2013 Prize Winner
Jens Kruger

Banjo player extraordinaire Jens Kruger is the recipient of the fourth annual Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. The musician is known for his innovative banjo style that integrates folk music with European classical music. Jens Kruger performs with The Kruger Brothers which consist of Jens Kruger (banjo, harmony vocals), Uwe Kruger (guitar, lead and harmony vocals) and Joel Landsberg (bass, harmony vocals).  Born in Switzerland, Jens is the first prize winner born outside of the United States.

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.

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


Kruger is known for his inventive, hard to categorize musical style of composition and performance, which can be described as thoughtful and lyrical. His virtuosic playing style ranges from the very complex, to the simple and profound. Jens Kruger and The Kruger Brothers have raised awareness about bluegrass music by writing and performing classical pieces that incorporate the instrumentation of banjo, guitar and bass. The Kruger Brothers consist of Jens Kruger (banjo, harmony vocals), Uwe Kruger (guitar, lead and harmony vocals) and Joel Landsberg (bass, harmony vocals).

Born in Switzerland, Kruger and his brother Uwe left home to become street musicians. As adults they were billed as the Kruger Brothers, adding the third “brother,” Joel Landsberg, from New York City. Their interest in the music of Doc Watson motivated them to relocate near where Doc lived, in North Wilkesboro, NC in 2003. They became friends of Doc, and had the honor to play music with him. Jens has also performed with Earl Scruggs, John McEwen, Willie Nelson, and Ricky Skaggs, to name only a few.

Jens Kruger Video Clips

Performing on Late Night With David Letterman – Steve Martin and the Kruger Brothers

Jens Kruger Press

Steve Martin’s Prize for Bluegrass Goes to Jens Kruger
The New York Times
By Dave Itzkoff | September 11, 2013

Jens Kruger receives 2013 Steve Martin Prize
– Bluegrass Today
By John Lawless | September 6, 2013

Additional Prize Winners