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Steve Martin Banjo Prize Will Return This Fall

Steve Martin will be bringing back his annual Banjo Prize this fall with a new mission statement and two new partners.

Originally conceived in 2010, the Banjo Prize awards $50,000 annually to a master bluegrass or old-time banjo player, with past winners including Rhiannon Giddens, Noam Pikelny, Jens Kruger and Kristin Scott Benson.

At the end of 2019, after having fulfilled its mission statement of giving out 10 awards, the Banjo Prize underwent an extensive reimagining from Martin and its board. Compass Records Group and the Freshgrass Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit dedicated to continuing the traditions of roots music, stepped in to co-fund the prize.

“I’m doing a handstand thinking that the prize will continue on,” Martin said in a statement. “Thanks to Freshgrass and Compass Records for bringing such enthusiasm into the prize.”

Chris Wadsworth, founder of the Freshgrass Foundation, added: “Freshgrass is thrilled and honored to play a part in this next iteration of the Steve Martin Banjo Prize.  As a 501(C)3 whose mission is to preserve, support and create innovative grassroots music, we can’t think of a better way to fulfill our mission than to assist in carrying on the amazingly generous and cool tradition that is the Steve Martin Banjo Prize.”

The new Banjo Prize going forward will be an annual award of $25,000 to one or more banjo players. In light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and its toll on the greater music community this year, the 2020 prize will be $50,000 split equally between five banjo players. The winners of the 2020 Steve Martin Banjo Prize will be announced at the end of September when the FreshGrass Festival is typically held.

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