June 2, 2010
The Vandalia Award, West Virginia’s highest folklife honor, was presented to renowned fiddle player, talented performer, judge, old-time festival coordinator and ambassador of traditional mountain culture, Robert “Bobby” Taylor of St. Albans, Kanawha County, on Friday, May 28, as part of the 34th annual Vandalia Gathering. The award was given to Taylor during a 7 p.m. ceremony and concert in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater in the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex, Charleston. Taylor and his band Kanawha Tradition also performed during the concert
Taylor is a fourth-generation West Virginia fiddler, known and respected throughout the state and nation for his traditional repertoire, pure tone and unparalleled musical technique. He plays many styles of old-time and contest fiddling, and got his early start from family members, including his father, Lincoln Taylor, as well as other West Virginia master musicians such as the legendary Clark Kessinger and Mike Humphreys, both of whom lived near where he grew up in Dunbar.
As a judge, Taylor has participated in the Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia state championships and is a regular at the Galax, Va. Fiddlers Convention. From 2006 - 2009, he judged the Grand Master Fiddle Championship in Nashville, Tenn. He also has judged the 2007 Western Open Fiddle Championship in Red Bluff, Calif.; the 2006 - 2008 Jana Jae’s Grand Lake National Fiddle Festival in Grove, Okla.; and the 2008 Grand National Fiddle Championship in Weiser, Idaho.
In addition, Taylor is a nationally recognized consultant on rules and judging procedures for fiddle contests. He has taught fiddle workshops at the Augusta Heritage Center and Allegheny Echoes Summer Workshops, and has served as an instructor to many individual students. Taylor has recently been on musical tours in Australia and Ireland, and was a featured performer at the National Folk Festival in Australia in 2008.
Taylor has been the coordinator of the Vandalia Gathering music contests since 1979, the contest coordinator of the Appalachian Open Contest from 1984 - 1987 and contest coordinator of the Appalachian String Band Music Festival since 1990, all of which are sponsored by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.
Currently, Taylor performs with the bands, Kanawha Tradition and Big Country. He also was a band member in The Teays Valley Boys, The Dave Morris Band, The Sweeney Brothers Band and The Green Meadow String Band. He has released several CD recordings including Kanawha Tradition, Half Past Four, with banjo and guitar player Andrew Dunlap, and Ragged Shirt, among others.
Taylor has more than 40 years’ experience as a musician and 30 years as a judge and contest coordinator. He extended his knowledge of the fiddle by constructing a quality violin under the guidance of Harold Hayslett of South Charleston, a Violin Society of America Gold Medal winner. He first received statewide recognition for his abilities when he was named the 1977 West Virginia State Fiddle champion at the West Virginia Forest Festival at Elkins. In 2003, he received the FOOTBRIDGE AWARD, presented by FOOTMAD, for his contributions to old-time music.
Taylor also serves as manager of the West Virginia State Archives and History Library for the WVDCH.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History (WVDCH) presents the Vandalia Award annually to a West Virginian who has made outstanding contributions to the continuation of the state’s folk heritage. The award recognizes lifetime achievement in the performance, creation or perpetuation of West Virginia traditional arts. The Vandalia Gathering, an annual three-day festival of traditional arts and folk heritage, is celebrated Memorial Day weekend at the Culture Center and the State Capitol grounds. More than 40,000 people attend the three-day festival each year.
For more information about the Vandalia Gathering or the Vandalia Award, contact Jacqueline Proctor, deputy commissioner for the Division, at (304) 558-0220.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. Its administrative offices are located at the Culture Center in the State Capitol Complex in Charleston, which also houses the state archives and state museum. The Culture Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. The agency also operates a network of museums and historic sites across the state. For more information about the Division’s programs, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
MEDIA NOTE: Bobby Taylor can be reached at (304) 722-0052 or (304) 546-7175.