The Banjo: Music and Conversation with Robby George and Tony Trischka
Annual Princeton University Reunions Event
Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program, Princeton University, and Tony Trischka, Legendary Banjo Virtuoso
The banjo was not born in the United States, but it became the quintessential American instrument. There are various types of banjos and many styles of playing. Robby George and Tony Trischka will discuss the history of the instrument and demonstrate some of the most influential genres and traditions of banjo-playing.
Robby George hails from West Virginia, where little boys are issued 5-string banjos at birth. Like all banjo players who were trained in the tradition of Appalachian classical music (also known as “bluegrass”), his principal influence was Earl Scruggs. Aficionados also detect in his playing traces of the styles of Don Reno, Ralph Stanley, and Bill Keith. Although a traditionalist, he has been known to sneak a bit of Bela Fleck-style playing into his performances. His guitar playing is in the “thumbpicking” style of Merle Travis, Chet Atkins, and Jerry Reed. During the quarantine, he has posted a "Daily Banjo Minute," lifting spirits by playing classic bluegrass tunes, in a Twitter series inspired by Steve Martin. He is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program at Princeton University.
Tony Trischka is considered the consummate banjo artist and perhaps the most influential banjo player in the Roots music world. For more than 45 years, his stylings have inspired bluegrass and acoustic musicians with the many voices he has brought to the instrument. He made his recording debut with the band Country Cooking in 1971. Since then, he’s recorded numerous solo albums, collaborated with artists like Peter Rowan, John Denver, and Miley Cyrus, and produced Steve Martin’s Grammy-nominated album Rare Bird Alert. His 2004 album Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular also received a Grammy nomination and multiple IBMA awards. He has continued to push boundaries as one of the world’s top banjo players, lending his expertise as music director for the documentary Give Me the Banjo. In 2012, Tony was awarded the United States Artists Friends Fellow in recognition of the excellence of his work. On Tony’s latest album Great Big World (Rounder Records) his instrumental expertise and boundless imagination are as sharp as ever. His upcoming 16th solo album, This Favored Land, is song-based and tells a story of the Civil War from a variety of perspectives. The eclectic outing features Bluegrass, marching band and string quartet settings.