By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Oklahoma City’s American Banjo Museum’s exhibit, “The Banjo World of Steve Martin” was recently honored with the outstanding exhibit award by the Oklahoma Museum Association (OMA). The award was given during the OMA annual conference, which took place September 21 – 23.
The exhibit features three banjos belonging to Steve Martin, including the first banjo he ever owned. In addition to memorabilia and rare photos, the display includes an exclusive interview during which Martin discusses his love for the banjo.
The banjo was brought to America with slaves and is often referred to as America’s instrument.
“We’re honored to receive this recognition from the Oklahoma Museum Association,” said Johnny Baier, executive director of the American Banjo Museum. “It’s been exciting for all us to bring this once in a lifetime exhibit to Oklahoma City.”
Popular film actor and author, Martin is an American entertainment institution, but many people are unaware of his musical talents. From his earliest years as an entertainer, Martin has been using his skill as a banjo player as part of his “Wild and Crazy Guy” persona, as well as on numerous appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman, where fans caught a glimpse of his musical prowess.
Recently, his career returned to its musical roots, resulting in award winning and critically acclaimed recordings, concerts and theatrical presentations.
“Steve Martin is unquestionably the most influential recent figure in making the banjo not only acceptable, but a welcome and in demand instrument in American popular music culture,” said Johnny Baier, executive director of the American Banjo Museum.
“His recordings, concerts and televised appearances – including the annual presentation of the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass, have exposed millions of people to the banjo in the most positive and musical manner possible.
“Many of these items have not been seen before by the public. We are honored to present this one-of-a-kind exhibit, which is a ‘must see’ for anyone who loves music, comedy, movies – and Steve Martin,” added Baier.
In 2001, Martin shared a Grammy award with Earl Scruggs for the re-release of Scruggs’ iconic Foggy Mountain Breakdown.
In 2009 Martin release his first all-music album, titled, The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo. He made his inaugural appearance at the Grand Ole Opry later that year.
Martin teamed with singer/songwriter Edie Brickell in 2013 on the album, Love Has Come For You, earning that year’s Grammy Award for Best American Roots Song for the album’s title track.
The duo released a second collaboration called So Familiar and also partnered on the critically acclaimed Broadway musical, Bright Star.
Founded in 1972, the Oklahoma Museums Association awards program honors the excellence and quality of projects accomplished by institutional members throughout the state. It also recognizes individuals and groups whose contributions have impacted Oklahoma museums and the museum profession.
Programming offered by OMA, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, provides the primary source of information and professional development for Oklahoma’s 500 museums, historical societies, historic sites, zoos and botanical gardens, historic houses, living history museums, tribal cultural centers and other museum-related institutions.
Located in Oklahoma City’s Bricktown district, the American Banjo Museum is a $5 million, world-class 21,000 square foot facility that honors the history and future of the banjo.
The museum’s collection contains more than 400 instruments, recordings, film, video, printed music, instructional materials, ephemera and memorabilia associated with the banjo. The ABM contains the largest collection in the world of banjos on pubic display.
For more information on upcoming events, or to become a member of the American Banjo Museum, visit americanbanjomuseum.com or call 405-604-2793.