“The Banjo: Southern Roots, American Branches” will be explored during s series of free lectures and panel discussions presented by The Southern Folklife Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012. The symposium, extending from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., will be followed in the evening with a 7:30 p.m. concert showcasing the banjo at the campus’ Memorial Hall featuring Tony Trischka, Riley Baugus with Kirk Sutphin, and Don Flemons of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, the Grammy Award-winning group whose sound is rooted in the traditional African-American string band music of the Piedmont region. Free tickets for the concert are available through the Memorial Hall box office and online at www.memorialhall.unc.edu.

Dom Flemons of the Carolina Chocolate Drops is among the participating artists (Jim Brock Photography)

“Through exhibits, lectures and performances, the event will explore the history of the five-string banjo, an instrument that traces its origins from enslaved Africans brought to the new world, rising to the pinnacle of American popular culture, and deeply embedded in American traditional music,” says Steve Weiss, curator of the Southern Folklife Collection. An exhibition of banjos and ephemera will be on display on the Wilson Library’s fourth floor from Aug. 25 to Dec. 31.

Slated to speak on the history of the banjo are Robert Cantwell (professor of American Studies at UNC and author of Bluegrass Breakdown), Bob Carlin (musician and author of The Birth of the Banjo: Joel Walker Sweeney and Early Minstelry), Cecelia Conway (professor of English at Appalachian State University and author of African Banjo Echoes in Appalachia), Laurent DuBois (professor of Romance Studies and History at Duke University), Dom Flemons, Phillip Gura (professor of American Studies at UNC and author of America’s Instrument: The Banjo in the 19th Century), Jim Mills (a musician who has played with Vince Gill and Ricky Skaggs), and Stephen Wade (musician and author of The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings and the American Experience).

The Aug. 25 event is the first of a three-part interactive Southern Folklife Collection Instrument Series. Additional panel discussions, exhibits and concerts highlighting the pedal steel guitar and fiddle are scheduled for 2013. Featuring talented musicians and leading scholars, the series provides opportunities to enjoy and learn about the music, history and culture of the American South.

The Southern Folklife Collection is an archival resource dedicated to collecting, preserving and disseminating traditional and vernacular music, art and culture related to the American South. It contains more than 250,000 sound recordings in various formats, in excess of 3,000 video recordings and eight-million feet of motion-picture film, as well as thousands of photographs, song folios, posters, manuscript materials, ephemeral items and research files.

You may visit the Southern Folklife Collection’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/SouthernFolklifeColl.