The National Music Museum (NMM) began its spring 2022 concert schedule by hosting Jake Blount, a banjo and fiddler player as well as a singer and ethnomusicologist, who specializes in blues, bluegrass and spiritual music as well as traditional music of African Americans and Indigenous peoples of the Southeastern Woodlands.
Blount said that he began playing when he was 18 years old when he wanted to learn more about his history and the history of music at that time. Blount said that banjos also associate with Black History Month because their relationships to Black people have been changed and told in different ways throughout time.
“Part of the story of this forced migration that is not often told is that a lot of us who wound up here in the United States actually came through the Caribbean on the way, and then would make their way a little bit further north to where people like my ancestors were working,” Blount said. “That’s how I came to this music. That’s why I started playing it. I learned about this history and decided I wanted to give it a shot and it turned out to be the only instrument I ever got that good at.”
Blount said he graduated with a bachelor’s degree and was expecting to go to graduate school to follow the academic route. However, he started performing his music and received too many bookings as a musician and was unable to hold down a job, so he decided to continue performing.
”I sort of fell into it by accident and Rhiannon Giddens gave me a really big boost early on in my career by asking me to open some shows for her,” Blount said.
Since starting his career, Blount was the 2020 recipient of the Steve Martin Banjo prize of $10,000, became a two-time winner and many time finalist for the Appalachian String Band Music Festival (Clifftop). Blount also appeared on Radiolab, Soundcheck, and NPR’s Weekend Edition. He released his first Full-length solo album “Spider Tales” which debuted at #2 on the Billboard Bluegrass chart.
Blount was the first of many performers for the NMM’s Spring 2022 Concert schedule with Dennis Warner on Feb. 18. The NMM also plans to open the Gamelan Exhibition on March 25 which plans to show a reflection of Indonesian lessons, values and culture.