Banjo player Scott Vestal was awarded the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass this week. The surprise ceremony was conducted at this year’s 45th annual RockyGrass Festival in Colorado.
The $50,000 award and bronze sculpture (created by the American artist Eric Fischl) is given by comedian, actor and musician Steve Martin.
The Steve Martin Award was created to bring recognition to an individual or group for outstanding accomplishment in the field of five-string banjo or bluegrass music, the prize highlights the extraordinary musicianship of these artists and bluegrass music worldwide. The winner is determined by a board consisting of J.D Crowe, Pete Wernick, Tony Trischka, Anne Stringfield, Noam Pikelny, Alison Brown, Neil V. Rosenberg, Béla Fleck and Steve Martin.
About Scott Vestal:
Scott Vestal was born May 8, 1962 in Duncan, OK. The older of two children, music was a constant from Scott’s early age. His Grandfather, Famon Self, an old time country fiddler, (with lots of patience), showed Scott his first chords on the guitar. Scott and his brother, Curtis, would play and sing with their Grandfather at various events ranging from parades, to nursing homes, to bluegrass festivals. At age 13 Scott got his first 5-string banjo and began learning from the records his father had around the house, ranging from Flatt and Scruggs to New Grass Revival, and everything in between.
At the age of 15 Scott was playing all over the US with TJ Rogers’ family band which eventually led to an audition with Larry Sparks. After performing and recording with Larry for a year, Scott struck out on his own and helped form Southern Connection, which toured the Midwest and East Coast for 3 years.
In 1985, Scott joined Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, performing in the U.S., Canada, and Europe as a member of the critically acclaimed quartet. Four years and five award-winning albums later, he once again struck out to broaden his musical knowledge with his own group, Livewire.
Scott later moved to Nashville and formed a band called Parmley, Scott Vestal, and Continental Divide. During this time Scott was awarded Banjo Player of the Year in 1996 by the International Bluegrass Music Association, and 1998 Banjo Player of the Year by the Bluegrass Now Magazine Fan’s Choice Awards.
Scott later joined the John Cowan Band. This gave Scott a chance to really stretch out and broaden his musical horizons not just playing banjo but incorporating his solid body electric midi banjo into the show and on to the two CD’s they recorded together.
Scott is an in demand session player around Nashville, and has his own recording studio, Digital Underground, where he engineers, produces, and plays on various projects including an award-winning series of instrumental recordings for Pinecastle Records, and has worked with the likes of Bill Monroe, Sam Bush, David Lee Roth, John Jorgenson, Tim O’Brien, Jim Lauderdale, Rick Moranis, Shawn Camp, Ricky Skaggs, Pat Flynn, Jerry Douglas, John Cowan, Tony Rice, Vassar Clements, Larry Sparks, Doyle Lawson And Quicksilver, Livewire, Continental Divide, Donny and Marie Osmond, Chris Thile, Paul Craft, John Randall, SHeDAISY, Shawn Camp, Hank Williams III, Laura Love, Kenny Chesney, Ashton Shepherd, Jim Lauderdale, Del McCoury, Dierks Bentley, Dailey and Vincent, Daniel O’Donnell, Tommy Shaw, Joe Nichols, Billy Ray Cyrus, Alan Jackson, Dolly Parton, John Oates, and many others.
In addition to being an outstanding musician, Scott is also a composer, writing nine of the thirteen compositions on his first solo project, “In Pursuit Of Happiness”, and nine out of twelve on his latest release, “Millennia”.
Scott has been touring with Sam Bush for the past 10 years and has his own banjo company, Stealth Banjos, which he has designed and developed over the past 25 years.