One of downtown Oklahoma City's most unique treasures, the American Banjo Museum is home to the world's largest collection of publicly displayed banjos, featuring over 400 individual instruments. The 21,000-square-foot facility honors the vibrant spirit and rich history of this beloved American symbol, from its humble African roots to its heyday during the Roaring ‘20s to its current standing in bluegrass, folk and jazz music.
Tour the museum’s first floor, and you’ll step into a physical timeline of the banjo’s musical history in the United States. Start in the Minstrel Era of the 1840s, when the banjo began its gradual shift from being an exclusively handmade folk instrument. Next, venture into the Classic Era of the 1880s, when there was a movement to make the banjo a legitimate classical instrument, much like the violin in Europe. Then, kick up your heels in the Roaring ‘20s section, which highlights some of the brightest stars of the Jazz Age. Finally, experience how the banjo has contributed to the bluegrass and folk sounds of the modern era.
The on-site American Banjo Hall of Fame, located on the museum’s second floor, honors Jazz Age four-string banjo pioneers as well as contemporary artists, manufacturers and promoters who carry on the banjo’s rich tradition. Currently, there are more than 70 individuals honored in the Hall of Fame, from Bill Monroe & The Bluegrass Boys to The Kingston Trio, The Gibson Company and Steve Martin.
The American Banjo Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for students and seniors 55+, $6 for youth age 5-17 and free for children under five. There’s also a special family price, $15, for two adults and two children.
The museum also regularly hosts open jam sessions and workshops in which novices can learn to play the banjo.
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