I love the banjo! There, I said it and I'm not ashamed. Sure the banjo has gotten a bad rap, usually associated with redneck, hillbilly, toothless yokels (thanks Deliverance!), but it's high time for it to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight it deserves. For years now, luminaries like Tony Trishka, Pete Wernick, and Bela Fleck have proved that the banjo is equally adept in musical genres like classical, rock, and pop as well as the traditional old-time and bluegrass. In the right hands, and ears, the banjo can guide you majestically through a maelstrom of emotions as much as any other instrument.
Then there is the physical beauty in the construction of the instrument itself. As a lover of all things strings, especially old instruments, I have become enthralled with the banjo and its evolution over the past 2 centuries. From the original gourd with animal skin, to Vega and Paramount revolutionizing banjo hardware and tonerings, to the Gibson Mastertone that became the standard for bluegrass banjo design, to Tom Nechville's complete rethinking of hardware and assembly. I get just as big a kick out of seeing a cool banjo from the 19th century as I do from seeing a nice brand new one! Give me some sweet old-timey clawhammer, some burnin' hot bluegrass picking, or a banjo reading of a Bach piece and I'll eat it all up!
And you know what? I'm not the only one.
Mike Sparber has been roaming the hallowed halls of Sylvan since 2004 and is an admirer of all stringed instruments. He moved here from the DC suburbs in 1999 and can usually be found with his wife at concerts around the Bay Area or with his dog, Ernie, at the beach.