Tom Adams, celebrated former banjo player with The Johnson Mountain Boys, Blue Highway and others, has announced his plans to set the banjo down, and perhaps focus on guitar instead. He has been suffering from focal dystonia for the past six years, a nervous system disorder which has made it increasingly difficult for him to play the banjo to his own high standards of professionalism.
Tom says that he will leave the band Seneca Rocks after this weekend, and cease his monthly column in Banjo NewsLetter and his private banjo lessons as well.
“I’ve enjoyed doing all of these things, but I need to stop putting myself in the position of having to play (the banjo) in public and then coming home feeling like I’ve let the other musicians and the audience down.”
It seems that a major factor in his decision came when he spent a good bit of time playing the guitar, and finding that the disorder which caused the misfiring of neurons in his right hand when picking the banjo, was not affecting his ability to use a flatpick.
“At the Nova Scotia banjo camp last weekend, I played more guitar than I did banjo, backing up fiddle and banjo players, and I had a blast, playing guitar for hours each day. I truly enjoyed playing music in a way I have not enjoyed it in the six years since the dystonia began.”
While we will all miss Tom’s superb banjo work, I congratulate him for finding a way to continue to enjoy creating music, and for his willingness to hold his standards high, even when facing such an unkind choice.