Victoria Banjo Club

The Victoria Banjo Club (VBC) was re-formed in 2002, offers members a comprehensive range of services to teach you to play, keep your instrument in top condition, together with facilities such as a sheet music library, tuition books, repairs, re-finishing, spare parts, expert guidance in the choice of new or replacement banjos and a buy/swap/sell service. As well, members can enjoy monthly jam sessions at each meeting.

The Victoria Banjo Club is proud to offer a wide range of professional music services which feature the banjo.

  1. Banjo soloists or duets for all occasions and venues.
  2. Small banjo groups ( from 4 – 6 piece ) which offer a wide variety of musical styles including Contemporary, Dixieland, Music Hall & Country.
  3. Banjoists for bands, musical stage productions, session work, as well as for corporate and other promotional events & advertising.
  4. Professional banjo tuition to suit people of all ages.

Above all, theVictoria Banjo Club aims to create a renewed public awareness of the banjo’s capabilities as well as an appreciation of its sheer versatility.

Michael Devola (Honorary Secretary Victoria Banjo Club)

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Profile :
Michael started playing the banjo in 1970 because he just loved the sound, following on from learning the guitar, which he started at age eleven. By his own admission, he is happiest when he has a banjo and a plectrum in his hand.

Michael :
‘Banjo Music is having a resurgence in popularity, perhaps because it offers happy and relaxing music in these busy times.
The banjo has such a warm, sweet sound, it is a happy instrument and is always projected that way. Willie Nelson probably summed this up best with his song “You Can’t Play A Sad Song On The Banjo”!

The Golden Era of the banjo was from 1920 to 1933 and at this time almost all of the jazz bands had a banjo in the line up. From the 1930’s to the 1970’s, the Victoria Banjo Club had tuition centres right across Melbourne, as well as in Geelong & Ballarat.
In 1964, I started attending the Victoria Banjo Club tuition centre located in Bay Road, Sandringham, Melbourne. Ian Bowden, son of the late Charlie Bowden who founded the Club, taught me how to play the banjo & we remained great friends until his untimely death in 2002. Ian was a class act on the banjo and it was a joy to both listen to him play and learn from him.
Ian and all of the Bowden family were most supportive and grateful that the Club was re-formed.

During previous decades, the popularity of the banjo had subsided with the strong push towards the guitar and a change of music culture, where the perception was that the banjo didn’t fit in anymore.
When the Victoria Banjo Club folded in the late seventies, there was only one member left, and that was me.

Despite efforts by others to keep the banjo tradition alive in the seventies and eighties, as some of the older players passed away there just weren’t any younger people learning the instrument to take their place.

It was because of this that I decided to resurrect the Victoria Banjo Club, with the view to encourage those existing banjo players, as well to foster interest amongst younger musicians – we try and help people find the right instrument for them to play and have built up a network of contacts for those looking for repairs, spare parts or sheet music. In addition, the club helps to bring together club members with those looking for musicians.

The Victoria Banjo Club now has more than forty members, including a number of juniors. It has a get together on the first Thursday afternoon of each month at the Community Centre at the Cavendish Retirement Village, and anyone who would like to come and join in would be most welcome.

Many people are now appreciating the warmth and sweetness of the banjo tones, together with the melodies made famous by the Dixieland Jazz bands of the 1920’s. Following on from Smacka Fitzgibbon and the movie ‘Deliverance’, people such as Billy Connolly and the band ‘The Dixie Chicks’ have lifted the profile of this instrument. Smacka owned the well known restaurant & jazz venue in North Melbourne until his death in 1979. He epitomised everything that is wonderful about the sound of the banjo – that happy, foot tapping music that is difficult to resist.’

Michael can be found playing at various restaurants in the Bayside suburbs of Melbourne, as well as at the wineries in the Yarra Valley & Mornington Peninsula areas, often with a traditional dixieland jazz band.