New Classic Banjo Project

© 2018 Michael Nix, NixwWorks


New Classic Banjo Project

Michael Nix


Michael Nix Music

Commissioning Program 2019

June 1, 2019

Michael Nix announces the inception of the New Classic Banjo Project, with the commissioning of works by composers Jim Dalton, and Thomas Schuttenhelm. 

The New Classic Banjo Project was instituted to develop and record a modern classical banjo repertoire. Compositions will be commissioned for Banjar, (a seven-string classical banjo designed by Michael Nix), the traditional nylon strung five-string classical banjo, the six-string guitar banjo and other banjo hybrids.  Nix will perform the new repertoire in festivals, conferences, and concerts.

 A first round of premier New Classic Banjo Project concerts and recordings are planned for late fall 2019, and early winter 2020.


September 1, 2019.

Jim Dalton delivered a two movement piece based on the inscription on Pete Seeger's banjo head "This Machine Surrounds Hate and Forces it to Surrender":


 1. Surrounding Hate

2. Forcing it to Surrender


Thomas Schuttenhelm has completed and delivered:


Keningale's Mystery Serenade 
Julian Hawthorne (1846-1934) was an American writer and journalist and the son of novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne. In his story “Ken’s Mystery” (1883) the protagonist Keningale describes his encounter with a two-hundred year old woman, Ethelind, who was “awakened from her centuries of sleep” by a song he played on his banjo. Shortly after Keningale’s serenade to Ethelind he discovered that the banjo appeared to age two-hundred years. This song-serenade is a reimagining of the mystery, music, and mutations, that were enacted upon Keningale’s strange banjo.  




 Jim Dalton

American composer Jim Dalton is a professor of music theory at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee. His works are performed by soloists and ensembles throughout the US, Canada, and in Europe, including venues such as Musique Nouvelles, Lunel, France; the Kansas Symposium of New Music; Sound: Scotland’s Festival of New Music; and Akademie der Tonkunst (Darmstadt, Germany). He has enjoyed recent premieres by Aaron Larget-Caplan, Carson Cooman, Sharan Leventhal, Stephen Altoft, Transient Canvas, and Scottish Voices.

Dalton is an active performer (solo, chamber, orchestra) on guitar, mandolin, and both tenor and 5-string banjos. He has recently played banjo with orchestras in the U.S., Mexico, and China. He and his wife, soprano Maggi Smith-Dalton, perform frequently throughout the US, specializing in historically-informed performance of 19th and early 20th century American music.


Thomas Schuttenhelm

Thomas Schuttenhelm is a composer and guitarist whose compositions have a strong conceptual component. His music uses embodied programs and celebrates in allusions to the musical, literary, poetic, visual, and theatrical influences that resonate throughout his compositions. Much of his music is the result of collaborations with musicians, poets, actors and artists. The music he writes is often as much ‘about’ the people he collaborates as it is for them to perform. He is the Artistic Director at Network for New Music in Philadelphia. For more information:


I have released a video of my composition for solo Banjar based on transcriptions of the banjo playing of enslaved persons in Jamaica in the 1680's published by Hans Sloan in 1707:


New Classic Banjo Project


-To develop a new repertoire for the modern seven-string classical banjo I have designed, which is strung with nylon strings and played finger style (incorporating down-stroke and other banjo playing techniques as well as any new music techniques that can be applied to the instrument).

 -To develop a modern repertoire for the traditional nylon strung five-string classical banjo. 

 -To develop new repertoire for other banjo related instruments, such as the six-string guitar banjo, and the traditional seven-string banjo in English tuning.

 -To premier and perform this new repertoire in festivals, conferences, concerts and other venues that facilitate promotion of modern seven, six and five string classic style banjo playing.

 -To record and release this new repertoire.

 -To develop repertoire of all levels from beginning etudes to virtuosic pieces.

 -To develop a repertoire of easy etudes, teaching aids, material suitable for method books to use as educational material to get players interested in this style of playing.

Check back for information postings regarding composers and pieces as our plans come together. 

If you are a composer interested in writing for New Classic Banjo,  you may obtain guidelines, instrument specifics from:

Michael Nix

New Classic Banjo Project

7-String Classical Banjar

Michael Nix

Michael Nix performs on the seven-string classical Banjar, classical guitar, banjo, and mandolin; has recorded for the PBS series “American Experience”, several independent documentaries, numerous CD projects; and his compositions are performed internationally. His music has been heard “Weekend Edition”, and other NPR programs. A banjo innovator, Michael Nix designed the Banjar; a modern seven nylon string banjo combining elements of the five-string banjo and classical guitar; bringing the classic finger-style banjo of the late 1800's into the twenty first century.




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