Smoky Mountain Banjo Academy to be held during Five-String Fest

elliottWhen John Lockaby announced plans for Five-String Fest, a new North Carolina music festival centered around banjo music for May 2014, he was unaware that a long-running banjo-themed event ocurred that same weekend each year near Gatlinburg, TN.

That event was Jack Hatfield’s Smoky Mountain Banjo Academy, a weekend camp offering three days of intensive instruction in three-finger and old time banjo styles. SMBA grew out of the Maryland Banjo Academy, a large-scale 5 string camp run under the auspices of Banjo NewsLetter in the late 1990s, and Hatfield keeps a similar format for his Academy, with multiple classes running simultaneously each day, geared to differing interest and skill levels.

Both Jack and John had chosen the first weekend in May for it’s adjacency to MerleFest, possibly the biggest music event anywhere near their area each year. When Hatfield contacted Lockaby, the conversation quickly turned towards pooling their energies instead of going head-to-head. John wanted to host workshops during the Five-String Fest, and when Jack expressed an interest in working together, the die was cast.

Yesterday it was announced that both events will be hosted together May 1-4 at the Elliott Family Farms site in Lawndale, NC. Banjo camp students will stay off-site at a hotel a few miles away, but lodging will still be included in the tuition fee. There are multiple log cabins on the festival grounds perfectly suited for small class teaching, and students will receive food vouchers good at the various food vendors at the park.

Hatfield says that this arrangement will make it easier for him to concentrate his focus on directing the camp, while providing a first-rate instructional experience for students and Five-String Fest attendees. Win… win… win!

Jack Hatfield at Smoky Mountain Banjo Academy“I am thrilled to merge my Smoky Mountain Banjo Academy with the new Five-String Fest to create what will undoubtedly be the most memorable banjo event in the world, in a beautiful region that has produced more great banjo players than any other, appropriately near the birthplace of the Father of Bluegrass banjo. The Elliot Family Farms venue is world-class. The stages and other structures are both modern and rustic. Never has this impressive a lineup of banjo talent been assembled in one place. The three-fold approach of great performances, well-organized workshops for all skill levels and styles, and contests which will attract the nation’s best pickers…plus the nearby Earl Scruggs Center assure there will be something exciting for every attendee every waking hour of the festival. I look forward to working with Mr. Lockaby and his staff, the Elliot family and dozens of the world’s best banjo pickers to make Five-String Fest the event of a lifetime for any lover of banjo music.”

The roster of instructors will be announced shortly after Thanksgiving, which typically includes several big name pickers and a number of respected instructors.

Lockaby tells us that they will also hold a band competition over the weekend, and that the site is close to the new Earl Scruggs Center, set to open early in 2014.

John Lockaby“The Elliott’s and I are thrilled about this merger and will be going out of our way to be good host to this great academy. We believe they bring a lot of influence and experience in the workshop area. This will be our 3rd year of having festivals on the farm and this will be the Smoky Mountain Banjo Academies 9th year of having this particular academy. With the academy, the festival, banjo competitions, and over 50 banjo vendors, this is surely going to be the premier banjo gathering in the country. There will be much more news coming in the next few months, and we are extremely excited about this merger, among other items that seem to be falling into place for this festival. Jack Hatfield will be over the SMBA, and I will be over the FSF, but we will be working together on the competitions, about which more information will be coming out soon. Hope to see you next May at the Five-String Fest.”

There isn’t a comprehensive web site up for Five-String Fest just yet, but interested parties are encouraged to contact Jack or John for more details.

John Lockaby –     864-561-2717

Jack Hatfield  –       865-428-8063

Sounds like banjo nerdvana.

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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.