Banjo Studio

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Banjo Studio: Music Tradition in the City That Never Sleeps

For music enthusiasts, especially those who love the percussive banjo sound, stepping through the door of Banjo Studio in the Crescent City, the birthplace of jazz, has the feeling of an old friend welcoming you.

Born out of a love for music, Banjo Studio is an inspiring musical community center in New Orleans. Owner David Bandrowski opened the shop in 2011 to fulfill a dream. “I grew up playing the 5-String banjo after getting one for a Christmas present when I was 14. I majored in jazz guitar in college at Berklee School of Music in Boston and Loyola University in New Orleans, but I continued to play the 5-string banjo,” said David.

Going on to play tenor banjo, 5-string banjo, and guitar professionally for over 25 years, David taught workshops at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music. He has played with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Harry Connick Jr’s Big Band members, and The Allman Brothers.

How it Happened

After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, David and his (now) ex-wife moved to southern California, where there was hardly a live music scene. He began working full-time for Deering Banjos and realized the need for more banjo dealers in the United States that knew the instrument.

At that moment, while located in San Diego, David sold banjos on the side while working his full-time job, which proved to be a great decision down the road. After five years in California, David packed his bags and headed back to where he and his music most belonged—New Orleans.

In just over a decade, Banjo Studio has become the only Master Deering Banjos Dealer in Louisiana and one of the top acoustic instrument retailers in the world, thanks to his relationship and work experience with Deering while in California.

“There are only four or five master dealers in the world,” said David. “I put the idea in front of Janet Deering, and she trusted me and said okay. She knew that I knew the instruments and wanted to promote them as well as I possibly could.”
David Bandrowski
Owner

Some of the brands

An Authorized Dealer

Banjo Studio sells Deering Banjos and is an authorized dealer for Ome Banjos, Rickard Banjos, Pisgah Banjos, Magic Fluke Banjos, and Collings Guitars. In a city rich with musical tradition, David and his team bring much to the table. Whether you’ve been playing music for decades or are brand new to playing, Banjo Studio is there to help you with everything from choosing your first instrument to finding any instrument or accessory you need.
We don’t really do vintage. We focus on the new instruments. We don’t carry anything we wouldn’t be happy to play ourselves. It’s really about getting good instruments in the hands of people. So many banjoists start out playing junky instruments and have bad-quality tools. We focus on getting good instruments and information to them so they can make a good decision about what to play.”

The Lessons

With this, David prides himself as the only master Deering Banjo dealer in Louisiana. “It gives accreditation and a certain amount of trust to the customers. And once they talk to me, they generally know that I know what I’m talking about,” said David. “It’s a fun process. I want them to enjoy themselves. For 99 percent of the customers, playing music is a hobby. They aren’t trying to be professional musicians. I love getting more people to play acoustic string music and trying to broaden that world.”

David is eager to share his passion and knowledge for music—so much so that he offers personalized lessons to his customers.

The Goal

With a goal in mind of helping you become a better musician and reach any dream that you aspire to, he teaches all styles of music on the 5-string banjo, tenor banjo, and guitar. With lessons offered live or online through video chat, David’s goal is to provide the best experience with Banjo Studio.

“I generally teach by ear,” said David. “For a long time, tablature has become a crutch, and you don’t really have any idea what you’re doing. I like to have musicians use their ear. Usually, for a beginner, we try not to go too deep into music theory. We play some melodies and put harmonies to those melodies.”

In Summary

While every instrument leaving the Banjo Studio shop gets a professional setup, learning to play your instrument is still the biggest challenge. Banjo Studio team member and musician Noah English offers entry-level guitar and banjo lessons alongside David’s classes. They also provide three months of free online lessons through Tunefox with the purchase of any instrument in their shop.

The world of COVID over the last two years has changed things for a lot of small businesses like Banjo Studio, but there was one positive thing that came out of it for this small music shop—a podcast. Host Jonathan Freilich talks with musicians and instrument makers about their journeys and where they are going.

“It was always an idea that we had floating around.” said David. “COVID was a good time for the hobby industry. A lot of people picked up music during COVID. Artists had time, and they were willing to talk. All of the artists that we have had on the podcast are people that I highly, highly respect. We’ve had bluegrass banjo players and jazz guitar players. It’s been fun.”

While David has been in the music industry for many decades, his experience with Banjo Studio has been the most rewarding. 

“When we hear back from a customer and the instrument that we sold them has changed their life, we are so thankful and happy to hear that,” said David. “Getting banjos in the hands of traditional jazz musicians in the New Orleans area, being able to inform them about the different styles of banjo, and teach them what to look for in the instrument is very cool.”

As Banjo Studio moves into the future, they hope to stock more quality instruments from different lines and produce more content, and tools musicians can learn and play.