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Lifetime Achievement Awards

The Elaine Weissman Lifetime Achievement Awards are presented each year during the annual International Folk Alliance Conference. The awards are presented to a living recipient, a memorial recipient, and an organization or recognized academic.

2017 Lifetime Award Winners

Living Award

David Amram

David Amram is an American composer, conductor, multi-instrumentalist, and author whose integration of jazz with folk and world music has led him to work with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Willie Nelson, Langston Hughes, Charles Mingus, Pepper Adams, and Levon Helm, among others.

Amram is the author of three books, has composed more than 100 orchestral and chamber music works, written many scores for Broadway theater and film, two operas, and the score for the 1959 film Pull My Daisy, narrated by novelist Jack Kerouac.

Amram is considered a pioneer of jazz French horn. He also plays piano, numerous flutes and whistles, percussion, and dozens of folkloric instruments from 25 countries, as well as being an improvisational lyricist. He has been one of BMI's twenty most performed composers of concert music of the last thirty years, and some of his recent orchestral works include Giants of the Night, a concerto for flute and orchestra (commissioned and premiered by Sir James Galway); Symphonic Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie, (commissioned by the Woody Guthrie Foundation); and Three Songs: A Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (written for and premiered by pianist Jon Nakamatsu).

Amram appears in Andrew Zuckerman's book and feature film documentary Wisdom: The Greatest Gift One Generation Can Give To Another, as one of the world's 50 Elder Thinkers and Doers, and his instructional video, Origins of Symphonic Instruments, released by Educational Video, is shown in over 6,000 schools throughout the United States and Canada.

The Music Division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center has acquired the complete archive of Amram's manuscripts, scores, recordings, videos, photographs, and artwork. This archive provides the opportunity for scholars and the general public to study his work. A regular folk scene attendee he is renown for his generosity of time and talent, and for his boundless energy.


Legacy Award

Malvina Reynolds (1900-1978)

Malvina Reynolds was an American folk/blues singer-songwriter and political activist, best known for her songwriting, particularly the songs "Little Boxes" and "Morningtown Ride."

Born in San Francisco to Jewish and socialist immigrants who opposed involvement in World War I, Reynolds studied music theory, earned a Master of Arts in English and completed her doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley.

Though she played violin in a dance band in her twenties, Reynolds began her songwriting career late in life penning several popular songs, including "Little Boxes" (about suburban sprawl), "What Have They Done to the Rain" (about nuclear fallout), "It Isn't Nice" (a civil rights anthem), "Turn Around" (about children growing up), and "There's a Bottom Below" (about depression).

Reynolds was also a noted composer of children's songs, including "Magic Penny" (a popular London folk song during the 1940s) and "Morningtown Ride" which became a top-5 UK single.

Her songs were sung and recorded by The Seekers, Pete Seeger, Harry Belafonte, Joan Baez, and many others. Four collections of her music are available on the Smithsonian Folkways and Omni labels.

In her later years, Reynolds contributed songs and material to PBS' Sesame Street, on which she made occasional appearances as a character named Kate. A film biography, Love It Like a Fool, was made a few years before her death.

Business/Academic Award

Helen Creighton (1899–1989)

Helen Creighton was a folklorist from Nova Scotia, Canada.

Originally intending to develop a career as a writer, she was introduced to folk songs through W. Roy MacKenzie’s book, Ballads and Sea Songs of Nova Scotia. Armed with this new awareness of the subject, Creighton began to discover local traditional singers and storytellers. In 1942, having earlier earned a junior diploma in music at McGill University in Montreal, she received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to attend the summer session of the Indiana University Institute of Folklore.

Largely, however, her methodology was learned in the field as Folklore was still an emerging discipline, but Creighton persevered and managed to carve out a career collecting and publishing traditional lore. She was able to establish connections with agencies such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the National Museum of Canada, and the US Library of Congress.

She began to travel around Nova Scotia, collecting songs, tales and customs of Gaelic, English, German, Mi'kmaq, African and Acadian origin. Frequently, she had to walk or sail to remote regions to satisfy her interest, all the while pushing a metre-long melodeon in a wheelbarrow. Among Creighton's many contributions was the discovery of the traditional "Nova Scotia Song", widely called "Farewell to Nova Scotia", which has become a provincial anthem.

Between 1942 and 1946, Creighton received three Rockefeller Foundation fellowships to collect songs in Nova Scotia. The second of these fellowships was used to collect songs with equipment loaned by the Library of Congress. Creighton also made recordings for the Canadian Museum of Civilization from 1947-1967.

Over the course of her career, Creighton collected over 4,000 songs and ballads. She authored thirteen books of traditional songs, ballads and stories, of which her Bluenose Ghosts is the most widely known. She also wrote an autobiography, and a number of articles. She received many awards, including Distinguished Folklorist; six honorary doctorates; Fellow of the American Folklore Society, Honorary Life President of the Canadian Authors' Association; and The Order of Canada.


Past Recipients (1995-2016)

Lifetime Achievement Award videos now on YOUTUBE

2016 Ramblin' Jack Elliott Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee The English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS)
2015 Peggy Seeger Bessie Jones Canadian Society for Traditional Music
2014 Buddy MacMaster* Dock Boggs Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
2013 The Weavers Mike Seeger Augusta Heritage Center
2012 Harry Belafonte
Robert Johnson The Highlander Center
2011 Joan Baez
Jimmie Rodgers Les Blank
2010 Bob Dylan
Elizabeth Cotten National Council for Traditional Arts
2009 Guy & Candie Carawan* Phil Ochs
Old Town School of Folk Music
2008 Mavis Staples Tommy Jarrell Rounder Records
2007 Earl Scruggs* Dave Van Ronk Manny Greenhill
2006 Tom Paxton Clifton Chenier Kenneth Goldstein
2005 Odetta* Stan Rogers The Newport Folk Festival
2004 New Lost City Ramblers Mississippi John Hurt Bess Lomax Hawes
2003 Ralph Stanley Reverend Gary Davis SingOut!
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 and Frank Warner
1998 Jean Ritchie* Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter American Folklife Center
1997 Bruce "Utah" Phillips* N/A Arhoolie Records (Chris Strachwitz)
1996 N/A Woody Guthrie
Folkways Records (Moe Asch*)
1995 Pete Seeger* N/A Alan Lomax

  * - denotes Living Lifetime Achievement Award winner has passed.

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