Fancy fiddler

Owenton’s Harrod selected
for Ky. Gov. Arts Award

His talent earned him the state’s Folk Heritage Award

Staff Report

(March 2005) – Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher on Feb. 8 honored the state’s artisans with the presentation of the Governor’s Awards in the Arts. Owenton, Ky., fiddler John Harrod, a Kentucky native, received the Folk Heritage Award.

John Harrod

Photo provided

John Harrod plays and
teaches folk music.

“The award honors people who have made valuable contributions to the states folk heritage or to the preservation of the states folk heritage,” Harrod said in a February telephone interview. “I think in my case it was a little bit of both.”
Harrod has spent the last 30 years playing, teaching, researching and working to preserve traditional music. “I seek out and have documented stories of traditional musicians in Kentucky, many of whom are now deceased.”
Harrod, a history teacher at Frankfort High School, had the largest cheering section at the ceremony. His school’s principal had arranged for his entire student body to go to the Capitol and watch their teacher as he was honored by Fletcher.
Harrod has made countless audio and video recordings of old time musicians playing and talking about the music they love. In the beginning, he says, as a fiddle player, it was just an interest of his. He later put copies of his documentations at Berea College in the Appalachian Sound Archive for others to see and hear.
The pieces are now being copied for an archive at the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music at Morehead. The recordings feature more than 100 artists that Harrod has researched through the years.
Harrod began playing the fiddle and traditional music when he was 19 years old. “I started playing bluegrass music and that led me back to the music that preceded it,” he said.
He plays several instruments but is best known for his fiddling. He has played with a number of bands over the years and is now plays in a band named “Kentucky Wildhorse” with fellow traditional music enthusiasts, Paul David Smith, Jim Web, Don Rogers, Jeff Keith and Kevin Kehrberg.
The band plays bluegrass, old time and even some country rock. “I don’t think you can really see a clear line of separation between the styles,” Harrod said. “They are all a product of the same people, with the same values, they are continuum of one another.”
Other Governor’s Arts Award recipients included Ricky Skaggs, a Kentucky native and nationally famous bluegrass musician who received the National Award. Elizabeth Harwell, a Louisville Ballet ballerina, received the Artists Awards for lifetime achievement in the arts. The Community Arts Award for an individual was presented to Nana Yaa Assantewa, and the Community Arts Award for an organization went to The Singletary Center for the Arts on the University of Kentucky campus in Lexington.
David A. Jones, chairman of Humana, Inc., received the Milner Award, the most prestigious award for Outstanding Contributions to the Arts in Kentucky. Mike Mullins represented the Hindman-Knott County Community Development Initiative, the recipients of the Government Award. The Media Award was awarded to Judy Jennings, vice president of marketing of WTCR Radio in Ashland. Nancy Chadwick accepted the Education Award for the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center in Covington. The Business Award went to Julius Friedman, co-owner of Louisville’s Chapman-Friedman Galler.

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