Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Tom Penoyar from Ellensburg, Washington

What was it that first got you interested in playing the guitar, mandolin or banjo?
5 years ago, I happened upon a bluegrass jam at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge, MA. I’d never heard or seen anything like it. I’d played pop piano and campfire guitar since I was a kid but had never really heard a banjo, mandolin, flat-picker, dobro or high-lonesome vocals. It was a lot to take in but I was hooked.

How long have you been playing and what’s your motivation to play?
I got my first banjo soon after watching the Cantab jam. I didn’t play it much until the last year during which I’ve played an increasing amount. My primary motivation for playing is being in a small local band and hosting a monthly open bluegrass jam. Another motivation is playing along with my kids who are starting to learn fiddle and piano.

What’s your favorite lesson on Ben’s site and how has it helped you improve?
Banjo Intro to Melodics. I enjoy dweebing on music theory and have so far played Scruggs primarily, so the melodic style is the natural progression. That lesson opened up a lot of options for exploring the middle of the neck.

What’s your goal when playing?
Crisp and accurate tone, consistent rhythm, traceable melody…getting it right, you know? I do a fair bit of teaching songs to my friends and kids and feel responsible for providing a sound that sticks in their head…in a good way.
Some of my favorite {songs} are Shady Grove, Blackberry Blossom, John Henry.

If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
Tinker in the workshop. I tinker better than I organize, always too many unfinished projects floating around. Right now I’d love to finish converting our old Passat to an electric vehicle and get around to re-building the motor on the farm truck.

How long have you been a Gold Pick member?
Not long, a month or two

What do you do for a living?
General surgeon in a small town

What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?
Packing the kids, bikes, skis and instruments in the RV and cruising the USA


Hi Tom,

Welcome to BanjoBenClark and the forum. I really hope you like it here, I love it.

I know Ellensburg well, I used to travel from Seattle to Grandview two or three times a week and Ellensburg was my mid trip stop. Did you get through fire season this year without too much drama? I’m in Florida now so I have hurricanes to contend with; it’s always something right?

This is a great place to ask questions, discuss lessons, and revel in each other’s success. Everyone here is very supportive and willing to help. I hope you enjoy it and we hope to hear from you.

I think this is the first time I’ve been the first to welcome a new GPMOTW. I feel so special.

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Welcome and congrats! I love melodic style too. You might enjoy Noam Pikelny’s Universal Favorite album.


H Tom Congrats being selected as this weeks Gold Picker of the week

Hi and welcome, Tom! Congratulations on being the weekly gold picker! It’s cool that your kids are learning fiddle and piano, maybe you can have a family band someday. Anyway, enjoy being here this is the best online bmg lesson website out there! I hope you become active on this forum, it has some of the nicest folks who are always willing and ready to offer advice, sympathy, humor, or anything else that you need

We can now officially say there’s a doctor in the house. :slight_smile: Who says you have to be missing teeth to play banjo. :stuck_out_tongue:

Congrats on being GPotW!

Welcome Tom - and Congrats!

Welcome! Love the picture!

Congrats Tom. I also have just started jamming with my wife and daughter. What a joy that is to create music together. Congrats on being selected. Keep on picking brother.

That is assuming that just cuz he’s a doctor means he has all his teeth, but that may or may not be the case :wink:

Hey Tom, I love the picture. That’s real life right there. Trying to practice a little while the kids are begging you to play with them! It’s great to meet you.

Just going by the photographic evidence. :slight_smile:

Yeah, but his teeth look straight enough that he may have had his wisdom teeth removed, thus rendering him not completely toothful :grimacing: :stuck_out_tongue:

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Tom, I hope you have a good sense of humor if you’re reading this :grimacing: :man_facepalming:

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Personally, I’m missing my wisdom teeth and 2 additional teeth that were pulled when I was a teen. I’m amply qualified to play banjo. :slight_smile:

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Well, I have all my teeth so far. But I chipped almost half of my lower left canine off when I passed out playing trumpet (don’t laugh! Okay fine, laugh a little, but not too much!) Anyway, I fell off the porch and chipped a tooth. Does that count?

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Welcome to the family. My favorite lesson is the same. Get your children started on bluegrass early. I did and they both still like it as adults.

I see we both are nerds when it comes to theory. I took several years of classical piano, and theory to match, so I can very quickly be confusing when I get into it.

Congratulations Tom. Good to meet you.

Thanks for the welcomes, everybody. Looking forward to getting to know you as we pick on our virtual porches