This year's winner: 2019
Victor Furtado
Victor Furtado

Contemporary clawhammer banjoist Victor Furtado has been awarded the 2019 Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. At 19, Victor is the youngest recipient of this honor which highlights exceptional banjo performers in modern music.

Victor has won many competitions including the Grand Prize at the 2015 Clifftop Banjo Contest, the Galax Old Time Fiddlers Convention, and the international Freshgrass competition in 2016. He has three albums under his belt, the first being the self-titled Victor Furtado in 2014, The Patuxent Banjo Project in 2014, and the most recent, Dellorto Island, released in 2018.

He is the youngest of 9 home-schooled kids, 7 of whom are professional musicians. He was taught music using the Suzuki method of instruction which relies heavily on the students listening intensively to the pieces which they will be mastering. While he never had ongoing formal training, he was continually surrounded by classical, bluegrass, and old-time music.

At age 9, he announced that he wanted to learn the banjo. He had access to a DVD by Lynn Morris, and quickly learned “Boil Them Cabbage Down.” Within 2 years, he had appeared on “Woodsongs” radio show, and the following year, when he was 12, he received an invitation on the Grand Ole Opry to appear with Mike Snider and his band.  He is currently in his second year at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

The Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass provides the winner with an unrestricted cash prize of fifty-thousand dollars, as well as a bronze sculpture created specifically for the prize by noted artist Eric Fischl.  Created to bring recognition to an individual or group for outstanding accomplishment in the field of five-string banjo or bluegrass music, the prize highlights the extraordinary musicianship of these artists and bluegrass music worldwide. The winner is determined by a board consisting of J.D Crowe, Pete Wernick, Tony Trischka, Anne Stringfield, Alison Brown, Neil V. Rosenberg, Béla Fleck, and Steve Martin.

The award is given to a person or group who has given the board a fresh appreciation of this music, either through artistry, composition, innovation or preservation, and is deserving of a wider audience. Recipients must be a professional or semi-professional and should currently be active in their careers. Previous winners include Kristin Scott Benson, Rhiannon Giddens, Jens Kruger and Noam Pikelny among others.

The award is funded personally by the Steve Martin Charitable Foundation.

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