Smoky Mountain Banjo Academy 2008
Fifth Annual
SMOKY MOUNTAIN BANJO ACADEMY 2008

SMBA 2008 was held held April 18-20, 2008, again at Wa-Floy Retreat near Gatlinburg, Tennessee.


sponsored by:

FOLLOW THIS LINK TO SEE PHOTOS FROM ALL FOUR PREVIOUS SMBAs.

Click here to listen to archived BanjoTalk.com April 6th, 2008 interview with Jack Hatfield, SMBA director. BanjoTalk.com is a weekly webcast which features guests from the banjo world.

  • Beginner to Advanced classes were taught by experienced professionals, including bluegrass, classical, minstrel, jazz, and various old-time styles. Every three-day camper at SMBA 2008 got their first choice for a private lesson.

  • The student banjo contest was be Friday evening. The first prize, a Deering Goodtime banjo was won by Dean Wood of Copper Hill, VA. The elkskin strap valued atb over $200. donated by Dave Schenck of Dogwood Designs was won by Isaac Carrell from Gallant Alabama. Cody Easley and Alan Tompkins place third and fourth, respectively taking home a Dogwood Design strap and Mel Bay instructioal products.
  • The jamming at SMBA 2008 was very good. Attendance was the best yet. The Steiner-Bell Lodge was filled up this year, every single bed used, and a few students had to be housed in cabins onsite.
  • There was a moderated Gospel Jam Sunday morning with about twenty-five participants, hosted by Sam Ferris of Tranjo fame.

    Rhonda Langston and Geisela "Mrs Dash" Burton again provided real authentic country cooking, not the bland commercial restaurant-style cusine often served at many conventions and retreats. When they were formally thanked at the concert Saturday night, the campers kept applauding far longer than for any banjo picker on stage!

    The apt and able Betsy Burgin was again Assistant Director and Concert Director. She did a fabulous job, working hard all weekend tying up loose ends and solving problems. Jane Hatfield kept the camp store and office running like a fine tuned machine, ever smooth and dependable.

    The main point of gathering on a beautiful Spring weekend in the Smokies is to learn about the banjo, and according to the exit surveys the 2008 faculty did an excellent job of teaching. Many faculty members gave private lessons late at night or during mealtimes or during their "break" periods. The concert schedule was amended this year so there were fewer classes during the mini-concerts especially concerts by the faculty who had never appeared before. A highlight which we will keep on the schedule is a student onstage jam. This jam started slow but included about a dozen students before it was finished. Another memorable moment was when the daffy Ned Lubereki popped up in the back of the room during Gerald Jone's Saturday night set and dueled hot licks across the room. Its hard to say who represented the boy on the porch in Deliverance, but Gerald DID play the first lick...Gerald and Ned kept us in stitches the whole weekend and when they weren't monkeeshining Leroy Troy was, uh, being himself. THATS always entertaining and amazing. Dan Levenson and Dave Ball and Rik Barron represented the Old Time style well and had well-attended classes. Dan taught a beginning fiddel class which went so well we may schedule a beginning guitar and mandolin class next year as well. Bill Keith again was a master educator and player, and the respect fromt he rest of the faculty for this legendary player was evident. SMBA got the usual 110% from James McKinney who, when I peeked in the class, had about ten beginner-intermediate players actually jamming on the blues without tab! Eddie Collins and Rick Sampson played great and was an adept substitute teacher when someone forgot their class or got detained (for example, by back spasms). Eddie Collins again showed why he has to be considered one of the top banjo workshop teachers in the country. Sonny Osborne was a treat! He was fun, entertaining and talkative and his good spirit was infectious. The staff band John Miller and Jackie and Cindy Miller did their usual great job on stage and were always around for jamming as well. All in all the BEST SMBA YET! See you next year, third weekend in April!

    2008 SCHEDULE:

    FRIDAY

    8:00AM: Registration

    9:00AM: Orientation

    9:30 History of the Banjo Presentation:

    Dan Levenson, Sonny Osborne, Bill Keith

    10:30 Classes begin

    12:30 Lunch

    1:30 PM Classes resume

    6:00 Supper

    7:00 Student Banjo Contest

    8:00 Free time, Jamming

    SATURDAY

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    . 7:00 AM Breakfast

    8:00 AM Classes begin

    12:45 Lunch

    1:30 Group Photo

    1:45 PM Classes resume

    6:30 PM Supper

    8:00 PM Faculty Concert

    11:00 Free time, Jamming

    SUNDAY

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    . 7:00 AM Breakfast

    8:00 AM Gospel jam

    9:00 AM Classes begin

    12:30 Lunch

    1:30 PM Classes resume

    4:00 PM Classes end, Farewell Jam

    CLICK HERE FOR SMBA 2008 REGISTRATION FORM

    CLICK HERE FOR SMBA 2008 CLASS SCHEDULE so you can decide what classes to attend and see your private lesson assignment (see last column for private lesson assignments)

    Check out the SMBA 2008 T-Shirt. Order in advance on registration form

    Help u os, concerts, and jam sessions. Put a couple in your banjo case and hand out to other banjo players! Never too early to start promoting the 2009 SMBA!

    2008 SMBA faculty listing:

    Dave Ball, Rik Barron, Eddie Collins, Jack Hatfield, Bill Keith, Gerald Jones, Dan Levenson, Ned Lubereki, James McKinney, Tom Nechville, Sonny Osborne, LeRoy Troy, Rick Sampson!

    Dave Ball is a fine old time, brush style and minstrel style banjo player. He is also a builder of fine banjos, with their roots mainly in the fine classic era banjo of the late 1800s. He plays for "The Mumbillies", a well known group in the East Tennessee area. Dave has a collection of old banjos that is so special the world's largest banjo exhibit The Banjo - From Africa to America and Beyond" asked him to loan them several instruments. This exhibit was held last year at McClung Museum in Knoxville. Dave started playing banjo in 1970, when he took up three finger Scruggs style playing. Dave's grandfather and father both played in western Kentucky stringbands, so he had been around this kind of music his entire life. By the late 1970's, Dave was playing banjo seven nights a week in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, and it was also about this time that he took up old time clawhammer style playing. Since those days, Dave has won many banjo competitions including multiple first place honors at the prestegious Mt. Airy North Carolina festival and was National Champion Old-Time Banjoist in 2001. Dave is also an accomplished banjo maker, specializing in fancy high-end custom openback and internal resonator banjos. Dave will perform concerts and talk about banjo history and building and teach old time and minstrel style classes.

    Rik Barron Rik Barron is an award winning recording artist, and multi-instrumentalist. His rich baritone vocals perfectly compliment his extensive repertoire of traditional folk songs, and sea shanties, along with a variety of great original songs written by some of east coast Canada's finest songwriters, including Cape Breton Island's, Duncan Wells and Newfoundland's Trad/Rock pioneer, Dave Panting.

    Rik is a folk festival veteran whose unique guitar and banjo styles have caught the attention of audience members and music critics alike. He was named best instrumentalist by the Newfoundland Folk Artist Association, and his kid friendly tunes earned him a East Coast Music Award in the year 2000.

    Rik has toured throughout Canada, the United States and Europe. He was on the faculty of the Maryland Banjo Academy. His music is available online at www.CDbaby.com. While visiting Rik Barron's website, we encourage you to check out his on line press kit, his photo gallery, or any of the links at the top of the page.

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    . Eddie Collins is a long-time performer, author and instructor from Austin, Texas. He has performed for the President of the United States, the Queen of England's Royal Color Guard and The Country Music Academy's annual Award's Program, where his band was awarded "Best Non-touring Group." He has played alongside a diverse array of musicians ranging from the 60s super-group, The Drifters, to Texas fiddle legend, Johnny Gimble. Along with his trio, the High Stakes Rollers, Eddie has opened shows for many of the top acts in bluegrass, including Ricky Skaggs.

    Collins’ career has been highlighted in national publications and on the syndicated TV program, Texas Music Cafe. A multi-instrumentalist, he has recording credits on nearly 50 projects. His 2002 solo CD, Rise & Shine, was praised by several publications, including highlight features in Banjo Newsletter and Flatpicking Guitar Magazine. His just-released CD "Golden Wings" features 13 original tunes.

    Collins received international recognition among banjo players as the founder and editor of 5-String Quarterly. He has published numerous music instruction courses, including Basics of Bluegrass Banjo, and its follow-up, Beyond The Basics of Bluegrass Banjo, which have become popular instruction tools. Collins is the "Beginner's Corner" columnist for Banjo NewsLetter and regularly contributes instruction and feature articles to a number of music magazines.He has been on the staff at two SPBGMA Banjo Newsletter workshops and the 2006 SMBA.

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    Jack Hatfield has been a writer for Banjo Newsletter for over 3 years and has written several acclaimed banjo instruction books published by his own company, and five banjo instuction books published by Mel Bay Publications. the largest publisher of stringed instrument music in the world. Jack was a finalist in the Tennessee Banjo Championship and the National Banjo Championship at Winfield, Kansas and has worked at several Pigeon Forge Theatres and attractions including Dollywood theme park and Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede. Jack has taught banjo workshops all over the USA and in England, Ireland, Scotland and recently in Australia. He was Bluegrass Director for all three of Banjo Newsletter's Maryland Banjo academies and has directed the BNL/ SPBGMA workshop in Nashville for twelve years which has featured names like Bela Fleck, Alan Munde, Bill Keith, Sammy Shelor, Terry Baucom, Scott Vestal, Eddie Adcock, Bill Evans, Doug Dillard, Steve Huber, Curtis McPeake, James McKinney, Wayne Erbsen, Sonny Osborne, J.D.Crowe, Pete Wernick, Geoff Stelling, Gary Price, Tony Wray, Tom Nechville, Charlie Cushing and Frank Neat. Banjo Newsletter contributors featured at SPBGMA have included: Janet Davis, Ian Perry, Ira Gitlin, Murphy Henry, Eddie Collins, Ross Nickerson and Andy Cushing. Jack was on the faculty of the very FIRST banjo camp, the Tennessee Banjo Institute at Cedars of Lebanon state park near Nashville. This event was the brainchild of Bobby Fulcher and Wayne Ingram and was held three times in a six-year period. When state politics prevented the use of the state park facility, BNL's Maryland Banjo Academy took over the reins and held three Maryland Banjo Academys in a six-year span. Now that BNL is out of the banjo workshop business the SMBA is filling this void. The SMBA is now going into its fifth year. Jack is owner/operator of Hatfield Music, providing everything the banjo player needs from instructional materials to banjos to accessories. Jack was featured in Banjo Newsletter, July 2001.

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    . Bill Keith is one of the foremost innovaters and music theory teachers among banjo players. He was instrumental in developing the melodic style, winning the pregistigous Newport Folk festival banjo contest in 1962 in what was probably the first exposure of the melodic (many call it "Keith") style. He recorded and toured with Bill Monroe, David Grisman, Pete Rowan and many others. He did the original transcriptions for Earl Scrugg's banjo instruction book in the 1960's and is thus responsible for thousands of second generation pickers learning Earl's tunes accurately. He has a Homespun instructional tape out called "Play Bluegrass Banjo by Ear" in addition to dozens of recordings on Rounder and other major bluegrass record labels. Bill presides over Beacon Banjo Company, producing Keith banjo tuners, precision manufactured tuning machines which allow the quick and acurate re-tuning during a solo. Bill helped design keith Tuners along with Earl Scruggs and company founder Dan Bump. Though he is known for the melodic or "fiddle" style, he can play Scruggs style with the best of them, and is fluent in many music styles, from bluegrass to jazz. Bill has been a faculty member at virtually all the major banjo camps and workshops. He is incredibly captivating when teaching and is tireless. When you go to one of his sessions, use the bathroom FIRST and bring a sandwich! (Just kidding ~ meals and IV's provided.) Bill was featured in Banjo Newsletter, August 1983.

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    . Gerald Jones is a professional banjo instructor and performer from Dallas Texas. He is director of his own Acoustic music camp Acoustic Music Camp, which is in August in Dallas. He did a great job at the 2006 SPBGMA/Banjo Newsletter banjo workshop in Nashville. Though he is very experienced teaching beginners and intermediates, he can play and teach jazz and swing as well as traditional bluegrass. Gerald is well known in Texas music circles as a multi-instrumental genius. Local performances with his group Acoustic Plus, featuring Texas fiddle legend Texas Shorty, showcase his wide range of talents on banjo, guitar, mandolin and fiddle. In addition to impressive performance skills,he is a world class teacher. His many students include Dixie Chick, Emily. He has been on the Camp Bluegrass banjo faculty since 1989. He was the featured artist in Banjo Nnewsletter, January 2004.

    Gerald has worked with an incredible variety of groups including Roanoke (with Dan Huckabee. Mike Anderson and Joe Carr), Lazy River ( with Vince Gill), and Spats (80s soul/pop/fusion) and Texas country singers Will Barnes and Red Stegall. He also appeared in the group Texas with Michael Martin Murphy, John Hartford and Mark O’Connor. Gerald recorded on numerous projects including recordings featuring Dan Huckabee, Country Gazette and an unreleased project of Jazz/fusion banjo with Mark O’Connor, Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas. Gerald played with Lazy River featuring Vince Gill. When this talented but short lived band dissolved, Gerald moved back to the Dallas area, where he still lives. For the next few years, he continued to freelance as a musician in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. During the country-rock crazed 1980s, Gerald worked regularly as a lead electric guitarist and an occasional banjo picker. From an early age, Gerald was fascinated by electronics and later, computers. He was the sound tech in every band he played in. He developed and marketed the first really natural sounding electric pickup for banjo called the Jones Acoustic Plus, which has been out of production for a couple of years, but will soon be available with a newly designed external jack and be distributed by Hatfield Music. Gerald has an interest in computers and electronics continues as he works with several Dallas print shops and related businesses as a graphic artist. His expertise extends to package design, professional digital photography and web page design.

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    Dan Levenson, formerly banjoist and bandleader of the Boiled Buzzards string band, is now performing as The Hippie-Billies. Dan is a long-time Banjo Newsletter writer, and well known old-time performer and teacher of banjo, fiddle, and clogging. He was voted in the top ten old-time banjo players by BNL readers. Dan has several instructional books and DVDs published by Mel Bay Publications, and tours the world not only performing with his band the Hippie-Billies but also teaching "Meet the Banjo" seminars for aspiring players. Dan has been on the faculty of the Tennessee Banjo Institute, Banjo Camp North, and the Maryland Banjo Academy, among others. Bluegrass Unlimited calls his playing "melodic, meticulous, and uncluttered." He won second place in the prestigious Old Time Banjo Contest at the Mount Airy Fiddler's Convention in 2003 and First Place Old Time Fiddle, Coshocton Canal Festival ~ 2000. Fiddler Magazine's Bob Buckingham describes him as ". . . one of the best clawhammer banjo players in the country". .

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    Ned Lubereki Is a world class banjo player who also brings great bluegrass music to millions as host of the Siruis Satellite radio bluegrass program. Ned is the banjo player for Chris Jones and the Night Drivers. Ned was formerly the banjoist for The Rarely Herd, The Gary Ferguson Band, Radio Flyer, Paul Adkins and the Borderline Band and the Apocalyptic Cowboys. Ned is now teaching private banjo lessons exclusively at The East Nashville School Of Music and is also a banjo instructor at Nashcamp, Camp Bluegrass, Acoustic Music Camp, and the Midwest Banjo Camp.Ned is also an instructor for Bluegrasscollege.org. Check out Nedski.com for more information. .

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    James McKinney is an amazing banjo player, one of the most technically precise and advanced players anywhere. He won the South U.S. Banjo Championship at age 15. In 1982 he won the National Banjo Championship at Winfield, Kansas, to top off dozens of first-place state and regional championships. He made the first of several appearances on the Grand Ole Opry at age 19 and worked at Opryland theme park as banjoist and musical arranger. James recorded with his Dallas band Danger in The Air in the late 1980s and moved to Nashville for good in 1990 to play full time with his talented wife Angela in the James and Angela McKinney Band. James currently does studio and touring work out of Nashville. In addition to being a Scruggs and Reno style expert, he is a dedicated banjo teacher. He has taught at many major banjo camps, the SPGBMA workshop, and Master workshops all over the USA. He is one of the foremost jazz and theory experts in the banjo world, having been mentored by renowned jazz educator David Baker and Mr. Ferrell (teacher of Chet Atkins and Jethro Burns). He has performed and/or recorded with the likes of Porter Wagoner, Barbara Mandrell, John Hartford, and Johnny Cash, in addition to a long and close professional relationship with legendary fiddler Vassar Clements. His newest project is called "Mind Over Banjo", to be released soon. James was featured artist in Banjo Newsletter July 1982.

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    Tom Nechville, of Nechville Musical Products, has been in business since 1989, manufacturing professional banjos and related accessories for the booming acoustic and electric string instrument market. He has gained a respected reputation among the nation's top builders as being a leader in innovation and design. His company owns patents on Nechville's unique Heli-mount banjo design and it has been enthusiastically accepted by the world's top players such as Bela Fleck and Alison Brown.

    Nechville Musical Products is always innovating to meet the changing needs of modern musicians. Replacing more than seventy parts of a traditional banjo, the Nechville Heli-Mount body tightens together much like a jar on a lid; greatly reducing the assembly time and improving the banjo's sound.

    Tom has spent years in development and in consultation with the world's top players researching and finding ways to meet the needs of professionals. His experience has led to the refinement of the electric banjo, which has re-directed a new world-wide spotlight on the banjo. Nechville instruments have appeared on MTV, the Olympics opening ceremonies, CMA Awards show, numerous cable and Direct TV specials and in major live Country, Rock, Jazz and Bluegrass concerts around the planet.

    Tom has worked with Alison Brown, Bela Fleck, Eddie Adcock, and others in development of his designs, and currently provides instruments for many of the world's top country, bluegrass, and jazz performers. Learn what's wrong with most banjos and see how Nechville has designed solutions to nearly every banjo problem. His patented designs such as the elegant helical head tensioning Helimount, adjustable neck attachment, beveled armrest, built-in capos, and compensated Enterprise bridges are stirring up the banjo world. Nechville is leading the "Banjo Revolution" into new territory with his unique designs for the electric and synthesizer banjos as well. Tom will have several instruments on display and will cover things like the benefits of radiused fingerboards, tunneled 5th strings, in-line tailpieces, and compensated bridges. Owners of traditional banjos as well as anyone interested in banjo will benefit from Nechville's set-up tips and theories for optimum banjo sound. In adition to teaching banjo setup/repair and theory, he will be displaying his full line of banjos. His book Dynamics of Banjo Sound will also be available.

    Sonny Osborne needs no introduction. He is one of the giants of bluegrass banjo, the foremost second generation player who learned by watching Earl up close. The Osborne Brothers are best known for their mega-hit "Rocky Top", which is probably the most requested bluegrass song of all time, and has become the University of Tennessee fight song. History will remember them as one of the most influential bands in bluegrass for their innovation and their progressive approach within the bluegrass picking style. Bobby's high lead and Sonny's legendary backup playing marked them as a unique and exciting band when most other bluegrass acts were merely string bands searching for an identity. They were the first to introduce drums and steel guitar into bluegrass in the 1960's in an attempt to broaden their scope and attract new fans to the music. Sonny developed the Cheif banjo, made with excellent craftmanship by top luthiers such as Frank Neat to Sonny's rigorous specifications. Sonny knows where every Cheif lives! (Check out his website if you don't believe!) Due to rotater cuff problems and a stroke a couple of years ago, (thankfully he is fully recovered) Sonny no longer plays the banjo in public. However, his insight, expertise and opinions (!) are so keen and unique, nobody should miss an opportunity to hang out with him and absorb his experiences. The stories of life on the road in the early days of bluegrass are worth the price of admission alone! Don't miss an opportunity to rub elbows and get an autograph from one of the true giants of bluegrass banjo playing. Sonny will be at SMBA Friday and Saturday.

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    Rick Sampson is a gifted luthier and creator of the revolutionary Sampson banjo bridge, used by many top pros, notably as Alison Brown. Woodworking seems to be his first calling... his other business is designer and builder of Woodland Flutes. Rick is an extremely talented performer on the banjo, adept with several different styles from Scruggs to melodic and single string, with a fluid style that is always tasteful. His specialty is playing PRETTY, delicate music on the banjo, which is uncommon. In addition to SMBA, Rick has appeared at the Tennessee Banjo Institute and Maryland Banjo Academy.

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    SMBA STAFF BAND

    John Miller is a gifted guitarist and lead/tenor singer. John hails from Northern Virginia, but is an east East Tennessee native. He has worked recently with Herschel Sizemore and done some fill- in work with the Lonesome River Band. He has has also played with Jack Hatfield's True Blue Grass and does instrument repair work specializing in acoustic guitars.

    Jackie Miller is a virtuoso mandolin and fiddle player and sings great tenor Originally from Greenville TN, he now resides in Nashville, performing with the Reno Brothers. He works for the Gibson company durign the week, assembling and doing finish work Gibson mandolins.

    Cindy Miller, wife of Jackie, will lend an apt hand on upright bass. (By the Way, Jackie and Cindy are not related to guitar player John Miller!)

    Master of Ceremonies for the concert Saturday night again will be Russ Jeffers. Russ and his wife Becky are from nearby Clinton, Tennessee, but lived in Nashville and performed at Opryland for over twenty years until the park was closed a few years ago. Russ is uniquely suited to be the SMBA Master of Ceremonies ~ more than one of the banjo players on the staff have worked with him in his band. Russ, the ultimate front man, will also teach a class on entertaining. Russ and Becky Jeffers are from Clinton, Tennessee, a small town just north of Knoxville near the foothills of the great Smoky Mountains. They attended the same high school and met in the local drug store in 1965 when both were teenagers. They married in 1967 and have a son David and a daughter, Christy. Small town beginnings have produced their share of hard-working successful people, and Russ and Becky are no exception. In 1971 after Russ was discharged from the United States Air Force, they decided to pursue their dream of music. With little else but a guitar, an up-right bass and two tiny children they moved to Nashville. Very few people move to "Music City" and live their dreams. This year they are celebrating their twenty-eighth year of entertaining and playing music. Russ and Becky performed over 15,000 shows at Opryland USA from 1974 - 1997 where they introduced "Bluegrass Music" to people from all over the world. Now they travel the world to bring their unique style of harmony, comedy and "down home" music. They have independently produced and marketed numerous recordings. They are living proof that in our wonderful country of America that with God's grace and a lot of hard work, you can live your dream. To paraphrase a popular commercial, they are indeed "The Professionals - The Old Fashioned Way - They Earned It!!

    SHOPPING FOR A BANJO? DAYDREAMING ABOUT A FUTURE PURCHASE?
    The full inventory of Hatfield Music banjos will be on display: Deering, Deering Goodtime, Stelling, Nechville, Gold Star, Gold Tone, Washburn, and many used banjos. (See website, click on "home" link below then "used instruments".) Banjo manufacturer/innovator Tom Nechville will have many banjos on display including new models.

    MINI-CONCERTS
    Mini-concerts will be ongoing, featuring each faculty member. Some of the more accomplished faculty performed two or more mini-concerts. Combination mini-concerts such as Scruggs Jam, Fiddle Tunes jam and Winfield Winners Jam will be performed by groups of two to four faculty members.

    How great was last year's SMBA? Read the rave reviews and check out the photos from the 2007 SMBA!

    Contact Director Jack Hatfield at:

    Hatfield Productions
    325 Laurelwood Dr.
    Pigeon Forge, TN 37863
    1-800-426-8744

    Click here for a SMBA 2008 registration form to print and mail.

    Help us promote the camp! Click here for a SMBA 2008 flyer to print and post at music stores, teaching studios, concerts, and jam sessions. Put a couple in your banjo case and hand out to other banjo players!.

    Click here for photos.

    SMBA logo image courtesy of Dan Levensen.