Originally conceived of and launched in 2010 by comedy legend and banjo player Steve Martin, the Banjo Prize has put half a million dollars into the banjo community over the past decade with an unrestricted $50K award given annually to a master bluegrass or old time banjo player. Past winners are some of the instrument’s brightest stars and include Rhiannon Giddens, Noam Pikelny, Jens Kruger and Kristin Scott Benson.
At the end of 2019, having fulfilled its initial mission of giving ten awards, Martin and the board determined that the Banjo Prize needed a new vision and infrastructure to move forward. That’s when the Freshgrass Foundation stepped in to co-fund the prize and provide the administrative backend to help carry the prize into its second decade. FreshGrass is thrilled and honored to play a part in this next iteration of the Steve Martin Banjo Prize. As a 501(c)(3) whose mission is to preserve, support and create innovative grassroots music, we can’t think of a better way to fulfill our mission than to assist in carrying on the amazingly generous and cool tradition that is the Steve Martin Banjo Prize.
Going forward, the new Banjo Prize will be an annual award of $25K to one or more banjo players across the stylistic spectrum including both 5 and 4 string banjo masters. However, in light of the tremendous need in the musical community this year, the 2020 prize will be $50K split equally between 5 banjo players. The winners of the 2020 Steve Martin Banjo Prize will be announced at the end of September when the FreshGrass Festival is typically held.