Cynthia Sayer Awarded 2023 Steve Martin Banjo Prize

Multi-award-winning instrumentalist /vocalist/bandleader Cynthia Sayer has been awarded the prestigious 2023 Steve Martin Banjo Prize for Excellence in Four-String Banjo. The award was made public on December 11 in a livestream presentation featuring Cynthia’s former bandleader, Woody Allen.

An inductee into the American Banjo Hall Of Fame, Cynthia Sayer is the first banjoist to win the 2019 Bistro Award and 2018 Global Music Awards, and, in 2018, the first four-string jazz banjoist to be a featured artist at the iconic Newport Jazz Festival. She was a headliner at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the Dresden International Jazz Festival (Germany), the Bloom Festival (China) and numerous others.

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Cynthia rose to international prominence as a founding member of Woody Allen’s New Orleans Jazz Band, and has played with leading jazz, popular, and roots music artists including Bucky Pizzarelli, Dick Hyman, Andy Statman, Les Paul, Marvin Hamlisch, Wynton Marsalis, Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox, Vince Giordano, Scott Robinson, and many others.

Cynthia Sayer is also an avid educator. She has been a guest clinician at The Berklee College Of Music, The New School and others, given multiple educational programs at Lincoln Center, in public schools, and more. She’s on the faculty of the NY Hot Jazz Camp, gives lessons and workshops. Her play-along program, You’re IN The Band, is popular with players of all instruments learning and practicing traditional/hot jazz and swing. Her newest book for banjo, guitar, and mandolin, The Swinging Solos Of Elmer Snowden, was published in 2022.

Originally conceived of and launched in 2010 by comedy legend and banjo player Steve Martin, the Steve Martin Banjo Prize is given annually to a master bluegrass or old time banjo player. Past winners are some of the instrument’s brightest stars and include Rhiannon Giddens, Noam Pikelny, Jens Kruger, and Kristin Scott Benson.

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At the end of 2019, having fulfilled its initial mission of giving ten awards, Martin and the board determined that the Banjo Prize needed a new vision and infrastructure to move forward. That’s when the Freshgrass Foundation ( stepped in to co-fund the prize and provide the administrative capacity to help carry the prize into its second decade.

Going forward, the new Banjo Prize will be an annual award of $25K to one or more banjo players across the stylistic spectrum including both 5 and 4 string banjo masters.

Visit Cynthia Sayer online at

Andy Senior is the Publisher of The Syncopated Times and on occasion he still gets out a Radiola! podcast for our listening pleasure.

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