Steve Martin Banjo Prize Announces 2021 Winners

Steve Martin and the board of The Steve Martin Banjo Prize have announced two winners for the 2nd annual edition of the Prize. Building on the board’s mission to recognize excellence across the spectrum of banjo styles, this year’s winners embody the best of both 5-string bluegrass and 4-string jazz traditions. Each of the winners will receive an unrestricted check for $25,000.
“I am so proud to have my name on the new, expanded Banjo prize, with its wider scope and broader considerations," says Martin. "The world of the banjo is expanding and our goal is to bring it under one roof.”
On October 6th at 3:30 PM PT / 6:30 PM ET, Martin will introduce viewers to each of the winners on the Deering Banjo Company’s livestream channel, Deering Live, to be followed by a video feature of each winner together with interviews and live performance, as well as remarks from Wynton Marsalis and Sam Bush. Deering Live will also be available to view on the Facebook pages of the following co-sponsors and friends of the prize: The FreshGrass Festival, Compass Records, No Depression, Folk Alley and The International Bluegrass Music Association. Viewers can click HERE to watch.

The 2021 winners are:

Alan Munde: One of the true titans of the 5-string banjo, Alan Munde launched his professional career in the late 1960s playing with bluegrass legend Jimmy Martin. He went on to join the Flying Burrito Brothers, and later, The Country Gazette, whose members included fiddler Byron Berline. A master of both traditional and melodic styles with a discography of over 20 recordings, Munde has influenced generations of bluegrass banjo players, including progressive stylists Béla Fleck, Alison Brown and Noam Pikelny, and has been pivotal in reimagining the possibilities for the 5-string banjo.

Don Vappie: 4-string banjo maestro, Creole cultural expert, and jazzman extraordinaire, Don Vappie is a living embodiment of 300 years of New Orleans music. Vappie began playing at Preservation Hall in the late ’80s and for over 25 years has appeared regularly with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. He has presented educational programs for Carnegie Hall, NPR, and the Smithsonian Institution, recorded eight albums, and composed music for film and television, including Treme and American Creole: New Orleans Reunion, a PBS documentary which he co-produced and in which he was also featured.