2020 Prize Winner: Matthew Davis
For centuries the banjo has captured the hearts of listeners with its unique sound, its beauty, and its old-timey allure. Today Matthew Davis works to bring the classic charm of this instrument into new and unexplored musical territories. Matthew Davis is one of this generation’s premier banjo players and composers. Davis began on piano before taking up banjo in middle-school. At age 17 he won the National Banjo Championship, bringing both his natural-born talent and eclectic musical lexicon to the instrument.
He has since gone on to co-found, write, record, and tour with the progressive bluegrass outfit Circus No. 9 and chambergrass quartet Westbound Situation while pursuing a degree in Jazz Studies at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. There, his interest in history, philosophy, and theology led to a rekindling of his Catholic Faith, bringing about a deep interior conversion. Now, at age 21, Davis has returned to his home state of Nebraska to discern a priestly vocation at St. Gregory the Great Seminary. In addition to his studies as a seminarian, he continues to compose and teach as often as he is able, seeking to lift hearts and minds to God through the transcendent beauty of music.