New American Banjo Festival
The New American Banjo Festival
April 24-25, 2021
Online streamed performances and presentations
Festival tickets by donation. Click on the Banjo to register:
The New American Banjo Festival Schedule
Saturday, April 24, 2021
- 6 pm Video: The A.E. Smith Banjo Company, one of the first revival banjo manufacturing businesses, which was located in Franklin County, MA. A conversation with Kate Spencer and Michael Nix
- 7 pm Zoom: Q & A with Kate Spencer on the A.E. Smith Banjo Company
- 8 pm Video: Shingle the Roof, Old-time musicians Kate Spencer and Jerry Devokatis
- 9 pm Video: The Nix Classic Banjo Project with Michael Nix
Sunday, April 25, 2021
- 6 pm Film: Linefork, a film featuring Kentucky banjo legend Lee Sexton (Smithsonian Folkways)
- 7:30 pm Zoom: Q & A with film maker Vic Rawlings on Linefork
- 8 pm Video: Aaron Jonah Lewis, Classic Fingerstyle Banjo
- 9 pm Video: Ken Perlman, Melodic Clawhammer Banjo
The New American Banjo Festival will take place on-line, April 24 and 25, 2021 with streaming concerts and Zoom discussions each day. The New American Banjo Festival will explore interesting and unique performance styles old and new; have a history component, and a cultural component focusing on the banjo in New England and beyond. Admission is by donation.
Performers for the New American Banjo Festival are Aaron Jonah Lewis, a classic fingerstyle virtuoso; Ken Perlman, internationally known as a pioneer of a banjo style known as melodic clawhammer; Shingle the Roof, an Old-time string band; and Michael Nix performing music from his New Classic Banjo Project.
Kate Spencer will give a video presentation and Q&A Zoom session on the Arthur E. Smith Banjo Company, one of the first revival banjo manufacturing businesses, which was located in Franklin County, MA. Linefork, a film featuring Kentucky banjo legend Lee Sexton (Smithsonian Folkways) will be screened followed by live Zoom Q+A with Co-Director Vic Rawlings.
NixWorks and couchmusic.live will facilitate the streaming performances.
Sponsors for the festival are NixWorks, The Shea Theater, RiverCulture, CouchMusic.live, and Greenfield Cooperative Bank. This program is supported in part by a grant from the following local agencies, which are supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency: Buckland, Conway, Gill, Greenfield, Leyden, Montague, New Salem, Northfield, Shelburne, Shutesbury.
New American Banjo Festival Artists
Aaron Jonah Lewis
Classic fingerstyle virtuoso music for banjo
As a banjoist, Lewis explores some interesting veins in the roots of Old Time, Bluegrass, Ragtime and Jazz music through his newest recording, “Mozart of the Banjo: The Joe Morley Project.” This project is devoted to the music of the great English prodigy and virtuoso composer Joe Morley (1867-1937), who wrote a significant body of great banjo pieces in a technique that people today call “classic fingerstyle.” Greg Adams, Archivist at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, says, “Lewis is one of the few performing musicians with the facility to build compelling musical bridges between the printed banjo music and techniques of the 19th century and the instrument’s journey into recorded sound by the turn of the 20th century.”
Pioneer of melodic clawhammer banjo style
Ken is internationally known as a pioneer of a banjo style known as melodic clawhammer. This new approach has transformed clawhammer (also known as “frailing”) from an accompaniment to a solo style of banjo playing. He draws his material from traditional sources – the music of Scotland, Ireland, Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island and the American South. His approach to the music, however, is highly innovative. He has developed many new instrumental techniques, and much of his repertoire has never before been played on 5-string banjo.
New Classic Banjo Project
Banjo innovator and composer, Michael Nix designed the Banjar; a modern seven string banjo combining elements of the five-string banjo and classical guitar; bringing the classic finger-style banjo of the late 1800's into the twenty first century. He initiated the New Classic Banjo project to Compose, commission, record, and perform new works for the classic finger-style banjo.
Nix performs on classical guitar, banjo, and mandolin throughout the United States and Asia, and he has recorded for the PBS series “American Experience”, independent documentaries, and numerous CD projects. His compositions are performed internationally. His music has been heard on “Weekend Edition”, and other NPR programs. Recently Nix performed his compositions at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, and participated in Seegerfest 2014, commemorating the life of Pete Seeger.
Shingle the Roof
Old Time String Band Music
Old-time string band musicians Kate Spencer and Jerry Devokatis perform classic songs of early 20th century, as well as traditional new ballads. Kate, playing her Arthur Smith banjo, and Guitar Picker Jerry alternate lead and harmony in numbers like the Carter Family’s “Keep on the Sunny Side,” and Woody Guthrie’s “Oklahoma Hills.” Picking and singing since 2008, Shingle the Roof performed regularly at the Brattleboro Farmer’s Market, the Wisteriahurst Museum in Holyoke and the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls.
New American Banjo Festival Presenters
Ae Smith Banjo Co.
The Arthur E. Smith Banjo Company was one of the first revival banjo manufacturing businesses. Located first at the Leverett Crafts Center and later in Greenfield and Shelburne Falls, owners Kate Spencer and Mark Surgies produced some 600 instruments during the 1970’s. Based on early American banjos, these original instruments were produced to augment the ever-decreasing number of vintage instruments available to the growing population of old-time clawhammer players of the late 20th Century folk revival.
Linefork, a film featuring Kentucky banjo legend Lee Sexton (Smithsonian Folkways)
An immersive meditation on the passage of time and the persistent resonance of place, Linefork follows the daily rituals of an elderly couple living in Kentucky's Appalachian Mountains. Now well into his eighties, Lee Sexton is the last living link to the distant past of a regional American music. A retired coal miner with black lung, Lee and his wife, Opal, continue to farm the land where he was born. Together they face encroaching health concerns and stark economic realities. Recorded over three years, Linefork is an observational film documenting their marriage, their community, their resilience, and the raw yet delicate music of an unheralded banjo legend, linked to the past yet immediately present.