2020 Prize Winner: Catherine “BB” Bowness
Born in the small town of Marton, New Zealand, Catherine “BB” Bowness spent her early years working and living in her family’s Fish-and-Chip shop. Although an unlikely origin for a bluegrass banjo player, New Zealand would offer BB her first introduction to the instrument, sparking a lifelong love and fascination. A world away from the heart of bluegrass, BB spent much of her childhood teaching herself the instrument, and through dedication and tenacity became New Zealand School of Music’s first banjo student. Inspired by her New Zealand predecessors, The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band, BB was always drawn to the five-piece full band, and after heading to America in 2012 she co-founded her current group, Mile Twelve.
Immersing herself in the traditions of bluegrass and having studied jazz performance at university, BB’s banjo playing is an exciting synthesis of new and old ideas. “She demonstrates a command of the instrument, and plays with great rhythmic clarity both in the traditional and progressive realms. J.D. Crowe co-mingles with the future,” says Tony Trischka. Her euphoric energy and love of the genre are readily apparent in any of her live performances.
Currently, BB lives in Cambridge, MA. Mile Twelve has won numerous IBMA awards, including 2020 New Artists of the Year and 2017 Momentum Band of the Year. BB is a winner of the 2015 FreshGrass Banjo contest.