Rich Stillman has been a banjo player-about-town in the Boston area for many years. Among other acts, he founded and led the progressive bluegrass band WayStation and played and recorded with Adam Dewey and Crazy Creek, The Bogus Family and currently, Southern Rail. When it comes to teaching, Rich explains, “I am tenacious about finding ways to connect people to the music they want to play. If someone has made the effort to find the banjo and the decision to take lessons, they are clearly motivated enough to learn. My job is to help them fulfill that dream.”
How does he go about making these connections? Rich says, “Every student is different. Some learn through listening, some through analysis, some mechanically. I look for each person’s shortest path to connect their internal sense of music with the external expression possible through the banjo. While the obvious goals of each person learning the instrument are very similar – to learn how to play the darn thing – there are many different paths to those goals. Before I can teach the instrument, I have to learn the student.
I set achievable, progressive goals – a playing technique, a song, understanding of a style – that build on each other, to give the student a feeling of accomplishment and a performable skill at each stage. People are surprised at how quickly they can play music that others can recognize.”
Rich was the New Jersey Banjo Champion in 1983 as well as the 2002 and 2003 New England Banjo Champion. He is a six-time winner of the annual banjo contest held at Lowell, Massachusetts, where he has given the bluegrass banjo workshop every year since 1996.
Rich has taught banjo professionally for forty years and is a regular faculty member at Banjo Camp North in Groton, Massachusetts. He has taught workshops and classes for the Boston Bluegrass Union and also teaches banjo as an adjunct faculty member at Tufts University and Concord Academy.
When he’s out of the studio and the classroom, Rich enjoys spending time with family and friends, mountain climbing, and watch repair.