Kristin Scott Benson

Bluegrass Banjo

Kristin Scott Benson was first nourished in her music tradition at home. Her father was a musician and her grandfather, Orval Hogan, played mandolin with the WBT Briarhoppers.

She started on the mandolin when she was just five years old. By the time she turned ten, Benson found herself drawn to the banjo and Bluegrass music. Al Osteen, a revered banjo picker and teacher, soon became her mentor. He taught Benson to not only play, but how to “think and listen.” Following Osteen's lessons, she continued to learn from other recognized masters of the instrument, including Earl Scruggs and Bela Fleck. Benson appeared on the Grande Ole Opry for the first time when she was nineteen and has since played there over a hundred times.

An important part of Benson's legacy - which is rare among her peers - is her drive to move the art of the banjo to higher levels through her academic approach to the 3-finger style. Through years of meticulous study, she has made herself an absolute authority on the techniques employed by the early progenitors of three-finger style banjo playing. Her systematic mastery of past techniques is an invaluable contribution to the world of Bluegrass, a skill set she insists on imparting to her students. In her eyes, without the fundamentals, innovation is useless.

The banjo is important in the South Carolina upstate. Benson grew up in Boiling Springs, as small community in a region of the state with a rich history of banjo pioneers: DeWitt “Snuffy” Jenkins, Earl Scruggs, Bobby Thompson, and Don Reno. Benson has been recognized as the International Bluegrass Music Association's (IBMA) Banjo Player of the Year four times and has been a member of the Grammy-nominated Bluegrass band, The Grascals, since 2008. In 2018, she received the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. In addition to her latest album Stringworks, Benson recorded two earlier banjo albums, Straight Paths and Second Season.

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