Happy New Year (Almost)!

I’m sitting backstage at The Ark in between our final two performances of the Ebird & Friends Holiday Show, trying to get everything done before I take off in about a week for another meditation retreat, and there is so much to share! In fact, there’s more to share than will fit in this newsletter — join my Patreon for all the exclusive content.

This past month I played at the largest Masonic Temple in the world, lectured and performed at the New England Conservatory and at Ohio Northern University, taught a workshop at Berklee College of Music, performed Cupid’s Arrow in the 3rd annual Detroit Cantastoria Festival, started booking an acoustic roots series at Alpino (more details TBA), and I put on my first classic banjo student recital. To be honest, that last one may have been the  proudest moment for me since my last newsletter.

In this newsletter:

Dos Señoritas


Selected New Videos

Alpino “Cellar Roots” – New Concert Series in Detroit

Ragtime Banjo Revival Update

Book Reports: With a Banjo on Her Knee, Ani.Mystic, The Midnight Library

Dos Señoritas

There are still about 63 copies of the limited edition 10″ 45RPM vinyl still available — If you order this week I will be able to ship before I leave town on the 18th. Don’t miss your chance to get one of these very special records, my first ever vinyl release! CDs and downloads are also available from bandcamp.

BANJO DOJO (It’s not just for Banjo Players)

I’m so excited to announce that the first BANJO DOJO sessions are scheduled for late January, after I get back from retreat. BANJO DOJO is a space for sahring traditional music and cultural knowledge that removes some of the barriers that come with paid one-on-one lessons. Click here for a more detailed description.

For now, BANJO DOJO is in-person only, but it’s possible that a virtual option will be available some time in the future. Click hereto join the substack for BANJO DOJO updates and/or add this google calendar.

Selected New Videos

As I mentioned above, you can join my Patreon for access to all the exciting new videos — For now, here is a sampling of what you will find when you join (for less than the price of a cup of coffee per month!):

– Concert footage from Ohio Northern University, where I was featured soloist with a full orchestra, percussion ensemble, wind ensemble, and string orchestra); I join in the second half which starts around an hour and six minutes in.

– Sneak peek at the footage from last summer at the Musée de la Musique in Paris — Here I am playing Cammeyer’s “Ballad no. 1” on the 1900 S. S. Stewart “Acme” banjo from the museum’s collection

Concert footage from Silk Road Global Musician Workshop. In this video I’m playing banjo with an ensemble led by Malian balafon player Balla Kouyate including nyckelharpa, drum set, trumpet, soprano sax and vocals. We’re playing a traditional Malian piece called “Yiriba.” The song is about a great old tree, and the message is about venerating our elders.

– Rehearsal video from the Ragtime Banjo Revival trio I’m playing with Jan 30 at Alpino, with Alex Belhaj on guitar and Abby Alwin on cello. (In this video we play Wabash Blues, an early jazz number recorded by Isham Jones in 1921.)

Alpino “Cellar Roots” – New Concert Series in Detroit

Lindsay McCaw and I have been talking for a while about the need for a place in Detroit where we can build support for the kind of music we want to see more of, and now we found a place!

Starting January 9 we will have live music every Tuesday, 6-7pm, at Alpino in Corktown, Detroit, with the last Tuesday of each month being a special concert we will promote a bit extra. We’re calling the series Tom’s Tavern Live at the Acoustic Roots Cellar because we want to keep alive the spirit of Detroit’s best venue for live acoustic music, Tom’s Tavern!

I’m kicking off the first one of these on January 30 with a Ragtime Banjo Revival trio, featuring Alex Belhaj on guitar and Abby Alwin on cello, and Feb 27 we will have the  outstanding jazz cellist Michael Karoub with jazz guitar prodigy Erik McIntyre. The full concert listing can be found here. Mark your calendars now, these shows are not to be missed!

Ragtime Banjo Revival Update

OK, I’m not backstage at the Ark anymore. I just got home from the final recording session for RBR at Villa Valentine, where I recorded some solo banjo pieces with the great sound engineer, Dave Schall. What a feeling, to be all wrapped up with production!

The website is still under construction but there are some new things to see there, and 2024 will be the year of post-production (mixing and mastering), fleshing out the website, and reaching out to prospective donors in earnest. This project is unlikely to turn a profit (nor is profit a marker of success, in my opinion), so its release will depend on connecting with people who care and want it to see the light of day, and enabling them to help make that happen. It’s a totally new pursuit for me and I’m scared I’ll mess it up because making mistakes is to be expected as a part of learning, so… wish me luck!

Book Reports: With a Banjo on Her Knee, Ani.Mystic, The Midnight Library

With a Banjo on Her Knee: Gender, Race, Class, and the American Classical Banjo Tradition, by Sarah Meredith, is such a well-researched and clearly presented treasure trove of cultural history and the title really says it all. 10/10 would recommend to anyone interested in learning more about the banjo’s origins and relevance. Compared to Kristina Gaddy’s more recent work, Well of Souls, which I also recommend 10/10, this work is more focused on the 19th and early 20th century banjo traditions and the writing is a little bit more dry.

Ani.Mystic, by Gordon White, is a wild ride that is guaranteed to challenge some of your deeply held and perhaps unconscious assumptions about reality. As I started reading it I thought, “I’m glad I already read Sand Talk (by Tyson Yunkaporta). Some of this would be hard for me to understand if I hadn’t,” and then it becomes clear that White has also read Sand Talk and has a relationship with Yunkaporta. I think the world would be much more fun and interesting if everyone were to read just the first few chapters of this book.

The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig, is a delightful novel (yes, I do read fiction sometimes!) that takes place in multiple universes in which the main character is searching for happiness, or meaning, or fulfillment, or at least a feeling of belonging and not wanting to give up. Trigger warning, this book deals with suicide. This was a fun, well-written novel and I found its message to be both interesting and uplifting. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a fun novel that isn’t lacking substance. It’s not overly heavy and it’s not fluffy and frivolous, either. I think that’s what I found most impressive about it.


Until next time my friends! I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you in 2024.



(pronouns: they/them)