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Lifetime Achievement Awards

For pictures and biographies of the honorees, click on the appropriate year below:

The experience of our Lifetime Achievement Awards has been best described by John McCutcheon, as he presented this award for Paul Robeson in Vancouver in February 2001. His remarks included the following meditation on what these awards mean to our community:

“I believe what we’re doing here is that we are defining ourselves. We are creating our common cultural genealogy. We are naming our elders, and we are saying who we are. 

“So, who are we saying we are? We are saying that we are a community of perseverance, we a community of courage, we are a community of passion. We are a community certainly of skill, but we are also a community of compassion. 

“Folk Music existed before recorded history existed. We include traditional music from many cultures and prove again and again that our common roots are more powerful than the common mistakes we make trying to coexist. If we are to make these events meaningful; if we are to give true lifetime achievement honor…; we must understand that it is not merely enough to create a plaque, to create an event. Because whether we survive as an organization, as a community, as a world, will not be determined by whether or not one or another of us did what we did in a short time here, but rather how well we learned from these examples, and how well we teach by our own.

“These awards are given to individuals and organizations that have achieved definitive leadership in their field and, over the span of their lifetime, have indelibly contributed to the advancement of folk music and/or dance. An important consideration is also the degree to which their influence is multiplied through others to affect the field of folk music and/or dance far beyond their direct contribution. 

Our first three years we presented two awards, one to a performer, one to a person or institution involved in the business or academic side of the folk world. We now have expanded to honor two performers, one living and one deceased, and a business/academic person or organization. We select those who have inspired us, taught us, and marked us, and the music and dance we love, with their presence.

The Award

Each recipient receives an original colored wood-block print, commissioned by the Folk Alliance for the Lifetime Achievement Award by artist Paul Ritscher. Paul is a self-taught wood engraver and woodcut artist who single-handedly brought about a revival interest in wood engraving through his reformation of the Society of Wood-Engravers, serving as editor and president for many years. His work has brought him many awards including listings in The 100 Show: The Fifteenth Annual of the American Center for Design, Design Year in Review, and Print’s Regional Design Annual, as well as awards of excellence from the American Institute of Graphic Arts, and Communication Arts Magazine. In addition to his artistic pursuits, Paul is an accomplished musician. He is a former banjoist for the old-time group The Stillhouse Reelers and has won numerous contests, including twice being awarded National Old-Time Banjo Player of the Year. 

You Can Nominate An Honoree

Our Lifetime Achievement Award honorees are selected by a committee of electors in a process overseen by LAA chairman Mark Moss. To submit a person or organization for consideration, please email the Folk Alliance office ([email protected]).

Lifetime Achievement Award Honorees

2003
Ralph Stanley  –   Reverend Gary Davis  –   Sing Out!

2002
Hazel Dickens  –   Bill Monroe  –   Harold Leventhal

2001
Lydia Mendoza  –   Paul Robeson  –   Ralph Rinzler


2000
Doc Watson  –   Dewey Balfa  –   Edith Fowke


1999
Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon  –   The Carter Family 
Anne & Frank Warner

1998
Jeanne Ritchie  –   Huddie William Ledbetter (Lead Belly) 
The American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress

1997
Utah Phillips  –   Chris Strachwitz

1996
Woody Guthrie  –   Moe Asch

1995
Pete Seeger  –   Alan Lomax