While setting up Elsie Quirk’s library-wide January exhibit, exploring themes of liberation, resistance, and courageous cooperation, I got to thinking about the banjo. Well, I was thinking about how the sharing of culture and tradition can help people humanize and understand each other, and how music and art can dissolve needless barriers, and that led me to the banjo, as trains of thought are apt to do. From blues to bluegrass, jazz to hip-hop, ragtime to country, barbershop to grunge, American musical artists beautifully represent the innovation that happens when expressive traditions co-mingle. The banjo is perhaps the best demonstrator of this musical osmosis. First constructed and played by people enslaved on North American plantations, the banjo has its roots in traditional West African instruments. Its compelling and emotive twang found its way into the folk music of European immigrants, and in turn classical European composition wove its way into banjo-based blues; this led to New Orleans jazz, bluegrass, ragtime, country, and a wide range of other banjo influenced forms. The banjo continues to span the American experience in surprising and unique ways. Banjo is used with remarkable effectiveness in Punk artist Patti Smith’s cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”; Steve Martin used banjo first in his standup comedy and eventually as a serious musician; the banjo in singer-songwriter Alela Diane’s “Pirate’s Gospel” is haunting but joyful; and a group of contemporary Brooklyn musicians have combined bluegrass banjo with hip-hop to form the exuberantly American band Gangstagrass.
Want to learn more about the history of banjos, the intertwining evolution of American music, or what defines a musical genre as American? Research online through the Sarasota County Library website, or visit the Elsie Quirk reference desk and find out how to search our databases.
Inspired to learn to play the banjo? (And who isn’t?) Use your library card to log into ArtistWorks for Libraries and take lessons for free!
Craving some raucous banjo music to kick up your heels, but also provoke thought? Use your library card to access hoopla, and download an album by the Carolina Chocolate Drops, or Chris Brubeck’s “Suit For Banjo and Orchestra”.
Drop by Elsie Quirk for one of this week’s programs, and let us know what your favorite banjo music is!
This week’s events:
Spanish Reading Group 3 p.m.
Todos son bienvenidos.
Spanish Storytime 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.
For ages 3-11. Bilingual stories, songs, and activities. Learn new words and practice language skills. Presented by library volunteer, Lourdes Fuller. Everyone welcome!
Forty Carrots Partners in Play 10:15 a.m. OR 11:45 a.m.
For children, up to age 5 with a parent or caregiver. A free class for you and your child to enjoy together. Experience new educational activities, join in circle-time fun, meet other families and receive valuable parenting and child development information. Attendance is limited to 12 families per session.
Read With The Dogs 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Children age 5 – 11 are invited to read with certified pet therapy dogs.
Monday Night Movies 5 p.m.
Our movie this week is part of the Rise Up Film Festival. Directed by Ava DuVernay, this critically acclaimed drama illuminates a powerful moment in America’s Civil Rights Movement.
English for Spanish Speakers 5:30-7 p.m.
This class is for Spanish speakers, who want to improve their English skills in speaking, and understanding English, with emphasis on correct pronunciation. Students must be able to speak some basic English. Class meets once a week, Monday evenings, from 5:30 to 7:00.
Master Gardener Plant Clinic 10 a.m. – Noon.
Get free answers to your Florida gardening and landscaping questions. This is made possible through a partnership with UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County.
Tech Time: One-on-one help with a librarian. 10 a.m. – Noon
A Reference Librarian will be available for help with e-books, computer basics, or questions about your electronic devices. Reserve a 30-minute session by calling 941-861-1207 or by signing up at the Reference Desk.
French Conversations 10 a.m.
All are welcome. Bienvenue à tous
Teen Advisory Board 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
The board is open to students age 11-18, to help plan library programs and initiatives
Family Storytime at 10:30 a.m. For ages 0-5. Interact and participate with your child in a variety of early literacy and school readiness activities that feature stories, music and movement, and crafts.
Quirky Knitters 1p.m. – 3 p.m. All are welcome to knit and chat.
Reading Discussion Group 10:15 – noon.
The Reading Discussion Group meets the 3rd Thursday of each month October through April. Selected titles are available for checkout from the Sarasota County Library System. Title for January: “Before We Were Yours” by Lisa Wingate.