The Banjo: A New Day for an Old Instrument

MIT Banjo Club circa 1893Many folks in California, and travelers from across the country as well, think of Carlsbad, CA as a beach town. To be sure, their beautiful beaches draw a lot of folks to the shore, but like other communities who thrive on the tourist trade, Carlsbad has its share of cultural attractions to tempt beachgoers.

One such is The Museum of Making Music, founded in 1998 by the National Association of Music Merchandisers (NAMM) Foundation. Through permanent and special exhibits, the museum seeks to preserve the history of musical instruments and how they are made, and help educate the public about music making in general.

Over the past 14 years, exhibits have been created to highlight specific instruments, often ones whose background may be less well known. For this Spring and Summer, the highlight goes to our beloved banjo with an exhibit called The Banjo: A New Day for an Old Instrument. Banjos and artifacts are now on display, and live concerts are scheduled with popular banjoists Bill Evans, Alison Brown, Mark Johnson, Dan Levinson, Bob Carlin, Tony Trischka, and Lonesome River Band with Sammy Shelor.

Carolyn Grant, Museum of Making Music Director, offered a brief description of the exhibit, which is said to be the first of this type and breadth ever assembled.

“The most recent exhibition explores not only the history of the banjo, but also its current popularity. It is because of the generosity and enthusiasm of NAMM members that we were able to develop it so fully with information, graphics and a display of more than 80 historic and modern-day instruments.”

Deering Banjos in Spring Valley, CA has made a number of banjos available on loan to the museum, as have private collectors who have been involved in helping curate the exhibit and its many historic pieces. Other donations have come from Recording King, OME, Duke of Pearl, Rickenbacker International Corp., Fender, Gold Tone, Centerstream Publishing, Renaissance Guitars, Folk Music Center, Elderly Instruments, Players Vintage Instruments and Denver Folklore Center.

The Banjo: A New Day for an Old Instrument, will be open Tuesdays-Sundays through October. Find directions, pricing and other details online.

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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.