Friday, November 5, 2021

Randy Miller Awarded 2021 Governor's Arts Awards for Folk Heritage

On October 26, 2021, the Governor's Arts Awards recipients were celebrated during the first-ever streaming edition of the awards ceremony filmed at Studio Lab in Derry. The New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, in cooperation with the Governor's Office, biennially takes the opportunity to publicly acknowledge and recognize outstanding contributions to the state’s arts and cultural life made by individuals, organizations and communities through the presentation of the Governor's Arts Awards

The New Hampshire State Council on the Arts is pleased to announce Randy Miller as the recipient of the 2021 Governor's Arts Awards in Folk Heritage. The Folk Heritage Award "recognizes a New Hampshire traditional folk artist who has made a significant contribution to his or her art form and the cultural community, reflecting a lifetime of achievement." The 2021 Folk Heritage Award was sponsored by Sanborn Mills Farm.

Randy Miller is a New Hampshire treasure. Musician, artist, publisher, teacher, preservationist, and historian, Randy has made singular contributions to the preservation of the musical, historical, and artistic traditions of New Hampshire. He has played fiddle, piano, and accordion for contra dances for over 45 years and toured nationally and internationally, bringing New England dance music to the world. Moreover, he has been a welcoming mentor to other musicians, leading jam sessions at Irish pubs and participating in the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts’ Traditional Artist Apprenticeship program, sharing his knowledge to guide young musicians. Lately, he has taken to YouTube and Facebook, recording traditional music and stories to reach new audiences. 

Photo: Randy Miller and DNCR Commissioner Stewart at the GAA's. Photo by Abbigail Saffian.

New England Chestnuts, recordings made in the early 1980s with his brother, Rodney, are part of Randy’s story of saving and promoting traditional New Hampshire dance music. These recording are a touchstone for many musicians today, both young and old, and inspired Randy’s “tunebooks.” The New England Fiddler’s Repertoire, first published in 1983 and revised and reissued 25 years later, is the bible of traditional dance musicians. It contains the tunes that many people think of as definitive of New England-style contra dancing, which was in danger of being lost in the 1960s and 1970s and is a big part of the story of saving this musical tradition from obscurity. Randy’s other tune collections — Irish Traditional Fiddle Music, in collaboration with Jack Perron, and The Fiddler's Throne — have recorded, with amazing fidelity, the rich heritage of Irish and American fiddle music in New England. The Fiddler's Throne includes tunes by 18th and 19th century New England composers as well as original compositions, making clear the continuity and deep resources of the tradition.

His career, spanning the decades, makes him a living link to New Hampshire’s music and dance heritage. This year, the Ralph Page Weekend Dance Committee, a group whose mission is to preserve and promote the dance traditions of New Hampshire, chose Randy as featured presenter at its virtual gathering. His intimate knowledge of the callers and musicians who sparked the contra dance revival in New Hampshire made him the obvious choice. Over 250 people attended this virtual celebration of NH dance heritage to hear Randy share his recollections and the music that inspired him. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Apprenticeships: Working Through the Pandemic

Apprenticeship grants fund a master traditional artist to teach a qualified apprentice in one-to-one sessions over a period of six to ten months. These grants help communities preserve their cultural heritage through the learning and passing on of traditional arts and folklife – including crafts, music, dance, and foodways - so that future generations can continue to benefit from them. With the onset of the COVID-19 public health crisis and with its continued prevalence, some Apprenticeship teams were able to work through the pandemic as they originally intended while others had to modify or adapt their teaching/learning methods and materials. Regardless of how they were impacted, Apprenticeship teams showed their dedication, commitment, and the resiliency needed to pass on and learn their cultural traditions throughout this ongoing period of uncertainty.

 The following is a selection from some of our FY21 Apprenticeship Teams on how they were able to work through the pandemic:

Swathi Jaisankar at The Geeva Arts Festival, KY in July 2021. Photo provided by Swathi Jaisankar.
Swathi Jaisankar, Apprentice to Master Artist Aishwarya Balasubramanian, Bharatanatyam Dance 

 “Before the Pandemic, both Aishwarya Akka and I were already used to having some in person classes and some online virtual classes, so it was not a huge struggle for us to switch to full time virtual classes. In person classes are always nicer for both the teacher and student because we get that face to face interaction and more time to bond. Also, it's a lot easier to be corrected on steps in person, where there aren't wifi issues or music lags or cameras cutting out our hands and legs! However, because Aishwarya Akka and I understand each other and have worked together virtually in the past, this came very naturally for the both of us and has not caused any challenges in the learning process.

I definitely am a bit more aware of making sure I have a good internet connection before I join class, having a clean space to dance in since it will be on video, and being prepared with my music and what I will be recording the class with.”

Fred Dolan, Master Artist to Apprentice Chris Garcia, Decoy Carving:

Red Breasted Merganser Hen by Fred Dolan. Photo submitted by Fred Dolan.

“Dealing with Covid made the meetings between Chris and I a definite challenge.  We were finally able to manage it fairly well - actually better than I anticipated.  We began our work totally masked, gloved and distanced.  Not an easy task within the small space of my studio and needing to use tools, band saw, etc.  but for a while it seemed OK.  We did finally have to pause our project for a while as the Covid threat intensified.  We maintained regular contact via phone, texts and e-mails and concentrated during that time on research into the history of decoy carving, regional styles, noted carvers both contemporary and the early masters, a lot of questions and answers on technical skills, etc.  After we were both fully vaccinated we were able to resume our regular routine with common sense precautions. What a relief! These events impacted the art process at times and was somewhat anxiety producing.  It also required more time on both of our parts than we had planned on.  But in the end we resumed our rhythm and the actual work of carving and painting the decoy.  Our project was back on track and has been, despite all this, quite successful. Chris is an emerging carver and consequently many skills, especially painting, were new to him.  We both were able to keep a positive attitude and that was important. He is proud of his accomplishments resulting in a lovely decoy.  Maybe a few finishing touches and it will be complete! We both managed to stay healthy and to enjoy our work together.”

Blue Ghost by Scott Biron. Photo provided by Scott Biron.

Scott Biron, Master Artist to Apprentice Chuck Fritz, Fly Tying:

“The pandemic posed a challenge, we had some trouble getting materials. Many of the sources used in the past had no supply to sell.   Most of the traditional streamer hooks are manufactured in England and with the pandemic getting them and was difficult and the prices were much higher than we expected.  Specialty feather companies we ordered from often were out of what we needed.  We got around these challenges by changing many of the patterns that we had chosen to tie.  We accomplished the same traditional techniques but used materials we had in my personal inventory.  With no contact other than through zoom, I would mail my apprentice the materials he needed a week or two ahead of when we needed to use them.  

Having been a teacher for over 20 years I always operated under the "adjust we must” philosophy.  What I found was that each class was more about what we could accomplish and not what challenges the pandemic created.  One thing that was very clear was to maintain a routine of how each class would roll out.  That helped my apprentice know what to expect and how to be prepared.”

Braided Rug by Laura Price. Photo provided by Laura Price.
 Laura Price, Apprentice to Master Artist Dr. Misty Batchelder, Rug Braiding:

Misty and I think alike on the coronavirus issue and weren't troubled with meeting in person as originally planned. The only thing that affected us was the change in start time from November to January. It was a wonderful experience and in a couple weeks we are doing our community demonstration! I'm looking forward to it!

In our case it was especially needed to meet in person as our art form isn't one that can be learned virtually. Hands-on learning time and the ability for mistakes or issues to be seen in person to be corrected was vital.”


To learn more information about the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grants program, please visit:

Monday, April 27, 2020

New Hampshire Artist Emergency Grants

The New Hampshire Artist Emergency Grant program will provide $500 grants to artists who have lost income due to the loss of jobs or cancellation/modification of specific, scheduled gigs or opportunities (e.g., commissions, performances, contracts, workshops, classes, etc.) because of COVID-19. This program is funded in part by the New England Foundation for the Arts.

Deadline: Sunday, May 3, 2020.  
Applications must be completed by 11:59PM Eastern Time on the deadline date.

Award: $500 

Who May Apply?
 Individual professional New Hampshire artists, 18 years of age or over, who devote a majority of their time to practicing, performing and/or teaching an arts discipline, who can document lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Applicants must also have been New Hampshire residents for at least one full year and still be residents at the time grants are awarded. Due to limited funds, artists may receive only one Artist Emergency Grant.

Who May Not Apply?
  • Organizations or corporations 
  • Current undergraduate or graduate students 
  • Full-time Pre-K-12, college or university faculty are not eligible to apply. (Adjunct and part-time faculty are eligible.)

What Will This Grant Support?  
This grant will assist artists in recouping financial losses due to canceled or modified work/events since Governor Sununu’s declaration of the New Hampshire State of Emergency (Executive Order 2020-04) on March 13, 2020, including:   

  • Performances in all performing arts disciplines
  •  Readings, panels, and speaking opportunities
  • Classes, workshops or teaching artist residencies
  • Festivals, exhibitions or events
  • Non-refundable travel costs for attending conferences, meetings, events or festivals that have been canceled
  • Non-refundable travel costs for artist residencies
  • Non-refundable touring costs
Documentation of the losses, i.e., cancellation/modification notification(dated no earlier than March 13, 2020) is required.

This program does not support:
  • Creation of new work 
  • Equipment purchases
  • Costs associated with producing a music recording (CD or DVD) or the publication of a book
  • Costs for framing artwork
  • Subscriptions and memberships
  • Financial aid/tuition costs to pursue degree-granting opportunities
  • Previously incurred debts or deficits not related to COVID-19
  • Travel costs that exceed current state per diems (please use this tool to calculate travel per diems)
  • The presentation (e.g., exhibit) of artwork in a non-public venue
  • Costs associated with international travel
  • Research projects
  • Retreats
  • Apprenticeships
  • Please refer to the full list of ineligible expenses.

For more information, please visit the Artist Emergency Grants page HERE.