Kristin Scott Benson, the award-winning banjoist with The Grascals, has been announced as the 2018 recipient of the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass.
The prize was originated and funded in 2010 by the Steve Martin Charitable Foundation to recognize outstanding practitioners of the banjo arts, and awards each year’s winners an unrestricted cash prize of $50,000 plus an original sculpture by Eric Fischl to commemorate the honor.
Steve told us several years back that his goal in creating the prize was both to provide the financial award, a la the MacArthur Genius Grant on a smaller scale, and to shine a spotlight in the media on the dedicated and highly skilled artists who perform with the banjo in today’s music market.
Each year, the prize is determined by a board that includes Martin and his wife, Anne Stringfield, plus a number of carefully chosen experts in the field. Current members include J.D. Crowe, Pete Wernick, Tony Trischka, Noam Pikelny, Alison Brown, Neil Rosenberg, and Béla Fleck.
Benson is a South Carolina native who has been playing banjo since she was a girl. While studying at Nashville’s Belmont University, she performed with The Larry Stephenson Band. Working now with The Grascals, she is seen by audiences all over the world driving the banjo right through the band from her quiet spot on the end of the stage.
She has been named as the Banjo Player of the Year 4 times by the International Bluegrass Music Association, a peer-voted accolade, and has three solo albums to her credit.
We will try to catch up with Kristin over the next day or so for a more detailed interview about accepting the Steve Martin Prize.
Previous winners include Noam Pikelny (2010), Sammy Shelor (2011), Mark Johnson (2012), Jens Kruger (2013), Eddie Adcock (2014), Danny Barnes (2015), Rhiannon Giddens (2016), and Scott Vestal (2017).