Smoky Mountain Banjo Academy
Ninth Annual

May 1st-4th at Five-String Fest, Lawndale, NC

sponsored by:

Cades Cove photo above courtesy Dan Levensen

Elliot Family Farms festival site including Earl Scruggs beet maze…Now even space aliens know about Earl! David Elliot is considering rebuilding the Great Wall of China to spell EARL SCRUGGS.

  • SMBA combined with a new festival dedicated to the banjo - Five String Fest near Shelby, North Carolina, just a few miles for the birthplace of Earl Scruggs. Instructors were selected from Five-String Fest performers and also included some who were not booked to perform. Appearing at Five-String Fest were: Terry Baucom and the Dukes of Drive, J.D. Crowe, The Boxcars (Ron Stewart), Charlie Cushman and Johnny Warren, Chris Jones and the Night Drivers (Ned Luberecki), Big Daddy Love, Wayne Erbsen, The Grascals (Kristin Scott-Benson), Ryan Cavanaugh, Songs of the Fall (Cia Cherryholmes), Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, The Freight Hoppers (Frank Lee), Tony Furtado, Jack Hatfield, Dan Levensen, James McKinney and the Night Travelers, The Moores, Ross Nickerson, Willow Osborne and Col. Isaac Moore, Mountain Heart, the Traveling McCoureys (Rob McCoury), Tom Nechville, Reno and Harrell (Don Wayne Reno), Shannon Slaughter and County Claire, Marc Smith, Phillip Steinmetz and his Sunny Tennesseans, and Tony Trischka Territory.

    Enjoy some great photos shot by Tibor Sventi, faithful SMBA student

  • Long-time SMBA supporters R.B and Bridget Powell and Betsey Sesler along with the Bluegrass Heritage Foundation presided by Alan Tompkins generously to funded scholarships for promising young musicians and four very talented kids benefitted. email SMBA Director Jack Hatfield to apply for next year's scholarships.

  • To learn more about Five-String Fest, go to their Facebook page or their website.

    For more detailed info about Five-String Fest, to reserve vendor space or to enter the bluegrass band competition at the 2015 event, email festival Director John Lockaby.

    SMBA classes were held from 9:00-3:00 Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The competitions were held at 2:00 each day. Five-String Fest performances started at noon each day and continued past 9:00 pm. There was a huge covered main stage, a Campground stage, a Kids stage, and a workshop stage. SMBA classes were held in rustic log buildings. Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer conducted workshop sessions and special shows for kids all weekend. There was face painting, a kid's playground area, a inflatable gym, Banjo Bingo, and corn hole games

    There were several vendor areas with banjo manufacturers, retailers with learning aids and accessories and various arts and crafts. There were food vendors, including with two full "sit-down" dinners. Included in their tuition, SMBA students were given food vouchers which they used at the vendor of their choice, any time they like. Full-admission SMBA students were lodged at Day's Inn in Shelby. Camping on the festival grounds was inexpensive, ten bucks for the weekend..

    The Bluegrass Band competition was Saturday at 2:00. The runner-up was the Moonshine Racers from Charlotte, NC.The winner was the Arrowood Sisters from Union Corner, SC. The runners-up won a paying gig at the next Clear Mountain View Festival to be held at at Elliott Farms. The winner will perform as a paid act at the 2015 Five-String Fest.

    Nechville, Deering and Cedar Mountain professional level banjos were awarded as prizes (see descriptions below). Prizes were awarded in the two banjo contests that are valued at almost $20,000, making this the highest value prizes of any banjo competition in the world.

    Congratulations to all these fine musicians! Judges for the Bluegrass Banjo Competition were head judge James McKinney, Charlie Cushman, Terry Baucom, Kristin Scott-Benson, and Ross Nickerson. National Banjo Champion and Winfield judge James McKinney was the head judge. The Old Time Banjo Competition was judged by Dan Levensen, Kathy Fink, and Frank Lee. The Bluegrass Band Competition was judged by various Five-String Fest performers including Chris Jones. The competitions were free to anybody with a Five-String Fest ticket. Bluegrass Banjo Championship prizes:

    Choice of: Custom Special Hellbilly Phantom- Serial Number #1727. This instrument combines the finest features from 4 different Nechville models: the Antler inlay from the ORION, the tunneled 5th string from the PHANTOM, the peghead shape from the NUVO and the playability of a NEXTAR all work together to create a banjo of great distinction. Very similar to the banjo we built for Hank III. You can’t ask for more in a banjo that will knock you out visually and inspire creativity. Valued at $6400.

    Nechville Saturn Serial #1879-The Saturn takes your playing to a whole new level with its compound radiused fingerboard, our patented Heli-Mount frame, and its gorgeous premium black walnut neck and resonator. Players delight in the amazing sound that emanates from the light weight Timbr-Tronic tone ring. Complete with thick gig bag. Valued at $3400.

    A Deering Terry Baucom signature model was chosen by Adam Jarrell, the champion. This model was designed with Terry's hard driving bluegrass style in mind. This incredible banjo has a slightly lighter weight -06- 20 hole Deering tone ring. Terry chose the traditional Deering neck shape because it is comfortable for the fast and accurate fretting demanded by his hard-driving playing style. Set up includes an 11/16″ bridge with slightly wider string spacing and a head tuned to A. This magical banjo is loud and resonant, perfect for hard driving bluegrass music and any other style you wish to play on it! The Neck: Walnut Slender Deering Neck Shape Bone Nut Slightly Wider String Spacing Natural Ebony fingerboard 22 Glued In Nickel-Silver Frets Mother of pearl Mustache inlays Ivoroid Bound fingerboard with Black/ White Trim Adjustable truss rod Deering Smooth Planetary Banjo Tuners Deering Geared 5th StringTuner High Gloss Finish The Pot: Deering -06- Light Weight - 20 Hole Bronze Tone Ring Deering Premium Violin Grade 3- ply Maple Rim Deering Brass Notched Tension Hoop 11″ Frosted Top Head, Medium Crown 24 Round Hooks with Ľ″ Hex Nuts One Piece Cast Resonator Flange 11/16″ Deering Signature Maple/Ebony Bridge Deering True Tone Tailpiece Resonator: Walnut Ivoroid Binding with Black/White Trim Deep Resonator for more Resonance Tapered on the inside for Projection of Tone High Gloss Finish Valued at $4799.

    Old Time Competition prizes:

    Atlas 12” Serial #1837 Echoing of the Ashborn construction of the 1860's and featuring block-rim with integral wooden flange. This Nechville-Sagmoen collaboration was designed to handle a serious Old-Time jam, and has the ability to cross over into other music. The Atlas is Nechville’s first use of the patented Flux Capacitor in a "Flex-Tone" hybrid instrument. It combines a unique lightweight hook and nut style pot with the adjustable Nechville neck for portability and rapid set up, and also features Nechville’s own Beveled Frailing Thumb Scoop, leaving access to all the upper frets. Value $2200.

    Cedar Mountain Bella Rosa - Designed for versatility and a wide range of playing styles, the new Bella Rosa model combines classy design features and refined sound with CMB's elegant simplicity. Equipped with a Tubaphone tone ring, the Bella Rosa delivers a rich warm, crisp tone with powerful, focused projection up and down the neck. Bella Rosa Features Curly maple neck and 2-ply rim Matching dowel stick Tubaphone tone ring 26 1/8" scale 1 1/4" neck width 11" rim Two-way adjustable truss rod Hand-rubbed varnish finish Fingerboard and side dot position markers Notched tension hoop Presto tailpiece Five-Star armrest value: $2600

    The Eastern USA Old Time Banjo Championship was Friday at 2:00. The winners were: 3rd place: Victor Furtado from Front Royal, VA. The runner-up was Brandon Holder from Boone, NC. The Eastern USA Old Time Banjo Champion is Adam Jarrel from Villas, NC.

    The new Earl Scruggs Center is nearby in Shelby. The beautiful old courthouse has been remodeled to a state of the art museum dedicated to the life and contributions of Earl Scruggs. Earl was born and raised in Flint Hill, a little community just outside Shelby. SMBA admission includes admission to the Earl Scruggs Center. We are working on a shuttle to and from the Earl Scruggs Center for next year.

    Below is the 2014 class schedule.


    Check out the 2013 SMBA T-Shirt! Still a few left. These are printed in three color on 100 percent cotton heavyweight safety yellow shirts. The hand image is on the front and the SMBA logo is on the back. See anything "strange" about the front image? These shirts are available for sale on the Hatfield Music website./TD>



    . The following will be teaching SMBA classes.

    Terry Baucom performed at Five-String Fest with his band the Dukes of Drive. Terry grew up in Monroe, North Carolina and picked up the banjo at the age of 10 and played locally in a band with his father, The Rocky River Boys. His first professional job was with Charlie Moore on fiddle. Terry was a founding member of Boone Creek with Ricky Skaggs and Jerry Douglas. He was also a founding member of Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver in 1979. He was with Quicksilver until 1985 and rejoined the band in 2003 (Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver are 6-time winners of the IBMA Vocal Group of the Year Award). Terry was a founding member of IIIrd Tyme Out in the early 90′s. He teamed up with Lou Reid to form Lou Reid, Terry Baucom & Carolina (1994 IBMA Emerging Artist of the Year). Currently Terry is free-lancing, working on various recording sessions and conducting banjo clinics. His instructional Banjo DVD is now available on the John Boy & Billy label.






    Kristin Scott-Benson performs with The Grascals, , Grammy-nominated and two-time IBMA Entertainers of the Year. Kristin is the reigning, four-time IBMA Banjo Player of the Year. As a member of The Grascals, she has made an indelible mark on the bluegrass music industry. Kristin grew up in South Carolina, surrounded by a musical family. She started playing mandolin and stepped on stage for the first time at the age of five. After receiving a much-anticipated banjo for Christmas when she was thirteen, Kristin became enthralled with the instrument and spent her teen years studying the playing of all the banjo greats from Earl Scruggs to Bela Fleck. After high school, she attended Nashville’s esteemed Belmont University, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BBA in Marketing and a minor in Music Business. Kristin has attained a national identity as one of the top bluegrass banjo players on the scene, exhibiting impeccable taste, timing, and tone. With an attentive ear to back-up, she is known and respected as a true team player among her peers. Many attribute her as one of the first females to successfully be a side-musician in a top-tiered bluegrass band: “There was one grass ceiling no woman could cut through—until Kristin Scott Benson came along, that is. Almost two years ago, she joined The Grascals. Not to front the band, not to sing, not to be eye candy, but instead to drive the group with her fivestring banjo. Until then, no woman had ever been hired to play one of the most defining of the bluegrass instruments in an Alist, festival-headlining, all-male band….It’s a high profile gig, as Kristin takes the banjo where no woman has taken it before.” Larry Nager – “Kristin Scott Benson – Cutting the Grass Ceiling” Bluegrass Unlimited: Oct, 2010 She is featured on the four latest Grascals albums, including the most recent release, Life Finds a Way. Grascals and Friends, available exclusively at Cracker Barrel, includes collaborations with many of today’s top country artists, such as Dierks Bentley, Brad Paisley, Dolly Parton, Charlie Daniels, and others. Her latest solo release, Second Season, features eight instrumentals (half of them originals) and four vocal performances. The album showcases her powerful banjo playing, while still appealing to fans that aren't motivated solely by instrumental prowess. The project received stellar reviews and features some of bluegrass’ brightest musicians. Copies can be purchased at Kristin plays a 2010 Sonny Osborne Chief banjo and a 1933 Gibson TB-3 banjo. She endorses GHS Strings, Takamine guitars, Doc Fossey Guitars, Fishman pickups and Robin Smith at Heartland Guitar and Banjo. After 13 years in Nashville, Kristin relocated back to the Carolinas in 2007, along with her husband, Wayne, and young son, Hogan.

    Kristin's teaching resume includes: Sonny Osborne NashCamp, Banjo Camp – Nashville, TN, Fiddle Star Band Camp – Nashville, TN, East Tennessee State University – Johnson City, TN - Adjunct Faculty, British Columbia Bluegrass Workshop – Sorrento, British Columbia, Wabash River Bluegrass Camp – Grayville, IL, Bear on the Square Music Camp – Dahlonega, GA, Fiddle Fest Music Camp – Roanoke, VA, International Bluegrass Music Association Mentor. Plus, Innumerable workshops at premier festivals and events, in the US, Canada and EuropePrivate. She also teaches private lessons in Banjo, Guitar, and Mandolin.

    . Ryan Cavanaugh (onsite Friday) was discovered by guitar legend John McLaughlin in 2006, banjoist Ryan Cavanaugh has spent the last 4 years touring the international jazz scene with acclaimed saxophonist and Miles Davis alum, Bill Evans. In his early twenties, before performing and recording with Bill Evans, Sam Bush, Victor Wooten, Bela Fleck, Robben Ford, and many others, Cavanaugh was a champion of the Merlefest, Rockygrass, and Renofest banjo contests. In '07 Ryan released his bluegrass cd "Songs For the New Frontier" and played on 8 tracks of Bill Evans's record "The Other Side of Something" along with greats Bela Fleck, Sam Bush, Victor Wooten, and Dennis Chambers. "Cavanaugh’s bluegrass credibility is undeniable but, while he’ll humbly tell you that he’s still got so much to learn, he’s already a remarkable jazz player." John Kelman - reviewer, All About Jazz magazine Cavanaugh's new line-up "No Man's Land" is inspired by a 20 year career on the 5-string banjo and a lifetime of listening to jazz music. The band was formed in late 2009 and is based on Cavanaugh's vision of bringing the banjo back to Jazz music. "While trying to seamlessly fuse Bluegrass music and Jazz in Bill Evans's Soulgrass group, and trying to develop new styles on the banjo, I felt it was time to start exploring some of my own music with the same instrumentation," says Cavanaugh. "I have always loved American Bluegrass music because it is my roots, but I also love the history of Jazz in America...because it involves the banjo." Ryan Cavanaugh and No Man's Land currently consists of Ryan Cavanaugh on acoustic and electric banjo, Kevin Knapp on electric bass, Tyson Rogers on keyboards, Bryon Larrance on Drums, and guest saxophonists. The group's self titled EP also features Bill Evans on tenor and soprano sax. It was recorded and mixed by recording engineer extraordinaire Rob Stokes, and mastered by Eric Conn at Independent Mastering. The EP is now available on iTunes, Abstract Logix and at live shows.

    Cia Cherryholmes began her banjo career with the internationally acclaimed Bluegrass family band "Cherryholmes" at the age of 16. Influenced by the stylings of banjo heroes like JD Crowe, Don Reno, Jason Burleson, and Jake Jenkins and mentored by Bluegrass King Jimmy Martin, she developed her own style blending the traditional hard driving approach with blues and honky-tonk. Recipient of the SPBGMA banjo player of the year award three years in a row, she has helped to pioneer the way for many young female banjoists and to bring playing while singing to the forefront. The Americana duo "Songs of the Fall" is her most current musical endeavor, blending traditional banjo with, delta blues, and mountain roots.

    In the digital age we live in, music is still the one thing that can grip and infect us with raw energy and emotional passion that we can’t easily find in our modern, static society. Songs of the Fall, comprised of Stetson Adkisson and Cia Cherryholmes, is a Nashville-based Americana duo with a love of music and communicating it to people on a very personal, relatable level.

    “Whether touring as just an acoustic duo or with a full band, we love playing and singing our songs for people. We try to write about the things that move us and hope the realness of the songs carries across to the audience. The greatest compliment we can receive is someone telling us a song touched them or made them weep or that it was their story. Life is rough, and we all want that one song we can rock out or cry along to”. -Cia

    . Wayne Erbsen is a walking encyclopedia of musical Americana. He has mastered a number music styles including old-time, bluegrass, folk, Appalachian, cowboy, pioneer, railroad, gospel and music of the Civil War. His repertoire is over one thousand songs. As a solo performer living in Asheville, North Carolina, he plays clawhammer and bluegrass banjo, fiddle, mandolin and guitar. He has published over forty books on everything from banjo instruction, cowboy, railroad and Civil War songs to historic cookbooks through his own publishing company, Native Ground Books & Music.



    Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer are talented singers, songwriters, instrumentalists, educators and record producers. In addition to teaching SMBA classes and performing, they hosted a workshop and show for kids on the workshop stage throughout the weekend.

    The two-time Grammy® Award-winning duo are a formidable powerhouse of sound, with a repertoire of traditional and contemporary folk, old-time country and swing music. Their superb harmonies are backed by instrumental virtuosity on the acoustic & electric guitar, five-string banjo, mandolin, cello banjo, ukulele, percussion and many other instruments. They are ready to engage and entertain audiences of all ages, with a broad following in family music and in American Roots styles. Top it off with a witty stage presence and warm audience rapport and you’ve got a well loved music duo.

    They’ve earned two Grammy® Awards, in 2004 and 2005 for “cELLAbration: a Tribute to Ella Jenkins” and for “ Bon Appétit!”. In 2003, they were GRAMMY® nominated for their CD, “Postcards” in the Best Traditional Folk Album category. They received another GRAMMY® nomination in that category for ”Banjo Talkin’”. They produced and performed on Tom Paxton’s GRAMMY® nominated “Live in the UK” CD and tour. Tom says, “Cathy & Marcy are at home in a dozen musical styles .They swing you, jazz you, and old timey you till you just give up and bliss out.”

    In 2006 the C. F. Martin Company honored Cathy & Marcy’s musical achievements by creating a signature guitar for each of them, the M3H Cathy Fink Custom Signature Edition and the MC3H Marcy Marxer Custom Signature Edition. National sales of the guitar have been impressive. In 2008, the Gold Tone Banjo Company released the Marcy Marxer model cello banjo, modeled after Marcy’s remarkable Gibson 1918 cello banjo. And in 2011 the Kala Ukulele Company debuted the Marcy Marxer model tenor Ukulele.

    Their recorded catalogue of CD’s, DVD’s and instructional materials includes an astounding 65 titles. Recognized as top-notch songwriters, they were 2006 Grand Prize Winners in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest for the song, “Scat Like That”. In 2009 they were finalists in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest and the International Songwriting Contest for the song, “Jubilation” on their “Banjo To Beatbox” CD.

    What do Tom Paxton, Pete Seeger, Riders in the Sky, Si Kahn, Brave Combo, Mariachi Los Camperos, Mike Seeger, Patsy Montana, Pete Kennedy and Ysaye Barnwell all have in common? They have all worked with Cathy & Marcy in the studio. Their skills have led to producing over 60 recordings by and with other artists, and to projects with National Geographic, AT&T, McGraw-Hill School Publishing, Handwriting Without Tears and numerous corporate clients who appreciate roots music values. Cathy & Marcy have toured worldwide from Japan to New Zealand, Vancouver to New York and everywhere in between. Recent shows include the Old Songs Festival (NY), The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (OH), Levitt Pavilion Steel Stacks (PA), and Summerfolk (Ontario, Canada). American Voices Abroad chose Cathy & Marcy with fiddler Barbara Lamb to perform in China, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu in 2013 for the U.S. Department of State..

    . .

    Tony Furtado became a banjo player in sixth grade after doing a report on the instrument, making a rough banjo out of household items and studying the history of the instrument. At a young age he won a pair of National Bluegrass Banjo Championships. As a young banjo player, Furtado found himself playing the genre of music most represented by the instrument -bluegrass. But all along, he was listening to everything from Celtic music, Jazz, American Folk as well as artists like Tom Petty and Jackson Browne. He was also delving into his parents' collection of classic rock records (The Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, etc...). At the ripe age of nineteen Furtado had already earned himself a reputation as a banjo prodigy. Yet Furtado decided that one genre wasn't enough for him; creatively, he had something more to express: "I don't think I could ever be happy staying in any one place musically," he said.

    Furtado then picked up the slide guitar and soon established that his dexterity transitioned with ease. Using fingers and a bottleneck, he absorbed everything he could from albums by Ry Cooder, Fred McDowell, David Lindley and Blind Willie Johnson. He was soon writing music with the slide guitar and featured it on his 1996 Rounder Records release, "Roll My Blues Away". After a move to Colorado, where he based his band, "Tony Furtado Band" as well as "Tony Furtado and The American Gypsies", Furtado started his "road-dog" life, playing as many as 250 days on the road. The music was mostly instrumental based, high energy folk-rock, but it wasn't long before Furtado began writing songs. Though his previously released banjo albums featured the vocals of talents such as Allison Krauss, Tim O'Brien and Kelly Joe Phelps, this driven artist chose to add singer to his songwriter and instrumental titles.

    Furtado's 1987 win at the National Banjo Competition (a feat he would repeat in 1991) led to a touring sideman stint with bluegrass musician (fiddle) Laurie Lewis (Laurie Lewis and Grant Street) and the launch of his professional career. But, bluegrass was only one style of music that interested Mr. Furtado. He has spent his decades in the music business fusing bluegrass, country, rock, blues, jazz, and folk (both American and European) on his expanding instrument arsenal of banjo, guitar, slide guitar and voice.


    Jack Hatfield wrote for Banjo Newsletter for over 30 years and has written several acclaimed banjo instruction books published by his own company Hatfield Music, and several 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. He performs the conventions weddings, and special events throughout East Tennessee with his band True Blue.

    Jack has taught banjo workshops all over the USA and in England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia and Canada. He is scheduled to teach in Alberta Canada, and Hamburg, Germany next year .He was Bluegrass Director for all three of Banjo Newsletter's Maryland Banjo academys and has directed the BNL/ SPBGMA workshop in Nashville for seventeen years which has featured the top names in the banjo world. Jack was on the faculty of the very FIRST banjo camp, the Tennessee Banjo Institute at Cedars of Lebanon near Nashville in 1988. He was Bluegrass Director for all three of BNL's Maryland Banjo Academys. The SMBA is now going into its eighth year and the merger with Five-String Fest promises to launch it to an all new level.

    Jack is owner/operator of Hatfield Music, providing everything the banjo player needs from instructional materials to banjos to accessories. Jack was featured on the cover of Banjo Newsletter, July 2001.

    Dan Levensen, formerly banjoist and bandleader of the Boiled Buzzards string band, is a long-time Banjo Newsletter writer, and well known old-time performer and teacher of banjo, fiddle, and clogging. A Southern Appalachian native Dan was raised with Old Time Music. He has become a true master musician and teacher in both the Clawhammer Banjo style and Old Time Fiddling. His dad called square dances and his mom played guitar, piano and sang. With 10 Mel Bay publications including his innovative Clawhammer Banjo From Scratch and 10 recordings to his name, Dan is one of the undisputed influences on today’s old time music aficionados.

    Dan is a modern day troubadour in the truest sense of the word. A full time musician, Dan travels the country with banjo and fiddle singing songs and telling stories of the road. Dan was born and raised Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania the northernmost city of Southern Appalachia. He maintains an old homestead in Gallia County in the Appalachian region of Southern Ohio when he is not on the road or in the Southwest for the winter. Dan’s parents were Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania natives as well and they raised him with the music he has come to perform. His father, Fred, called dances and his mother, Naomi, played piano, guitar, and sang in several musical groups in the Pittsburgh area including her temple choir. They even met at a square dance!

    Dan has been touring internationally for over 20 years now. In that time he has become a well known master artist and instructor of the Appalachian style fiddle and old time clawhammer banjo.

    His stage show, An Evening with Dan Levenson, combines old time fiddle, Appalachian banjo, guitar, dance and song in a storytelling format to tell the story of life in rural Appalachia and life on the roads of America via the music of our country. He is an accomplished and dynamic fiddler who has taught himself to fiddle and clog at the same time—a real treat to see! Audience participation and occasional guest performers figure strongly in his shows and children won’t let themselves be left out of the fun!

    Dan is a native southern Appalachian style fiddler though his playing today relates the many traditions he has been exposed to over his lifetime. A part of his show is telling the story of each of his fiddles and their respective tunings. Double stops, special effects, and exquisite bowing round out his style and make him an exciting visual as well as listening experience. In 2001, Dan went contesting a little in his home state of Ohio and won the Old Time Fiddle contest in Coshocton and took second place at the Caesar’s Creek Old Time Music Festival. He has since won awards in his adoptive state of Arizona including the Ajo Fiddle Contest Grand Championship. He teaches pre-beginner to performance level fiddlers at workshops, festivals, and camps, and has students all across the country as well as around the world.

    Dan combines superb musicianship with the ability to teach what he knows in a way folks can understand and apply to their own playing. His fiddles were built by award-winning American fiddle builders, Clifford Hardesty of Coshocton, Ohio and Elon Howe of Newego, Michigan. Dan’s relationship with these fine gentlemen is also part of his story and both men continue to maintain Dan’s fiddles in top playing condition.

    Dan Levenson has been voted one of the country’s top ten clawhammer banjo players by Banjo Newsletter readers. He is well known as the banjo player for the Boiled Buzzard Stringband and Fiddler and banjo player in the Dan Levenson Trio. Dan has traveled inside and outside the country playing and teaching for many years. He teaches the full range of levels from the outright beginner to performance level.

    He is the originator, owner and presenter of Meet the Banjo ™, a 3 hour hands-on workshop where he brings the banjos! This class teaches history of the instrument and introduces both bluegrass and clawhammer styles. His beginner’s video/DVD series and class is entitled Clawhammer Banjo From Scratch: A Guide for the Clawless is the first new old time clawhammer banjo instruction manual in over 20 years and is a Mel Bay Publication as is his prior tab book Buzzard Banjo Clawhammer Style. Dan is an endorsee for the Deering Banjo Co., OME Banjos, Cedar Mountain Banjos and Lee Banjos as well as for Taylor Guitar, Elixir Strings, The Colorado Case Co. and the Stewart MacDonald Co. His tenth recording, Bare Naked Banjos, is a solo banjo album that has received exceptional revues from Bluegrass Unlimited and Sing Out! magazines as well as a great deal of interest and play time by traditional music radio stations in the United States and abroad. He even finds time to write for Banjo Newsletter, THE publication dedicated to the Five String Banjo.

    Today Dan is a sought after performer and workshop leader who is becoming known for his workshops in Appalachian banjo and fiddle styles including his innovative Meet the Banjo ™ workshops where he brings the banjos! Banjo Newsletter’s R.D. Lunceford describes Dan “as an interpreter, rather than a music recreator”. Fiddler Magazine’s Bob Buckingham describes him as “an accomplished fiddler and of the best clawhammer banjo players in the country.”

    Voted one of the top 10 clawhammer players by Banjo Newsletter readers, Bluegrass Unlimited calls his playing “melodic, meticulous and uncluttered.”


    James McKinney is an amazing banjo player, one of the most technically precise and advanced players anywhere. He will be performing at Five-String Fest with his band the Night Travelers, and he will be the head judge in the Bluegrass banjo competition on Sunday. James is a true Master of the 5-string banjo. One of the most advanced players anywhere and a Scruggs and Reno style expert, James is also considered a leading expert in jazz and theory in the banjo world, having been mentored by renowned jazz educator, David Baker, and Mr. Henry Ferrel (teacher of Chet Atkins and Jethro Burns). In his early days James played often with legends such as Bill Monroe, Vassar Clements, and John Hartford. James won the South U.S. Banjo Championship at age 15 and in 1982 he won the National Banjo Championship at Winfield, Kansas, as well as first-place in dozens of state and regional championships. He made the first of several appearances on the Grand Ole Opry, The Porter Wagoner Show, and the stages of Opryland at age 19 as part "Smoky Mountain Sunshine" combining his talents as a banjoist with those of musical arranger. In the 1980's he lived in Dallas and recorded and toured with his band "Danger in the Air" and later moved to Nashville to do full-time touring and studio work. James spent many years as a popular studio musician in Nashville and performed/recorded with the likes of Porter Wagoner, Barbara Mandrell, John Hartford, and Johnny Cash in addition to a long and close friendship and professional relationship with legendary fiddler ,Vassar Clements, with whom he toured and performed as "The Vassar Clements Band". James has recorded on many projects and taught at many major banjo camps including SPGBMA workshops and other Master workshops all over the USA and in Australia. Today, James lives in Atlanta, GA and has launched a new acoustic group called, "The Night Travelers", together with bassist Niki Portmann. They currently tour and play in the southeast region and are soon to release their first CD project, "Campfire".


    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.


    Ross Nickerson is a gifted musician who has performed all over the world and made his home for several years in shows in Nevada casinos with the stars. He has taught private lessons and group workshops alike, including Hatfield's SPBGMA workshop in Nashville. Ross started publishing banjo instruction books in the 1990's and has several Mel Bay titles and at least a dozen self-published books to his credit. He has conducted online lessons Since 2001 and sells his instructional DVD's, books and banjo accessories from his website He also conducts an annual Banjo Cruisewhere he teaches classes for a week while cruising the Carribean. Ross appeared at the 2006 and 2012 SMBA's and was a huge hit with students and the staff band who mentioned they enjoyed performing with him up as much as anybody there. Ross will be selling his instruction materials in the vendor area all three days and teaching SMBA classes.




    Don Wayne Reno (onsite Friday) is a virtuoso banjo player. He will be appearing in Reno and Harrell, a new band that pays tribute to the "original" Don Reno and Bill Harrell, featuringnthese bluegrass pioneer's one sons. Don Reno Sr. was offered a job with Bill Monroe before Earl Scruggs, but had to decline to join the service. Reno was a true pioneer of bluegrass banjo. He learned the three-finger roll from Snuffy Jenkins, the same player Earl emulated. More than just a bluegrass band player, Don Reno was a great soloist, applying the three-finger roll style and the single string style that bears his name to pop, swing and jazz numbers and to slow songs as well as traditional bluegrass. Don Wayne plays all his dad's arrangements exactly like his father and can teach Reno Style with the insight of someone who has lived it from childhood and has it in his genes. But Don Wayne is also a great musician in his own right. Like his dad, Don Wayne does not limit the five-string banjo to bluegrass and old time music. He applies the five-string banjo to popular and rock music, as member of Hayseed DixieHayseed Dixie, an eclectic band with bluegrass instrumentation that tours worldwide playing hits of the rock group AC-DC among other things. Don Wayne is breaking the mold, in the spirit of his dad who ventured way beyond bluegrass on the five-string banjo.



    . .

    Ron Stewart is well on his way to becoming a legend in contemporary bluegrass music. Ron is banjo player for the supergroup "The Boxcars" with Adam Steffey, John R. Bowman, Keith Garrett and Harold Nixon. He is already one of the most sought after multi-instrumental session players in the genre's history, and is in high demand as an engineer and producer. Stewart grew up in rural southern Indiana, an hour and a half from the famous Bill Monroe's Bean Blossom bluegrass festival, surrounded by a family that played bluegrass and oldtime country music and a community rich with musicians. In his thirty-three years of playing banjo, fiddle, guitar, bass, and mandolin, Ron has gone from fronting his family band for over ten years to working with a who's who of bluegrass, including Lynn Morris, Curly Seckler, a guest appearance at age nine on a live album with Lester Flatt, and, most recently, a six-year stint as fiddler for JD Crowe and The New South. Notably, Ron engineered much of and played fiddle on The New South's 2006 release, "Lefty's Old Guitar," which is nominated for a Grammy. Stewart has been seen filling in with a host of top bluegrass acts including the Lonesome River Band, Rhonda Vincent, the bluegrass supergroup Longview, Don Rigsby, the Bluegrass Album Band, Kenny and Amanda Smith, Blue Ridge, and many more. Chances are, if you have a bluegrass CD in your collection from the last ten years, Ron is probably on it. Ron was given IBMA's "Fiddle Player of the Year" award in 2000, and has been nominated every year since. In addition to his work with the Dan Tyminski Band, Ron is currently working on a new solo CD as a follow up to his 2001 Rounder release "Time Stands Still," which featured several Ron Stewart original songs and instrumentals. To quote Lynn Morris, "Ron Stewart has Flatt and Scruggs in his deepest roots, the feel of a Mississippi blues man in his soul, and the power of a lightning bolt in his touch."



    The full inventory of Hatfield Music banjos will be on display: Deering, Deering Goodtime, Nechville, Gold Star, Gold Tone, Recording King and many used banjos. (See website, click on "home" link below then "used instruments".) Banjo manufacturer/innovator and five-String Fest major sponsor Tom Nechville will have many banjos on display including his newest models.

    Help us promote the camp! Take flyers to concerts, bluegrass association meetings, banjo teachers, music stores and jam sessions. Put a couple in your banjo case and hand out to other banjo players, invite them to attend!

    bye bye, Wa-Floy!

    Contact SMBA Director Jack Hatfield at:

    Hatfield Productions
    325 Laurelwood Dr.
    Pigeon Forge, TN 37863


    Help us promote the camp! Click here for a SMBA 2014 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.

    Click here for Driving Directions to Lawndale, NC

    Click here for Yahoo driving directions to Five String Fest. or Enter in your GPS the address:356 London Rd, Lawndale, North Carolina 28090