Jens Kruger visits Berklee

Swiss-born North Carolina banjo wizard Jens Kruger spent two days earlier this week at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, sharing his wisdom with the banjo students there. His visit was sponsored by the Berklee American Roots Music Program, and made possible by the support of the Banjo Artist Residencies program, funded by a generous but anonymous donation to the school.

Berklee staff banjo instructor David Hollender told us that he had high expectations for Kruger’s residency, and that Jens met and exceeded them all.

“Jens worked with an ensemble, gave private lessons, and did a 2-hour clinic. The clinic included what was probably the most beautiful banjo playing I’ve ever heard.

The discussion was only rarely about banjo playing. He spoke about musical and personal choices, described his childhood and what shaped his musical education and tastes, his beliefs about what people really respond to in music, what he focuses on when he is composing and performing, how he spends his time and why, and so much more.

As virtuosic as he can be at times, he didn’t appear to care about that much, if at all. Almost all he spoke about was learning to recognize and produce the music that you believe in your heart to be beautiful, as opposed to giving into pressures coming from other sources to play what will impress people. All of this resonated and was deeply¬†inspiring to both the students and the ‘professor.’

Jens got along well with all the students and was very effective as a teacher. He clearly respected and cared about each one of them, and they hung on his every word.”

Tony Trischka is scheduled for a two-day Berklee residency in mid-November (17-18), and Alan Munde will be there in April. Noam Pikelny had also been scheduled for this Fall, but had to cancel when Punch Brothers signed on to tour with Paul Simon in November. Current plans are to have him during the Spring ’12 semester.

Pretty stout for a school that just started admitting banjo players a few years ago!

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.