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The Banjo Effect

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Snowmass, Colorado - 

On my last night of a ski vacation with family and friends, our hotel lobby was crowded but our friends had to camp out there because of flight delays. So I decided to get my banjo while we sat around helping them drink... er... wait. Now let’s be clear: any banjo player hearing me would know instantly that I’m a beginner. I’m not good. It wasn’t my intention to play in public per se. This lobby was very large and comfortable, it was super crowded with a lot of noise, and our little corner was tucked away behind a giant Christmas tree so I wasn’t really visible. I would play quietly. Only people directly adjacent to us would notice. 

What happened next was thrilling. As I plucked along, mistakes and all, the two kids in our group--ages 4 and 9--began dancing along. After they left to catch their flight, my wife and I stayed in the lobby while I kept quietly playing and she read a book. But every kid in our vicinity kept giving me a combination of curious stares, smiles, and stomping dance moves (even as a mom was trying to shovel pizza into one kid’s face). A mom came by with her two year old to say that she was secretly dancing behind us. (The two year old. Not the mom). 

Then, an Irishman sat down right next to me. When I say “Irishman” I mean that literally. He was very friendly and told me he was really enjoying my playing. I did detect an accent but he was a Colorado local for over three decades, having immigrated from Ireland. Soon, his American wife joined us and next thing you know we were sharing a pizza and exchanging stories about Irish culture, Indian culture, American culture, and of course banjos. 

Eventually we had to head back up to our hotel room where our teenage daughter was waiting for us, so I went to find the bartender to pay the bill. When I found him he said this: “Nice banjo play dude! I heard banjo music coming from somewhere but couldn’t figure out where. Then I saw it was you when I went to get something and was all, ‘Awesome!’” 

As I returned to my wife, yet *another* couple had taken their seats next to her to chat her up. She’s an introvert so I already knew how this happened: my banjo in its case was at her feet. They were asking her all about it and about me. 

In total, my terrible, amateur plunking along of unrehearsed musical nonsense resulted in approximately 5 munchkins, 1 Irishman and 1 bartender expressing joy to me, plus one more couple who hasn’t even heard the music. They were just excited at the sight of a banjo. 

That’s the banjo effect. 

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Playing Style: Bluegrass (Scruggs)

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Playing Since: 2018
Experience Level: Novice

neilends has made 33 recent additions to Banjo Hangout 

My Instruments:
Banjo, 5 string, three-finger Scruggs style.

Favorite Bands/Musicians:
Earl Scruggs, Bela Fleck, The Tillers, Mean Mary, Rhiannon Giddens.

Without Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, I would never have even picked up a banjo.

"I enjoy doing different types of music... With the banjo I think it's easy to blend in with today's music. It works very well. I've really had dreams of this." --Earl Scruggs (1971).

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Profile Info:
Visible to: Public
Created 9/26/2018
Last Visit 12/7/2019

Brand new to the banjo (as of September 2018).

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