Susan from Ontario writes an interesting email:
Hi Pete. As a banjo player, I guess I would be at the advanced end of intermediate with a fairly good bluegrass repertoire in hand. Lately, though, I have been jamming a lot with musicians outside of the Bluegrass world many of whom have no knowledge of bluegrass at all but like the sound of the banjo well enough to be interested in seeing what happens when I sit in. I have been playing a lot of acoustic blues, "bar" blues, motown, and (strangely) funk. I also sing in a community choir of 140 women and bring my banjo with me each week and find (I hope, tasteful and) interesting ways to accompany songs ranging from "Lean on Me" to "I Got the Music In Me" to "Save the Bones for Henry Jones".
Playing music outside Bluegrass may seem like a strange tangent but there isn't that large of a bluegrass community here (at least not in the winter) and I somehow kept meeting other kinds of musicians.
My reason for writing is twofold; First off I want to recommend this to any of your readers/students who want to stretch themselves. I have quickly learned a ton of new chords, different chord progressions, and am dealing with different expectations about how instruments (and vocals) can or should blend.
I am hoping, though, that you might have some suggestions about bands/banjo players I could be listening to (yeah, yeah BESIDES Béla) who play in musical genres outside of Bluegrass. I am not talking about bluegrass versions of pop songs - there are tons of those and some are interesting and some are not really.
I guess that, while I am incredibly pleased with my progress in experimenting with new sounds, I would like the reassurance and/or inspiration of hearing what others have done/are doing.