2009-10 Folklife Apprenticeship Award recipient
Pete Ross is a widely respected banjo maker, researcher, and musician. Ross makes gourd banjos, ranging from those of his own design to exact replicas of historic instruments, especially from the colonial era. This is when the instrument first appeared in the Americas, brought by enslaved Africans. His latest creations are inspired by the “classic era” banjos of the 1890s–1910s but made for the contemporary old-time music setting, with intricate mother-of-pearl inlays, engravings, hardwood necks, and ebony fingerboards.
In 1994, Ross began apprenticing with Scott Didlake, a master early-banjo builder living in Jackson, Mississippi. After Scott’s death, Ross returned to his home state of Maryland, where he has continued the research needed to authentically recreate the banjo in its earliest New World form.
His reconstructions of 18th and early 19th-century banjos have been featured internationally in museums, art galleries, movies, documentaries, and live performances. In 2014, Pete cocurated Making Music: The Banjo in Baltimore and Beyond at the Baltimore Museum of Industry with fellow banjo players and scholars Greg Adams and Robert Winan; the exhibit explored the mid- to late 19th-century Baltimore banjo maker William E. Boucher, Jr. and the transformation of the banjo into a commercial product. Pete lectures on banjo history and will be giving a talk about the banjo in the Chesapeake region during the National Folk Festival.