Grab your picnic blanket and settle in for two world-renowned banjoists on the porch of Love House and Hutchins Forum this Thursday at 5:30 p.m., rain or shine.
The free concert is open to the public and is the first of this year’s Music on the Porch series – a celebration of Southern music and culture. The concert, sponsored by UNC’s Center for the Study of the American South, features Rex McGee and Ryan Cavanaugh, musicians and friends with North Carolina ties.
“Rex and Ryan are two of the most talented banjo players alive,” said CSAS Associate Director Pat Horn. “We were impressed by their music, that they play this quintessentially Southern instrument and, in addition to being world experts, that they’re also formerly teacher and student.”
Before meeting, family inspired McGee and Cavanaugh to pick up the banjo and a few other instruments along the way.
McGee grew up in a musical household on his family farm near Sauratown Mountain. He was already playing fiddle at 4 years old. When he turned 12, his grandfather handed him a banjo with one stipulation: he could only keep it if he learned how to play it.
“I’ve still got that banjo,” McGee said.
Cavanaugh’s Great Uncle Pat, a musician originally from Wexford, Ireland, acquired an American banjo before ever visiting the United States.
“When the Irish got their hands on the banjo, they put four strings on it and tuned it like a violin,” Cavanaugh said. “It’s a mystery in our family how an American five-string banjo got in his hands.”
The mystery turned to destiny.