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Secretary Browning Recognizes Contributions of Florida Folk Artists

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Florida Department of State
Kurt S. Browning
Secretary of State

For Immediate Release
April 20, 2011

Chris Cate

Secretary Browning Recognizes Contributions of Florida Folk Artists

Highlights work of Florida Folk Heritage Award recipients and Folk Art Masters

TALLAHASSEE – Secretary of State Kurt S. Browning recently recognized the accomplishments of several Florida folk artists. On March 23, during the Florida Heritage Month Awards in Tallahassee, Secretary Browning presented Florida Folk Heritage Awards to bouzouki player George Soffos of Tarpon Springs and folk advocate Bob Stone of Gainesville. Secretary Browning also recently announced the selection of three folk artists to serve as masters in the 2010-2011 Florida Folklife Apprenticeship Program. They are mbira musician Cleodis Faulks of Tamarac, Bahamian Junkanoo costume maker Percival Francis of Nassau, Bahamas, and Mexican norteño musician Tomás Granado of Webster.

“The work of these talented individuals illustrates the extraordinary depth and diversity of Florida’s cultural heritage,” said Secretary Browning. “In addition to their artistic accomplishments, I am encouraged by how they use their talents to help teach others about Florida’s folk heritage, preserving our tradition for future Floridians.”

The Florida Department of State presents Florida Folk Heritage Awards annually to citizens whose lifelong devotion to folklife has enriched the state’s cultural legacy. Like the National Heritage Awards, Florida Folk Heritage Awards honor Florida’s most significant and influential tradition bearers for excellence, significance and authenticity.

The Florida Department of State’s Folklife Apprenticeship Program fosters the continuation of Florida folk arts by supporting masters who teach selected apprentices. Under the program, each master artist works intensively with one or more apprentices during a period of up to eight months. Program support consists of honoraria to the masters and apprentices to cover expenses for lessons and supplies. The Apprenticeship Program is sponsored in part with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

To apply for the upcoming year’s Florida Folklife Apprenticeship Program, master artists should be known in their community as expert practitioners of a valued, traditional art form. Each apprentice must have demonstrated an aptitude for and a commitment to the art form he or she wishes to study and an involvement with the community that sustains the tradition. The next deadline for applications to the Florida Folklife Apprenticeship Program is May 15, 2011.

The Florida Folklife Program is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts’ Folk and Traditional Arts Program. For further information about the Florida Folklife Program, contact State Folklorist Blaine Waide, Florida Folklife Program, Division of Historical Resources, 500 S. Bronough St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-0250, or call 850.245.6333 or 1-800-847-PAST. For further information about the Department of State’s Folklife Apprenticeship Program, please go to www.flheritage.com\preservation/folklife/apprenticeship or write to the Florida Folklife Program, Division of Historical Resources, 500 S. Bronough St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-0250, or call 850.245.6333 or 1.800.847.PAST.

About Florida Folk Heritage Award Winner George Soffos

George Soffos is a widely recognized master of the bouzouki, a distinctive Greek guitar that is similar to the mandolin and belongs to the lute family. A valued member of the large Greek community in Tarpon Springs, Soffos upholds the proud heritage of the bouzouki player as custodian and guardian of traditional musical culture. The bouzouki is regarded as the preeminent instrument of traditional and contemporary performance, requiring a delicate touch, subtle ornamentation, and command of both the lyrical traditions of Grecian music and the urban traditions of the bouzoukia, or Greek night clubs. Soffos has been a student of the bouzouki since he was 15 years old, when he was sent to study with John Tatsapoulos, a master of the instrument. Since that time, he has played in the bouzoukia of Washington D.C., New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Detroit, Miami, Nashville, and many other cities both in the U.S. and abroad. Since returning to Tarpon Springs in the late 1990s, Soffos has become one of the most sought-after performers at local festivals and nightspots. He is a mentor and supporter of younger performers, and teaches through the City of Tarpon Springs Greek Arts Initiative, which encourages the preservation and practice of Greek community arts.

About Florida Folk Heritage Award Winner Bob Stone

Bob Stone has been a practicing folklorist since 1990. An engineer by training, he has worked with HistoryMiami, the Augusta Heritage Workshops, and the Florida Folklife Program. Now a self-employed folklorist, Stone began documenting Florida’s traditional culture as a member of the Bureau of Florida Folklife in White Springs. Specializing in documentary photography and media production, he has contributed to numerous projects that have enhanced the understanding Florida’s diverse folklife, including Florida Cattle Ranching: Five Centuries of Tradition, On My Way to Heaven, and the Voices of Florida radio series. As a researcher skilled in documenting musical traditions, he has assisted with dozens of compilations from varied cultural communities, including multiple Sacred Steel Guitar albums and Music from the Sunshine State, as well as contributing segments to National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. Additionally, he has penned essays for anthologies and other publications featuring notable Florida musicians and artists.  In 2010, his extensive research on the sacred steel guitar tradition culminated in the publication of Sacred Steel: Inside an African American Steel Guitar Tradition. Stone has worked tirelessly for two decades as a passionate advocate and proponent of the folk arts in Florida, assisting numerous artists and musicians from all over the Sunshine State.

About Florida Folk Master Cleodis Faulks

A former apprentice in the 1997 Florida Folklife Apprenticeship Program, Cleodis Faulks is an instrument builder, as well as a city planner and urban designer.  His background in millwork as an architectural woodwork specialist has directly contributed to his passion for building the mbira, a thumb piano originally from Central Africa. He lives in South Florida, and splits his time between millwork engineering and the design, building, and teaching of several musical instruments. He also performs with both Haitian musicians and African dance troupes.

About Florida Folk Master Percival Francis

With over 40 years of experience in Junkanoo costuming, Percival Francis brings a wealth of experience and appreciation for the art to the apprenticeship program.  Travelling between his home in Nassau, Bahamas and Orlando, he has taught the Bahamian costuming and parading tradition to many aspiring Junkanooers. While well known in the Bahamas, and among the state’s immigrant communities, the vibrant dances and costumes are becoming more familiar in Florida as groups of students congregate and learn, spreading this festive folk tradition to new audiences throughout the state.

About Florida Folk Master Tomás Granado

Tomás Granado learned norteño music, which is named after its origin in northern Mexico, from his parents who raised him with a keen appreciation for the colorful sounds of the accordion and guitar. He formed his first band with his cousins when he was 15 years old and has been practicing and refining his music for more than 40 years.  While he makes his home in central Florida, his dedication to the tradition has led him to perform all over the country, and in 2007, he was honored with a Florida Folk Heritage Award.

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