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Banjo in the 21st century

Posted: May 22, 2017 4:36 p.m.
Updated: May 23, 2017 1:00 a.m.

If it weren’t for events like Finally Friday and the Blues festival here in Camden, the immaculate name of bluegrass might’ve already faded into memory. History survives in the twangs of fiddles and the strums of mandolins, so bluegrass still lives on. It lives on through the musicians that choose to carry the art with them around the nation and in our hometown. I’m one of those musicians, tasked with carrying that music with me wherever my banjo and I do roam. As long as we, the modern bluegrass musicians, breathe, the art form breathes with us.

Granted, that’s not many people. In my lifetime, I can count on my hand the number of fellow banjo players I’ve met. I’ve met plenty of musicians of different and varying genres of course, with instruments of all tone, note, and pitch. Jazz or rock, country or punk. A stiflingly low number of bluegrass players, though. I feel fortunate to be one of the very few. I love the music and the vibe that flows through it. I really love the electricity involved with large crowds and big bluegrass bands. I love the humid South Carolina nights laced in warm wind and reverberations from steel strings. I love the banjo, how the resonator doles out sharp tones when the strings are plucked. 

 I’ve played it for a while now, the banjo. Closing in on five years, many people find that surprising. They tell me how they wish they would have started playing banjo themselves. A dream they had years ago, something unrealized. “What stops them?” is what I tell myself. It took me five year -- but what holds them back from reaching that same five years of experience? They could pick up a banjo themselves and form a five-year love affair just as easily as I did. 

Albeit, banjos aren’t incredibly frugal choices in instruments, they are, in fact, willing to offer their greatest gifts should a player be willing to find them. That finding comes in the form of practices and long working hours, but what is the risk of lost time without its nectarous rewards. Bluegrass doesn’t die as long as people are willing to take advantage of their time in life -- and making good use of that time is what bluegrass means to me. 

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