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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Banjo Builder Interviews - My 60th Birthday Present.

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frailin - Posted - 05/25/2015:  07:41:05

5/25/15 - Good morning, folks!  

I'm delighted to report Volume 1 of "Conversations with Old-time Performers" is now through edit and at the programmers being converted to DVDs.  With any good fortune, I'll have it back from the duplicator in time for Clifftop (if not a little before).  

Here's the packaging!    


And here's the roster of Performers on the premier (Volume 1) offering:  Rayna Gellert, Chris Coole, Rebekah Weiler, Howie Bursen, Mac Benford, Walt Koken, Clare Milliner, Lukas Pool, Seth Swingle, Stephen Wade and John Herrmann.  

Each Volume will contain both "new/emerging" and "established" artists.  Volume 1's "Extra" is an interview with Dwight Diller from his "Conversations with North American Banjo Builders" program, previously included on Volume 3 of that series (the "Historians").  This program appears courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways.  :) 



If you'd like to order Volume 1 now, you can do so at the website (  I've set up the same Paypal "Buy Now" button (and process) I used with the Banjo Builders so (hopefully) there will be no surprises for anyone.  :)

The plan is to be shipping Volume 1 of the new series the last week in July.  Placing an order now assures you a copy from the first pressing.  It also helps me decided how many to order.  :)


I'm now editing these wonderful folks for Volume 2 (in alphabetical order): Steve Arkin, Laura Boosinger, Mary Z. Cox, Dan Gellert, Mark Johnson, Frank Lee, Michael Miles, Arnie Naiman, Joe Newberry and Ken Perlman.  The "Extra" will be Adam Hurt's interview from the Banjo Builder series.  I will begin taking orders for Volume 2 (also at the website) later this summer.


And (tentatively), these folks will be on Volume 3 (alphabetical listing):  Paul Brown, David Holt, Brad Kolodner, Brad Leftwich, Reed Martin, Terri McMurray, Steve Rosen, Art Rosenbaum, Chirps Smith and Richie Sterns.  The "Extra" will be Taj Mahal's interview from the Banjo Builder series.  I will begin taking orders for Volume 3 (also at the website) early this fall.

I'm really excited for you to hear and experience these incredible personal stories!  As with the Banjo Builders, they're not only surprising (i.e. how people creatively continue to pursue their "gifts"), but highly motivating!  I never cease to be amazed at the diversity, artistry, originality and depth of knowledge/wisdom/understanding that's present in the old-time music community.  Wow!!  And, at this point in my life, I continue to feel blessed at discovering (and being a part of) this precious culture.  Such richness and texture!  

Ok.  Enough of this posting nonsense.  Time to get back to the REAL fun... editing these amazing shows!!  Yee-ha! Got all day today!!  


As always, thanks again for your support in this venture, and being a part of our incredible music community.

Yanni - Posted - 05/25/2015:  14:02:57

Fantastic stuff Craig.  Please, please will they be available for download?  I have little interest in DVD's but would love to be able to download the series


frailin - Posted - 05/25/2015:  14:15:22

I hear you, Yanni... and understand.  But I don't have an answer for you, at least not yet.  

I've had some conversations with the Smithsonian Folkways folks about it.  There's an "ownership" issue involved.  No one wants to turn over a digital file other than on a traditional medium (i.e. a CD or DVD).  Providing you access to a website for viewing for an unlimited time (i.e. Vimeo) is a possible solution.  

I also haven't had a conversation with Eric Schlange yet.  He may have some thoughts.  

I will continue to review.  :)

frailin - Posted - 05/27/2015:  09:26:46

OMG!  You folks that have answered the survey so far are a hoot!!  

THANK YOU SO MUCH for your insights, opinions and experiences with the Banjo Builder series!  It DEFINITELY helps me produce more/better work!!  

I'm going to let a few more people weigh in on things and then I'll post some highlights.  

Thank you thank you!  :)


For you folks that haven't completed the survey but have watched the Banjo Builders, here's the link for the survey (below)...


I've prepared a VERY short survey looking for feedback on the Banjo Builder series.  This will help me in making future shows.  

If you've PURCHASED any of the Volumes, please give me your thoughts on the series.  Here's a link to the Survey Monkey Questionnaire.  It's easy.  :) 

And as always, many thanks for your input!  


Edited by - frailin on 05/27/2015 09:27:32

frailin - Posted - 07/03/2015:  11:59:08

Finishing up Arnie Naiman's Old-time Performer show today.  He's one of the fabulous crew in Volume 2 of this series.  Also had a moment to review the Banjo Builder survey I put out there last month (see:

Here are some highlights.  (NOTE:  Percentages are rounded up from fractions - may not total exactly 100%).  There are 33 responses included.  

How many of the 4 Volumes of the Banjo Builder Series do you own? 

1 Volume - 3% 

2 Volumes - 15%  

3 Volumes - 6%  

4 Volumes (the series) - 76%

Have you watched them all? 

Yes - 94% 

No - 6%

On average, how many times do you watch each Volume? 

1 Time - 21% 

2 Times - 44%  

3 Times - 15% 

4 Times - 0%

5 or more Times - 21%


When you watch the DVDs, how many Builder's Shows do you typically watch (in a row or during a single setting)? 

1 Show - 9% 

2 Shows - 29%  

3 Shows - 41% 

4 Shows - 3%

5 or more Shows - 18% 

There's WAY more interesting reading (and graphs) than what I'm listing here.  For instance, after watching the Banjo Builders, 61% have made a banjo-buying decision AND purchase!  What people liked most and least about the series was also helpful (and confirming!).  

And I very much appreciate the suggestions for future programs!  Thanks!  Maybe I will follow the write-in suggestion and quit my day job to do this full time.  laugh 

Here's the survey results if you want to read the write-ins:

Thanks folks!  

Edited by - frailin on 07/03/2015 12:11:09

bbjork - Posted - 09/28/2015:  12:43:55


Originally posted by frailin


Here's another fine builder that came to my attention this morning... Matthew Arcara.  His website shows amazing guitars, but his personal, player banjo - now for sale at the Music Emporium - tells another (compelling) story.  

Check out these sound files and this video with Lucas Poole playing.  Nice!  

PS - Lucas is on the list of interviewees for the "Conversations with Old-time Performers" Series. 

 I'm expecting my custom Matthew Arcara in the next few days.



atleson - Posted - 09/29/2015:  12:12:25

Matt Arcara makes wonderful instruments.  I was fortunate to live close to Matt, and  could visit and decide on the type of neck i wanted.  These banjos are beautifully crafted, and they sound great.  



frailin - Posted - 10/04/2015:  08:34:53

Thank you Banjo Builders everywhere!!

Grateful today for my amazing, banjo building friends and music! This is my trusty (dusty) Bart Reiter banjo ready for a second day (of 6) at the Afton Apple Orchard.   

Bart Reiter gave me this banjo as a personal thank you for filming him and 37 others in the Banjo Builder series. His generosity touched me deeply. But his gesture is consistent with the extraordinary old-time music community and the joyful tunes we all share. 

Like all banjos, it's a gift that keeps on giving. Every October I play for literally thousands of people out celebrating God's abundance, spending a day with family in this beautiful place. In just HEARING a banjo, kids and grandparents dance, some sing, all smile. 

There's no better job I know of than playing this joyful music to people. It makes all things brighter! Even if just for a moment... it's so worth it!!  

Wonderful friend and fiddler Debbie Sorensen-Boeh and I started playing this gig back in 2004.  She passed in 2010 but her joyful music still fills the place.  Debbie played the opener to all the Banjo Builders films (Fisher's Hornpipe). 

Edited by - frailin on 10/04/2015 08:36:10

Bob Sayers - Posted - 10/05/2015:  17:15:16

William Seeders Mosheim of Dorset, Vermont builds beautiful custom banjos, both plain and fancy. Last fall, after meeting Will at the Early Banjo Collectors Gathering in New Jersey, I commissioned a custom "retirement banjo" with the stipulation that I wanted something both simple and elegant. My checklist of desiderata included a short scale (25.5 inches), a Honduran rosewood tone ring, a flamed maple neck and rim, a spade-shaped peghead, a Cole-style "boat heel," ebony overlays, aged brass hardware, and no ornamentation other than a brass star where the neck joins the rim. Will was exceptionally accommodating and delivered on every one of these features. To top it off, he engraved my initials on the ebony rim cap and printed a quirky banjo poem (which I found in an 1860s New Orleans newspaper) on the head. I couldn't be happier with the result. I've posted a few more pictures on my Banjo Hangout home page. And you can see more of Will's work (and day-by-day photo updates of his current projects) at either or


Bob Sayers - Posted - 10/05/2015:  17:30:38

One more picture of my Seeders banjo (front):

Seeders custom banjo 032


frailin - Posted - 10/21/2015:  09:29:59

It's there. 


frailin - Posted - 10/29/2015:  17:08:27

Friends in folklore! Today I visited the new home of the Banjo Builder series, Smithsonian Folkways. T’is one of my favorite places on earth! Here’s a handful of great friends - the dedicated people preserving and (re)presenting our Traditional music. 

We also explored SF as the future home of the Old-time Performer series. I'm delighted they agree, these precious stories must be shared with the future.



L-R: Richard Burgess, Craig Frailin Evans, Atesh Sonneborn, Jeff Place.  



rudy - Posted - 11/13/2015:  16:47:44

The collection is now available through the Smithsonian Folkways collection:

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