Saturday, March 27, 2010

The American Banjo Museum

Now it's time for fun once again - an integral part of a career in tourism! It really makes it all worthwhile. Sandy Price the director of Tourism Sales for the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau worked closely with Heritage Clubs International to put together amazing tours for us to take part in this afternoon.

There were three different tours: Twist and Shout which toured the National Weather Service Severe Weather Facility and the Barry Switzer Center in Norman; Bits and Pieces, which toured the Remington Park Casino and Racetrack and the Art Museum; and Town and Country which centered in downtown Oklahoma City and the National Stockyards.

After having researched the Bricktown area for my own side trips, I opted for the Town and Country tour that explored the area more in-depth. On the bus ride into the area, we passed the TapWerks Ale House and Cafe, and then the Bricktown Brewery. To my disappointment, we didn't have the chance to stop at either one! Ah well, I guess I'll have to come back again sometime!
Where we did stop was the American Banjo Museum. The Banjo is very high up on my top-ten favorite musical instruments list (right after the fiddle and bodhran, but somewhere before the bagpipes and accordian... but that's a topic for another blog post.) and it's wonderful to know that someone cares enough to preserve this historical and uniquely American instrument.
Our group of Heritage partners are anxiously awaiting our chance to tour the museum.
From the website:
The American Banjo Museum is a $5 million, world-class 21,000 square foot facility honoring the rich history, vibrant spirit and unlimited future of the banjo. The museum contains more than 300 instruments, the largest collection on public display in the world. Examples include replicas of primitive banjos developed by African slaves in the Old South, Minstrel Age instruments from 19th century, post WWII instruments used in bluegrass, folk and world music, and museum’s core collection of ornately decorated banjos made in America during the Jazz Age of the 1920’s and 30s.
Answer me honestly now... How many of you can remember Shakeys Pizza? Believe it or not, there was a Shakeys Pizza in my small hometown of North Platte Nebraska when I was growing up. While I was amazed to learn that there are still Shakeys Pizza Parlors, they are different from the ones in the late 1960's and 1970's. Founded in Sacramento in 1954 and expanding to nearly 500 locations in the mid 70's, every Shakeys featured a live banjo player. Many of the successful banjo players of our day credit Shakeys Pizza Parlors for getting them started in the business. It is only fitting that the lunch room in the American Banjo Museum include a recreated Shakeys Pizza Parlor.
The instruments displayed throughout the museum are a far cry from the primitive instruments created by African slaves trying to recreate the music of their homeland on the plantations of the American south.
Each instrument is a work of art in its own right, notwithstanding the incredible music that can be coaxed from its strings by a skilled musician.
The heyday of the American Banjo was during the jazz age of the 1920's when its popularity peaked. By the 1940's, musical tastes had shifted and the banjo was nearly dead. Fortunately musical pioneers such as Earl Skruggs and other Bluegrass and Country musicians embraced the unique sound and the instrument experienced a resurgence.
The banjo plays an important role in the Celtic music that I love so dearly.
While the museums hall of fame features current important figures in banjo music,
The wall of heroes features pioneers of the American Banjo whose innovation has kept the instrument alive from the earliest days until today.
Think you know what the Banjo is all about? You might think again when you watch this clip of Bela Fleck and the Flectones:


Hope you enjoyed this visit to the American Banjo Museum... We did so much more today that I had better get on to my next post. Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

ShareThis