Steve Martin To Introduce Annual Banjo Prize Winners At FreshGrass Festival
Steve Martin and the board of the Steve Martin Banjo Prize have announced this year's winners of their annual Banjo Prize. Martin, a five-time GRAMMY winner, and the founding board members will introduce viewers to the five winners as part of the FreshGrass Festival on Oct. 14. The virtual #FreshStreams event will benefit MusiCares, allowing viewers to make charitable donations to support the musical community during times of need.
The prize has been newly revamped to consider candidates from across the spectrum of banjo styles, and this year's winners reflect musical diversity and demographic inclusivity. Read a little about each winner below from a statement from prize organizers:
Jake Blount: Jake Blount is an award-winning clawhammer banjoist and scholar specializing in the music of Black and indigenous communities, while foregrounding the experiences of queer people and people of color in his work.
Catherine ‘BB’ Bowness: Born in New Zealand and trained at the New Zealand School of Music and University of North Carolina Greensboro, BB Bowness is at the forefront of the current crop of young players reimagining the musical possibilities for Scruggs style 5 string banjo.
Matthew Davis: At 21 years old, Matthew Davis is already one of his generation’s premier banjo players and composers, exploring new musical territories for the instrument and winning the National Banjo Championship in the process.
Gerry O’Connor: Dublin, Ireland-based Gerry O’Connor has brought his unique tenor banjo style to places no other Irish banjo player has tread before, experimenting with elements from bluegrass to African to Asian and back to Irish again, all the while maintaining his signature sound.
Buddy Wachter: Widely regarded as the most influential 4-string banjo player of our time, Buddy Wachter has played more than 7,000 concerts to audiences in 130 countries and has introduced the instrument to some of the most remote parts of the globe.
"This is equal to classical musicianship," Martin told Rolling Stone. "The money is important, but the acknowledgment is also important because every time one of these players gets introduced, they get to say, 'Winner of the so-and-so prize,'" The new Banjo Prize will be an annual award of $25k to one or more banjo players, but in light of the tremendous need in the music community this year, the 2020 prize of $50K will be split equally five ways among the winner.
#FreshStreams on Oct. 14 will also feature new exclusive performances from Chris Thile, Dom Flemons, Alison Brown with the Kronos Quartet, Smokey and the Mirror and more. This year's virtual event is taking place of what would have been the FreshGrass Festival’s 10th annual live event this year.
Meet the Banjo Prize winners and catch all the FreshGrass Festival virtual #FreshStreams action Oct. 14 at 8p.m. EDT here.