FreshGrass Foundation Signs On for Next Phase of Steve Martin Banjo Prize
Photo by Danny Clinch
Since 2010, actor and comedian Steve Martin’s banjo prize has awarded $50,000 each year to a banjo player with outstanding technical achievements and contributions to the bluegrass community, including Rhiannon Giddens, Noam Pikelny, and Jens Kruger. As it moves into its second decade, the award will continue under a partnership with the FreshGrass Foundation — the nonprofit organization that publishes No Depression — and Compass Records Group.
Martin, a mighty fine banjo picker himself, and the prize’s board members announced today they have shortened the award’s name from the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass to the Steve Martin Banjo Prize reflect a wider scope. And to help more players in this exceptional year, the 2020 Steve Martin Banjo Prize will split the $50,000 equally among five banjo players chosen by the prize’s board, on which Martin will serve as chairman emeritus. The winners will be announced in late September, when the FreshGrass Foundation’s FreshGrass Festival in North Adams, Massachusetts, is usually held. In 2021 and beyond, the prize will be an annual award of $25,000 given to one or more banjo players in any style.
Award winners are chosen by the prize’s board, which includes original members Béla Fleck, Noam Pikelny, Tony Trischka, Pete Wernick, Alison Brown, and Anne Stringfield and now expands to also include Deering Banjos CEO Jamie Deering, American Banjo Museum Executive Director Johnny Baier, International Bluegrass Music Association Executive Director Paul Schiminger, Berklee College of Music President Roger Brown, banjoist and banjo scholar Dom Flemons, previous Banjo Prize winner Kristin Scott Benson, FreshGrass Foundation founder and president and No Depression publisher Chris Wadsworth, and Compass Records Group co-founder Garry West.
“I’m doing a handstand thinking that the prize will continue on,” Martin said in a press release announcing the new partnership. “Thanks to FreshGrass and Compass Records for bringing such enthusiasm into the prize.”
Find more information about the Steve Martin Banjo Prize here, and you can learn more about the FreshGrass Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to preserving, supporting, and creating innovative grassroots music, here.