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What is Ragtime Banjo Revival?

Ragtime Banjo Revival is a bold cultural outreach project that aims to grow and strengthen community through live and recorded experiences of historical popular music. The project revives the joy of the ragtime banjo style by illuminating its presence in our shared musical past — and by answering the question most people, in and outside of music circles, haven’t lately thought to ask: Why ragtime, and why now?

Why Ragtime, and Why Now?

The answer lies in the very sounds and stories of this project. Despite its trajectory from the most popular music in the English-speaking world to near-fatal obscurity, this music, its creators, and its history are alive today in our relationships with music, popular culture, identity, and history. While audiences tap and hum along with the project’s inspired arrangements, they’ll learn enough to change the way they listen to music and the way engage with the development of culture. With a curious and optimistic spirit, Ragtime Banjo Revival educates and inspires, welcoming the newcomer and cultivating respect across the lines of difference.

Ragtime banjo, influenced by the “classic banjo” style, is rooted in African-American music that was appropriated for minstrel shows and which mingled with other popular styles of European and distinctly American origin. It can be played with conservatory precision or with the raw energy of a street band. The selections and arrangements of Ragtime Banjo Revival founder Aaron Jonah Lewis aim at the intersection of these modes, balancing elegance and abandon, dignity and freedom, and fostering the unique dynamic of feeling that thrives there.

Our Goal

Ragtime Banjo Revival includes arrangements for string quartet and wind quintet as well as ensemble pieces with pipe organ, piano, marimba, brass, and more. The music will be performed live in Detroit with a strong roster of local artists, and worldwide at festivals, universities and music schools, and in collaboration with professional orchestras and chamber ensembles with a dynamic presentation focused on inclusion and connection. Recordings will be released in various formats including vinyl, streaming, and printed sheet music with original illustrations and banjo tablature.