The Charlie Whitaker Memorial Apprenticeship

The Cowan Creek Mountain Music School is pleased to offer an apprenticeship to a student or teaching assistant for the purpose of a year of intensive study with a master musician who has taught at the Cowan Creek Mountain Music School either as an instructor or a visiting master.  The program will fund expenses relating to travel and documentation and will provide an honorarium to the master artist.  The mentor and apprentice will have ample opportunities to showcase the results of their year’s work at local festivals and other venues.  The program is intended to encourage and spread the growing enthusiasm of young people for connecting with the cultural traditions of their region and carrying on these traditions on in their own lives and communities.

charlieanderinThe apprenticeship program honors the memory of Charlie Whitaker, who introduced a new generation to square dancing at the Cowan Creek Mountain Music School, from the first school in 2002 until his passing in 2009 at the age of 80.  Charlie was also the caller of the Carcassonne square dances for over 60 years and led countless dances around the state.  He had a gift for including everyone in the fun of a dance and saw it as a vehicle for helping young folks develop confidence and leadership skills.  Charlie taught and encouraged many new callers, most notably Erin Stidham, who attended her first square dance at the age of 14 at the 2002 CCMMS and became a Kentucky Folklife Apprentice with Charlie two years later.  Erin is now the house caller for Cowan Community Center events and has joined the CCMMS faculty.  Erin’s apprenticeship has been critical to preserving dance as a vital part of community life in east Kentucky.  The apprenticeship program is intended to honor Charlie’s remarkable lifetime contribution to mountain arts and his mentorship of Erin serves as a guiding example of what we hope the apprenticeship program will achieve.


  • The apprenticeship program is primarily aimed at young adult students or teaching assistants, ages 15 to 30, who are progressing well in their chosen instrument or art and are ready to commit to a year of digging deep into the tradition.
  • The apprenticeship is not limited to music but can also include dance calling, storytelling or other mountain art.
  • Applicants should choose a potential mentor from among the CCCMS faculty and visiting masters, past and present,  and should consider as specifically as possible what skills they would like to gain during the year of study. How frequently and for how long the mentor and apprentice meet is flexible, since there may be significant travel involved.  The schedule of meetings should be agreed upon by both at the beginning of the apprenticeship year.
  • In addition to work with the mentor, the mentor and apprentice may also visit elder masters, perform or lead workshops together.
  • The mentor will receive a $1000 honorarium for their work with the apprentice and the apprentice will be reimbursed for gas mileage and recording supplies up to, but not exceeding, $1000.  Please see the Charlie Whitaker Memorial Apprenticeship Application Form and the Charlie Whitaker Memorial Apprenticeship Application Guidance page, below.  One apprentice will be chosen each year in which both funding and a promising applicant are available.

TO APPLY:  Please download the Application Form and fill it out as a Word document; the Application Guidance form will help you do so. Email it to


C.Whitaker Memorial Apprenticeship Application

C. Whitaker Memorial Apprenticeship App Guidance

Questions about the program or application process can be addressed by email to: lostjohnharrod and CC’d to

Applications will be forwarded to a panel of three Cowan Creek Mtn Music School faculty who will choose a potential apprentice and then assure that the chosen mentor is willing and able to work with the apprentice for the year.  All applications must be received by May 1, 2017.  The selected apprentice will be notified during the Cowan Creek Mtn Music School and work with the mentor should begin immediately thereafter.

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