Exploring Blue Ridge Folkways

Inside the Wayne C. Henderson School of Appalachian Arts

Renowned bluegrass guitarist and acoustic instrument builder Wayne Henderson was catapulted into the national spotlight when Eric Clapton ordered a custom guitar in the late 1990s—and was put on a 10-year waitlist to get it. Henderson parlayed the fame into an eponymous learning center in his hometown of Marion, dedicated to preserving and passing down Appalachian folk art traditions. 

The Center is housed in a historic, three-story schoolhouse that dates to 1908 and offers expansive, year-round programming that includes courses in guitar making—in a professional setting with skilled luthiers trained by Henderson himself—pottery, letter-pressing, quilting, watercolor painting, stained glass, soap making, and more. Also offered are music lessons, including a multi-week class that lets participants build a mountain dulcimer then learn to play it. A small stage and renovated auditorium hosts special performances, weekly bluegrass, and old-time music jams on Monday nights. TheHenderson.org


This article originally appeared in the Best of Virginia 2024 issue.

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