PETE ROSS is a banjo maker, researcher, and musician who lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Mr. Ross is one of earliest contemporary makers of gourd banjos, ranging from those of his own design to exact replicas of historic instruments. His reconstructions of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century banjos have been featured internationally in museums, art galleries, movies, documentaries, and live performances.
Mr. Ross holds a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City, where his senior thesis focused on reconstructions of the New World banjo, and on the banjo’s place in the broader American culture. Shortly after graduating from SVA in 1994, a large part of this thesis work was exhibited at CBs Gallery, The Bowery.
In 1994, Scott Didlake, a master early-banjo builder living in Jackson, Mississippi, offered Mr. Ross an apprenticeship to study with him. After Scott's death, Mr. Ross returned to his home state of Maryland, where he has continued the research needed to authentically recreate the banjo in its earliest New World form.
His banjos have been exhibited in the Museum of Musical Instruments, Brussels, Belgium; Musical Instrument Museum, Phoenix, Arizona; Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, Virginia; George Washington Historical Birthplace National Park, Colonial Beach, Virginia; Blue Ridge Institute, Ferrum, Virginia; Appomattox State Courthouse National Park, Appomattox, Virginia; Mercer Museum, Pennsylvania; Hines History Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; National Museum of African American Music, Nashville, Tennessee (forthcoming); Lefferts Historic House, Brooklyn, New York; and the Crooked Trail Road, Galax, Virginia. Photographs of his instruments have appeared in Picturing the Banjo by Leo G. Mazow; Banjo: America’s African Instrument by Laurent du Bois; Banjo: An Illustrated History by Bob Carlin; and Building New Banjos for an Old-Time World by Richard Jones-Bamman.
In 2010 he received a Maryland State Arts Council Apprenticeship award to study techniques of late 19th-century banjo construction with master luthier, Kevin Enoch. Mr. Ross’s latest instruments are inspired by the 1890s-1910s "classic-era" banjos but made for the contemporary Old-Time music setting. They feature intricate mother-of-pearl inlays, engravings, hardwood necks, ebony fingerboards.
In 2014, Mr. Ross co-curated “Making Music: The Banjo in Baltimore and Beyond” with Greg Adams and Robert Winans. The exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Industry explored the mid- to -late nineteenth century Baltimore banjo maker William E. Boucher, Jr. and the transformation of the banjo to a commercial product. He has an essay about the Haiti Banza discovery and early banjos in Banjo Roots and Branches (University of Illinois, 2018). Ross has lectured on banjo history and taught banjo construction and performance at the Baltimore Civil War Museum; Augusta Heritage Workshops; The National Folk Festival; The Black Banjo Gathering; and elsewhere.