The Banjo Gathering
Peter Szego and Jim Bollman have been organizing a yearly symposium about the banjo for collectors, historians, dealers, and anyone else interested in early banjos. This annual event has taken place in different locations throughout the Eastern United States for the past 15 years.
The gathering provides a forum for scholarly papers, buying and selling, show and tell, music sessions and late-night jams.
Without any doubt, the best part of the weekend is the comaradarie shared among the participants, a veritable assembly of banjo geeks, but the weekend offers many other unique opportunities.
The 2014 Banjo Collectors Gathering took place in Morristown, N.J. Highlights of the weekend included:
- Tour of the Guinness Collection of Instruments and Automata at the Morris Museum, Morristown, among the largest collection of mechanical musical instruments and automata in the world;
- Jere Ryder, the collection curator and world-renowned authority on automata, presented a demonstration of the mechanical instruments, including several special banjo-related pieces — the Encore Automatic Banjo (c. 1901-04 in Newark, NJ) and the Muller Banjo Player Automaton (c.1900 (Germany). He also demonstrated many ragtime-related mechanical instruments and other automata ranging in size from miniscule to elephantine;
- Visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and a curator’s tour of almost 40 antebellum guitars by C. F. Martin, James Ashborn and other early guitar makers featured in “Inventing the American Guitar, the Pre-Civil War Innovations of C. F. Martin and His Contemporaries;”
- Private viewing of banjos and other fretted instruments, including the Hercules McCord cable-tension banjos and the infamous Boucher gourd banjo, in storage and rarely exhibited at the Met;
- Jerry Fabris, the curator in charge of recordings at the Thomas Edison Labs, met with the group to discuss Edison’s recording devices and todemonstrate one of Edison’s earliest devices by recording a banjo performance by Greg Adams and Hank Sapoznik.
For information about the next Banjo Gathering, contact: [email protected].