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about the builder


After moving to Humboldt County, I found a banjo
and bought it on the spot. Hours were spent tinkering
with it, trying to make it sound the best that a cheap,
import banjo could. This led me to spend time with
an instrument repair guy at our local music store. He
informed me of Lutherie, and this sparked the
prospect of a career. In 2001, a life-altering car
accident gave me the courage to choose a career
path I was truly passionate about. I proceeded to
knock on every instrument maker's door in Humboldt
County. Mark Platin is the one who let me in. Mark
owned Wildwood Banjos as well as Wildwoods, an
OEM electric guitar parts manufacturer. There I spent
seven years making countless electric guitar parts, and
at the same time, working with Mark on his banjos. My
notion of a glamorous instrument building job
was quickly overshadowed by the production of guitar
parts, which consisted of lots of sanding, filing, more
sanding, routing, and more sanding. Along with
Mark's training, Jason Romero, with whom I worked
alongside at Wildwood, influenced me greatly, as did
the fine inlay work of bass maker Ken Lawrence. Phil
Crump, local bouzouki builder, oversaw the finishing
of Wildwood banjos. From him I learned the intricacies
of fine finish work as well as acoustic guitar building
practices. With these collected skills I am building my
instruments in the true fashion of a tradesman. Having
honed my skills with prominent builders in the industry,
I am putting my own artistic vision and inclinations
into Vance Banjos.

My interest in American folk music was ignited
when I was a teenager collecting records in
the San Francisco Bay Area. I loved the tactile
feeling of an old record, with its large canvas
for album art and the seemingly endless array
of music available. The mystique and intrigue
of old records and the music on them was
heightened when browsing through the collection
of a friend's father. He had everything! Old
fiddlers' convention records, stringbands, bluegrass,
solo fiddlers, blues and so on. This wellspring of
music opened my eyes and ears. Following that,
anything that had to do with fiddles, banjos, or any
folk instrument really, I gravitated towards. This
began my venture into Old-time music. Some years
later, a friend gave me a stack of old field recordings
from the Smithsonian and Folkways collections.
These scratchy, old recordings had a depth and
nostalgia that I wanted to understand. From
field recordings to the early commercial recordings
of fiddlers, I immersed myself completely in the music.
My band, the Striped Pig Stringband, has created a
vibrant dance community here in Humboldt County.
Putting my years of collecting music to use, every
Monday night I engineer a two-hour radio program on
our wonderful, local, freeform radio station. KHUM
gives me a platform to share my love of Old-time music
in all its forms over the airwaves.

Colin w/ fiddle


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