photo by David Colwell

Pete Ross has been playing and building gourd banjos since 1991. He apprenticed under Scott Didlake of Mississippi, a folk musician and craftsman whose instruments can be heard on Rounder Records “Minstrel Style Banjo” CD. Joe Ayers and Tony Trishka used Didlake’s banjos for that recording. Pete studied under Didlake until Didlake’s death in 1994.

Since that time, Pete has continued his historical research into the roots of the banjo, refining his designs and materials as he uncovers more information about these primal instruments. He has made instruments for many respected musicians, including Joe Ayers, Bob Carlin, and West African musician Cheick Hamala Diabate. His banjos are also used by Rex Ellis in historical interpretation performances at Colonial Williamsburg and are found in several museum exhibitions including the Blue Ridge Institute’s travelling exhibit, “The Banjo in Virginia,” The Museum of Musical Instruments banjo exhibit in Brussels, Belgium; and at Appomatox State Court House, Appomatox , Virginia, the site of the Joel Walker Sweeney Historical Marker. Pete was an advisor to the curators of the "Birth of the Banjo" exhibit appearing at the Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, New York and at the Corcoran Museum of Art, Washington D.C. A Jubilee gourd banjo is the only reproduction banjo appearing in that exhibit as well as in the exhibit's catalog. Pete is also an accomplished player and instructor on the popular steel stringed banjo, and can be seen playing on the “Banjos Ringing” videotape.

JUBILEE BANJOS OWNED BY: Mike Seeger, Bob Carlin, Cheik Hamala Diabate, Joe Ayers, Barou Sall, Mali, West Africa. Jeff Menzies, David Hyatt, Cecilia Conway, author, African Banjo Echoes in Appalachia. Rex Ellis, living history interpreter, Colonial Williamsburg; author, With a Banjo on My Knee: A Musical Journey from Slavery to Freedom. Peter Szego, collector and curator, Birth of the Banjo exhibit, Katonah Museum, Katonah New York. Sule Greg Wilson, author The Drummers Path, and many others.

COLLECTIONS: Museum of Musical Instruments, Brussels, Belgium; George Washington Historical Birthplace National Park; Blue Ridge Institute, Ferrum VA; Colonial Williamsburg Foundation; Appomattox State Courthouse National Park and others.

EXHIBITIONS AND ASSOCIATED CATALOGS: The Banjo in Virginia, Blue Ridge Institute, Ferrum VA. and Virginia Historical Society, Richmond VA. The Birth of the Banjo, Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, New York. The Banjo: From Africa To America and Beyond, Frank C. McClung Museum, Knoxville TN. The Banjo: The People and the Sounds of America’s Folk Instrument, Museum of Our National Heritage, Lexington Mass and Long Island Museum of American Art, Stoneybrook NY. Lift Every Voice: Music and American Life, University of Virginia Library Charlottesville VA, and others.

JUBILEE BANJOS ON FILM: Slavery and the Making of America, PBS, episode 2 "Liberty in the Air." In addition to building an authentic 18th century banjo for the movie, Pete located musicians for the producers and advised on music to be played in the banjo and fiddle sequence. The History Detectives "Slave Banjo"—Pete was also consulted on the history of the banjo being researched for this episode. Banjos Ringing, The Maryland Banjo Academy, Buckeystown, MD. A Banjo Frolic, by Gerard De Smaele and Patrick Ferryn.

LECTURES ON THE HISTORY OF BANJO: The Baltimore Civil War Museum, The Banjo Gathering, conference, Williamsburg VA; Black Banjo: Then and Now, conference, Appalachian State University.

Pete was selected by the National Council for the Traditional Arts to display his banjos, speak on the history of the Banjo and build a reconstruction of an 18th century banjo on site at the 2005 National Folk Festival, Richmond VA.