My name is Chris Pandolfi. I’m a full time musician, Grammy winner, producer, podcaster, writer and all-around creative based in Denver, Colorado.

Music was all around me growing up. My grandparents, Frank and Carmela Pandolfi, started the Connecticut Opera Association in 1942. I never met my grandfather, but my grandmother got us playing piano at a really young age. Ultimately inspired by my older brother Jono’s musical tastes and exploits, I got my first banjo in the summer of 1997. The next ten or so years flew by. During that time I got my undergrad degree at Dartmouth College and then went on to be the first ever banjo principal at the Berklee College of Music before moving to Nashville, TN in 2004. Along the way I was lucky to work with many amazing people, but ultimately I started a band with great musicians who are also my great friends–The Infamous Stringdusters. We have been touring for about 11 years, have a bunch of albums and an amazing community of fans. The Dusters have 2 Grammy nominations and a Grammy win for ‘Bluegrass Album of the Year’ in 2018. We strive to make good original music, explore the world and enjoy life.

Aside from the Dusters I have a few solo endeavors that keep me busy. TRAD+ is a banjo-centric exploration of a different sonic world, combining vinyl samples, drums, synths, strings, beats and much more. I released my first album, Interference, in the fall of 2015, and it’s been downloaded over 600,000 times internationally. TRAD+ continues to evolve and more new music is on the way. Before these experiments started, I wrote and produced two banjo-centric solo albums (Looking Glass and the Handoff), that feature  a lot of original music and some of my favorite acoustic players. I’ve also produced records for Trout Steak Revival (Brighter Every Day, and Spirit to the Sea) and Meadow Mountain, both great up and coming string bands. In addition to producing, session work and solo endeavors, Andy Hall and I front the Bluegrass Generals–a rotating cast of killer bluegrass pickers that come together for a weekend of music a few times a year. Past Generals include Sam Bush, Larry Keel, Sam Grisman, Billy Nershi, Billy Strings and more. 

My latest venture is my new podcast, ‘Inside the Musician’s Brain.’ It’s a deep dive into everything that’s underneath the music and the artists that inspire us. I explore the Stringdusters world and I also sit down with other influential artists to discuss inspiration, creativity, and the many facets of bringing a musical vision to life. I love getting heady with other musicians! New episodes come out every two weeks. ITMB is part of the Osiris Podcast Network.

While music has always been my passion, I also love to write and create short motion pictures. I started working on video around 2007, filming the ‘Dusters hijinx, documentary style. Since then I have enjoyed finding more and more creative ways to use the camera/editing software, from stop-motion to performance to ski vids. My writing focuses mostly on our adventures and our musical scene, a subject that’s always interested me along my journey from the Northeast to Nashville, Virginia and now Colorado. Bluegrass is its own world, filled with incredible musicianship and a short but vibrant history of crazy characters, trends and changes. A few of my pieces about the current state of the bluegrass world reached a big audience. In the wake of that attention the International Bluegrass Music Association asked me to deliver a keynote address at the 2011 World of Bluegrass in Nashville, TN (their annual business conference), giving some real recognition to a new vision of a bigger, more connected acoustic world. I also explored many of these topics in a recent piece for No Depression’s ‘Bluegrass Beyond’ issue. It’s an exciting time for bluegrass, and we look forward to being a part of whatever is next.

I moved to Denver, CO in 2013, a place that has always embraced the Stringdusters. I’m excited to call it home.

  21 comments for “About

  1. Tom Clark
    January 26, 2011 at 1:22 am

    Hi Chris , I really love your approach to banjo playing , I am a player myself for many years. It is so true of what you say ….. “the stringduster life . ” I too had my years of this and treasured every minute of it . I was much younger then and this is precisely the point that I make to you to go with it right to the limit while you are young and can do this. I still play, but at much smaller venues now and it is in some ways even more fun, just not the excitement of the travel part . Hey, if you don’t mind me asking , tell me about your mic set up that you use on your banjo it sounds great! . I am still anchored down to a mic stand when I play . Keep on pickin Chris , Tom

    • chrispandolfi
      September 10, 2016 at 8:58 pm

      Hey Tom. Sorry it took me forever to get back to you!! Thanks for the kind words. We are definitely living it up and enjoying every minute!
      I use an EMG banjo pickup but it is still a prototype and not available yet. In the past I have used a Fishman banjo pickup. I believe they only make one, and it’s easy to install/use.
      Thanks again!!

  2. November 12, 2014 at 9:30 am

    You’re a boss Chris!

  3. March 20, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    Hey Chris:

    I am a big ISD fan particularly of your playing. Would you consider Skype lessons for the banjo?


    George van Vlaanderen

  4. Tyler
    June 3, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    Quick question, what do you use to amplify your banjo?

    • chrispandolfi
      September 10, 2016 at 10:23 pm

      I mostly use a Fishman pickup with a Radial Tonebone DI .

      • September 9, 2017 at 8:49 pm

        What pedals do you use?

      • Tyler
        October 23, 2019 at 8:45 pm

        Thanks for the reply. Also ive seen you many times and have noticed a wide banjo strap, can you tell me what your using?

    • chrispandolfi
      January 31, 2018 at 7:04 pm

      EMG pickup, Grace Alix preamp. I also use an Audio Technica clip on mic.

  5. Scott
    March 7, 2017 at 8:54 pm

    I have been looking all over the internet for your album the Handoff but the furthest I got was waiting for one on backorder until I realized it was never going to come. Is it available somehow, or if not can I buy one from you? I really love Looking Glass and would love to get my hands on more.

  6. Brian
    June 2, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    Love your work. At the moment I’m enchanted by your playing on Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright with the Inframous Stringdusters. Could you tell me how you have the banjo tuned. Band seems to be playing in E, but you’re capoed on the second fret – are you effectively playing out of D? Standard G tuning seems to work but I’m not sure about the 5th string. Any advice would be much appreciated.

    Thanks for the wonderful music. Vibes. Brian

    • chrispandolfi
      January 31, 2018 at 7:03 pm

      Capo 2, with the fifth string tunes up to B (9th fret). Yup, effectively playing out of D. Good luck!

  7. Orlando Pandolfi
    January 31, 2018 at 6:55 pm

    Congrats, Chris. I worked at Hackley for a bit. Everyone asks if we are related, since I am a musician from a family of musicians. I see you worked with Sam Bush. I’m pretty sure he’s the Sam Bush who was a student of mine at Deerfield Academy. Best regards, Orlando Pandolfi.

  8. March 3, 2018 at 4:31 pm

    Chris, I am the managing editor of The Bluegrass Standard, a website and monthly magazine all about “grass” music, from its roots to the artists to venues to the industry to the bluegrass landscape where it all began. We would love to re-publish the article you wrote on bluegrass, as well as highlight you an artist in an upcoming issue, which will reach beyond you as a bluegrass artist and into those other areas of your life, like your film. Our March 2018 (10th) issue was just released and you can find it on our website, which is included here. We have a very active Facebook page and a huge audience. We do hope we can include you among the many bluegrass artists we have featured.

  9. Bruce Winn
    March 8, 2018 at 1:02 pm

    I’m planning a custom banjo, and read about your Huber signature model; after having it some years now, would you still recommend the mahogany rim/Huber tone ring combination?

  10. April 4, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    Hi Chris! I wrote more, but it wouldn’t allow lengthy response. Thanks for the great show and all the love you gave back to my wife and I at the “Newport” in “Columbus Ohio ” February 14th 2018, We live in “Athens , county Ohio,The band “Dusters. We have a great deal in common.& we could see our auras were much alike I think. You than handed me the “Set-list” made me extremely thankful, I was wondering if there would be a way to get just your autograph, or something with the whole bands autograph on it , I would like to frame with set-list. My address, 99,bean road lot 41 , The plains Ohio 45780. God bless!

  11. Don Norton
    November 11, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    Hi Chris
    I have been a fan of your banjo playing for a long time. I actually met you sometime around the year 2002. Your performance help me decide on the make of banjo I should buy, Stelling Redfox. You were playing at the Hickory Fest at Stoney Fork Creek Campground in Pa. Your band at that time was “Stablehorse” . The members were Andy Hall, Dobro, Chris Eldridge, Guitar, Zack Hickman on the upright Bass and you of course on Banjo. My question is, how come I have never seen ,in print on any interview, your reference to this group being the forerunner of the Infamous Stringdusters? As a matter of fact, there is no mention of this group anywhere on the internet. I video taped the bands performace that weekend and truly believe That I might have some rare footage of the Infaous String Dusters roots. I was also fortunate to have purchased the CD “Stablehorse” that weekend that the band was selling. I also, am not able to find that CD available anywhere. Tracks: 1. bluejays, 2.galax ,3.american girl, 4.sir francis ,5.petit’s gap, 6.you know im right, 7.groundspeed.
    So, was the band Stablehorse the launching pad for the Dusters?

    Don Norton

    • chrispandolfi
      March 21, 2019 at 10:16 pm

      Yup, that was definitely the advent of the Dusters!

  12. Jerry
    December 16, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    Hi Chris, I love you in the Dusters, both your playing and your personality! Question for you: in the Don’t Think Twice video, at 1:46, you have a funny reaction that I love watching. Do you have any idea what caused that reaction? Was it Andy’s amazing Dobro notes? Did you just remember you forgot to pick up bread on your way home? Just curious. Love you and your music. Thanks for all the joy!

  13. Jed rosen
    June 21, 2019 at 9:45 pm

    Hello sir, I used to play bass in a band , hot day at the zoo that opened up for you guys years ago, in Portland, Boston and then New York City. I’ll never forget those shows. You guys blew me away! Anyways, I’ve been following you ever since and am now playing banjo, in a band called Rockspring. You’re a huge influence brotha, keep up the amazing work.

    • chrispandolfi
      September 3, 2019 at 3:10 pm

      Thanks so much Jed!

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