school. Micah has released an album, Kingdom Come, through the folk collective Earthwork Music. Micah received a bachelor of arts degree in art history and visual culture from Michigan State University and works as a cultural programs and collections assistant at the Michigan State University Museum.

Herman and Ling became acquainted in the early 2010s, with Herman inspiring Ling to want to “fully learn banjo and dedicate real time to it rather than simply picking it up from time to time.”  Working together through the apprenticeship program will enable Hermann to pass on his vast library of old time tunes, historical knowledge, and technical ability to an apprentice with a passionate interest in old time music.

-Mary Worrall

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