2023 Prize Winner: Cynthia Sayer
An inductee into the American Banjo Hall Of Fame, Sayer is the first 4-string banjoist to appear on the cover of the Musician Union’s official publication, International Musician Magazine in 2021, the first banjoist to win the 2019 Bistro Award and 2018 Global Music Awards, and in 2018 the first 4-string jazz banjoist to be a featured artist at the iconic Newport Jazz Festival. She was a headliner at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the Dresden International Jazz Festival (Germany), the Bloom Festival (China) and numerous others.
Cynthia rose to international prominence as a founding member of Woody Allen’s New Orleans Jazz Band, and has played with leading jazz, popular, and roots music artists including Bucky Pizzarelli, Dick Hyman, Andy Statman, Les Paul, Marvin Hamlisch, Wynton Marsalis, Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox, Vince Giordano, Scott Robinson, and many others.
Sayer has appeared as a guest and performer CBS, FOX & ABC network television, on NPR’s “Piano Jazz,” and elsewhere. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, DownBeat, Fretboard Journal, People Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and countless other local, trade, and foreign media outlets.
Cynthia has performed with various orchestras, including The New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, has played at The White House, and is proud to be the subject of a Trivial Pursuit question. Her newest project, “The Unexpected Journey Of Jazz Banjo,” enjoyed a successful debut at Lincoln Center. “The Banjo Experience,” currently in development, will be at Lincoln Center in 2024.
Filmed for PBS TV’s “Give Me The Banjo,” Cynthia can also be heard on banjo, ukulele, piano, tenor guitar and voice on feature film, TV and commercial soundtracks. Her 9 feature albums have received rave reviews and multiple “Best of” nominations and awards in various categories.
Cynthia Sayer is also an avid educator. She has been a guest clinician at The Berklee College Of Music, The New School and others, given multiple educational programs at Lincoln Center, in public schools, and more. She’s on the faculty of the NY Hot Jazz Camp, gives lessons and workshops. Her play-along program, You’re IN The Band is popular with players of all instruments learning and practicing traditional/hot jazz and swing. Her newest book for banjo, guitar and mandolin The Swinging Solos Of Elmer Snowden, was published in 2022.
Cynthia lives in New York City and endorses Ome Banjos, GHS Strings, Blue Chip Picks, and The Realist Banjo Pickups by David Gage.