Y'all may or may not have heard this, but last week the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass was awarded to Noam Pikelny. The prize, which I was not aware existed---indeed very few people knew it existed since this is the first time its been given out---consisted of an unrestricted cash prize of $50,000 and a bronze sculpture created especially for the award by artist Eric Fischl.
I was so happy to hear that Noam got this fabulous honor. He's a mind-blowingly amazing player. When he moved from Nashville to New York some of us local banjo players joked---JOKED mind you---that we were glad he was gone because we're all now one spot higher on the list of people to call when you need a banjo player for a gig or session. I learned he had won on Twitter (where I get most of my current-events new these days) and tweeted a congratulations to him. (Incidently, Steve Martin is also now on Twitter.)
I'm also happy, and very impressed, that Steve Martin decided to start this award. It's funded by the Steve Martin Charitable Foundation, which is, of course, just Steve's money. But it's so cool of him to even think of using it to directly and immediately benefit the banjo/bluegrass world. The award's selection board includes Earl Scruggs, Alison Brown, Bela Fleck, Tony Trischka, and others, and The Bluegrass Blog has some details about how the selection was made.
Over the last couple of years I've watched how Steve has conducted his mid-life career expansion into bluegrass and it has raised him in my estimation. I've always been a fan of his movies and his writing, but he's really done everything right, in a carefully considered manner, in releasing his CD and touring with the Steep Canyon Rangers. He's lately been working in the studio with SCR on a new CD, and on top of that he released a kids book this month, Late for School, and has a new novel (An Object of Beauty) coming out in November. I commented to a friend that I didn't see how he could do all that and tour, too. She pointed out, "He has a staff."