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A journey worth recording...and sharing

Craig Evans is a self-admitted banjo fanatic. He also has a deep respect for the people who make the stringed instrument.

"People who make banjos make the world a better place," said Evans.

Evans explained that banjo makers don't make a lot of money but that many do it because its satisfying work.

"They're giving the gift of music to the rest of the world," said Evans.

So when his wife asked him what he wanted for his 60th birthday, his answer wasn't all that surprising to her. He wanted to travel the country and talk to the people who make banjos.

Fortunately for him, Evans has a wife who gets it. And so for a year and a half Evans traveled 12,000 miles across North America meeting and interviewing the 26 leading builders of open-back banjos.

"If I wasn't before, I am hopelessly in love with (the banjo) now," said Evans.

With him, Evans took some second-hand video equipment to record the whole thing. He turned the content into a three-volume DVD series called "Conversations with North American Banjo Builders." In the end, Evans had more than 90 hours of footage he had to whittle down.

The result was worth the work, he said.

"The reward far exceeded the effort," said Evans.

While he would have done it regardless, Evans said a Minnesota State Arts Board grant helped pay for the travel expenses. Through sales of the DVD he has recouped his costs.

The journey also resulted in some surprises. Evans said the DVD series will soon be housed in the Smithsonian Folkways library.

"It's neat that thousands have shared this journey with me," said Evans.

Evans will talk about his journey and what's come out of it from 7 to 8 p.m. May 7 at the Robert Trail Library. As part of the talk, Evans will share excerpts from his film, share some of the history of banjo music and, if time allows, perform.

For more information on about the event visit

Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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