Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Mark Peterson from Eagan, Minnesota

What’s your favorite lesson on Ben’s site?
Believe it or not, the music theory series! Music theory is an area that I intentionally ignored for far too long. It’s time that I learn it!

What was your inspiration to learn how to play the mandolin?
In the bluegrass Mecca of Mankato, MN, I happened to cross paths with a banjo player in 1987 that worked at the same company that I did. Long story short, I was at his home one evening when his band mates stopped by for practice. It was there I met the bands mandolin player, Matt Thompson, who has been touring with Monroe Crossing since its founding over a decade ago.

Shameless plugs for Matt, website: Youtube:

How long have you been playing?
Off and on for years… mostly off. I acquired my first mandolin in 1988, bought an instructional book, and set out to learn on my own. That sputtered to an end relatively quickly and it wasn’t until 2003 after I moved to Eagan, MN that I learned Matt Thompson of Monroe Crossing, who I mentioned previously, also lived in Eagan. I tracked him down, dusted off the mandolin, took lessons from him and he put me in contact with a guitar player who was taking instruction from the guitar player in Monroe Crossing. We formed our own bluegrass band shortly thereafter and after a couple of years, half our band members, a husband and wife team, were transferred out of state by their employer, and my mandolin went back into the case for several more years.

In 2011 I had a chance encounter with Tony Rook, a guitar player and song writer who transferred here from North Carolina, who coaxed me to get my mandolin out of moth balls because he was anxious to jam and was happy to learn that someone was familiar with the mandolin. Tony found a couple other folks and we formed a band and played several local bluegrass festivals and private functions from 2012 to 2014. In 2014, as before, job relocations took a toll on band membership and the group disbanded.

In February 2015 my father passed away, and for no particular reason, my mandolin once again went into hibernation until March of this year.

So, how long have I played? Cumulatively, I estimate 8-10 years. In that time, I have been blessed with the privilege of playing with some great musicians.

Sorry, more shameless plugs, this time for Tony, website: Youtube:

What’s your goal when playing?
Three goals come to mind: [1] With the on-again-off-again of my mandolin playing over the years, I have developed a few bad playing habits. My goal is to rid myself of these bad habits. [2] To develop a more theory-based approach to music, and [3] improve my ability to improvise.

What’s your favorite hobby?
When not making certain that my wife of 39 years is happy, working, entertaining grandkids, and tending to household and family matters (and practicing my mandolin), I fill my free time motorcycling in the summer and with genealogy in the winter.

How long have you been a Gold Pick member?
Since March 9, 2018

What do you do for a living?
I work full time as an IT project manager


Hi Mark, pleased to meet you. Congratulations on your experiences with other musicians and playing your Mandolin with them. Had you been able to stop by here I’m sure you would have enjoyed the maple syrup more than jamming (I’ve never done any jamming). Sorry to hear about your father as they are so important to us. Best wishes to you as you continue on!

1 Like

Thanks Dougfish. I debated the name dropping in my responses, however, Matt and Tony were very two influential and encouraging people who did motivate me and provided me opportunities to get stage experience, and I felt I owed them an acknowledgement. I am now utilizing all of the knowledge and instruction that Ben provides to build on what I do know, correct the bad habits that I acquired, and to learn new approaches. I did not forget you that you make homemade maple syrup! After all, we do not live that far apart


Pleased to meet you Mark and congratulations on your selection!

Congrats Mark