A few weeks ago I was up in Boston as a guest teacher at the Berklee College of Music, and I’m happy to report that the banjo is cool again. I was there for two days, working with students in the American Roots Music Program on everything from right-hand techniques to strategies for young professional musicians. Compared to my time there as a student roughly ten years ago, much has changed. These days there is a clear acknowledgement of the importance and popularity of traditional music. Acclaimed faculty are attracting talented students, some of whom will surely be a part of the next wave of exciting acoustic bands to hit the scene. Berklee is playing its part in the stringband boom with a program that’s barely five years old, but already significant. It was great to go back and check it all out.
I was a student at Berklee from 2001-2003. I started playing the banjo only a few years earlier as a freshman at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. I was relatively inexperienced compared to other players my age, eager to keep learning and working on my craft. I wanted to go to music school, and my main goal was to work primarily on banjo, rather than choosing guitar as a principal instrument, a workaround that other banjo players had used at in the past. Tony Trischka, my teacher at the time, suggested the Berklee College of Music as a place that might welcome the banjo, given its growing popularity. Read the rest of this entry »