Stephen Wade

“Among the enduring Washington institutions- the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, the inaugural parade- it will soon be necessary to include Stephen Wade.”  – WASHINGTON POST

“Stephen Wade is arguably the best nongrass five-string banjo player around. His loyal following includes people who saw Banjo Dancing, his one-man stage show created from folksongs, stories, banjo tunes, and his own personal insights. Among other venues, he presented it nightly at Washington’s Arena Stage for ten years, before his On the Way Home succeeded it for several more. The Beautiful Music All Around Us, his widely-acclaimed book, includes the origins of “Rock Island Line,” “Goodbye, Old Paint,” and “Bonaparte’s Retreat,” and demonstrates that the stories behind them can be as absorbing as the songs themselves.” – BLUEGRASS UNLIMITED

Press Quotes

“A man of rare ability; a one-of-a-kind all-American original.”– WALL STREET JOURNAL “Wade is a phenomenon, a curly-haired, gentle voiced enthusiast in a crumpled suit … nor is he sentimental: just in love with his old banjo and all those sad, sardonic, stories he can tell to it” – THE TIMES (LONDON) “He’s a kind of people’s court jester, an archivist who puts us at ease with our folk heritage, making us feel at home with the tales and melodies he’s collected as if they were our personal heirlooms. He is, in a way, a walking, talking banjo himself.” – SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER “An impassioned banjoist, a nimbly authoritative clog dancer, a soulful singer of folk music and an enthralling tall tale raconteur … a wondrous artist, this Stephen Wade.” – TIME MAGAZINE “Mr. Wade is a one-man-band, folklore society, history museum, and beguiling tale spinner … the sweetest way I know to access an earlier America of steam trains, riverboats, street-corner salesmen, backwoods and a vast, awe-inspiring wilderness. Without hokey folksiness, Mr. Wade can fuse his stories with his music to produce a thrilling theatrical entertainment.” – DALLAS MORNING NEWS


The Sky’s the Limit: Tall Tales and Traditional Tunes

In this new stage piece, Stephen Wade threads American story and song from the old frontier to the present day. The program anchors in his decades-long contact with the Federal Writers’ Project and allied Depression-era cultural initiatives. With step-dancing, singing, spoken word, five-string banjo, and guitar playing, the  performance fuses comedy with virtuosity. “Stephen Wade, bubbling with larger-than-life expressiveness, telling tall tales to a vigorous banjo accompaniment.” (New York Times)

Across the Amerikee

Across the Amerikee: Showpieces from Coal Camp to Cattle Trail. In this new concert, 2013 Grammy-nominee Stephen Wade marks the release of his latest Smithsonian Folkways album. Best known for his long-running stage show, Banjo Dancing, Wade has spent his life merging scholarship and the creative arts. This concert explores American grassroots traditions from lyric folksong to old-time instrumentals to comic recitations. The Washington Post describes Stephen Wade as a “master of creating compelling narratives that entertain and inform.” 

The Beautiful Music All Around Us

Here Stephen Wade focuses on his much-acclaimed book and concert piece, The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings and the American Experience. Described as a “masterpiece of humane scholarship—but one that reads like a detective story” (Wall Street Journal), this award-winning book-and-live music presentation details the rich backstories of landmark field recordings undertaken by the Library of Congress in the Southern Appalachians, Mississippi Delta, and the Great Plains. Wade brings to compelling life—in accounts both amusing and evocative—stories, songs, scenes, artifacts, and memories that inhabit this multi-decade journey across the American land. The evening includes a screening of the new trailer for a feature-length film based on The Beautiful Music All Around Us, now in development by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Paul Wagner.
These public appearances have lately combined with university residencies under multi-departmental sponsorships  (including folklore, English, American studies, American history, African American studies, labor history, music, orchestra,  ethnomusicology, theater,  and sociology) at such schools as George Washington University, University of Southern Mississippi, University of Wisconsin, Agnes Scott College, University of Kentucky, Western Kentucky University, Middle Tennessee State University, North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Berklee College of Music, Miami University of Ohio, St. Michael’s College, University of Maryland, Northwestern University, Loyola University, Washington College, East Tennessee State University, Lebanon Valley College, Arkansas State University, University of Colorado, University of Illinois and University of Denver.

American Roots Music Program

Rocky Ridge Music Center, Boulder and Estes Park, Colorado

Press Photos 

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© 2017 Michael G. Stewart
© 2017 Michael G. Stewart 
photo by MaryE Yeomans
© 2017 Michael G. Stewart 
Photo by MaryE Yeomans