About the New England Jazz Banjofest

The New England Jazz Banjofest features music from the golden age of jazz. While the focus of the festival is four-string jazz-styled banjo, we are frequented by players of five-string banjo, mandolin, guitar, ukulele, violin, bass, drums, horns, reeds and even a gut-bucket bass. Vocalists join in the fun.

It is not unusual to enjoy a full Dixieland band.

The festival is runs from Friday at 3 p.m. to Sunday noontime.  Friday evening features an opening concert spotlighting one or two invited acts.  The festival show is Saturday afternoon from 1 to 4 pm. Acts ranging from solo players to bands fill the 15-minute time slots. 

The festival features jam sessions and organized shows.  Jam sessions are free-wheeling events where the tunes are chosen by the players, the audience or divine inspiration. They go on continually throughout the day (and sometimes into the wee hours of the morn').

We have excellent facilities at the Sturbridge Host Hotel in Sturbridge, MA.  Besides being a nice venue for the festival, the hotel is centrally located near to the intersection of I-90 and I-84.  The hotel is also near to the historic Old Sturbridge Village museum, fine restaurants, and many antique and crafts venues including nearby Brimfield, MA, well known for the Brimfield Antiques Flea Market.

The festival is open to the public and attendance is free.  Donations are always accepted and are an important part of the continued funding of the festival.

History of the festival

The New England Banjo Society (NEBS) started in the 1970s in Pelham, New Hampshire. At its peak, the Society had 50-60 musicians as members. In the 1980s, the group started a banjo festival. The first one was held in the Centrum (now the DCU Center) in Worcester, MA. The festival location has changed over the years from Auburn to Sutton to West Boylston and for 5 years in Worcester. It was forced to move in 2007 due to the hotel closing, to Boxborough. Since 2008, the Doubletree Hotel in Bedford, MA has been the home to the festival.

In 2017, the festival moved to the Sturbridge Host Hotel in Sturbridge, MA.

The NEBS no longer exists but its legacy continues. The festival is now sponsored by
Allen Padwa (banjo) and Alice Caldwell (tuba, double bass, trombone) from Worcester. The festival has been renamed the New England Jazz Banjofest to reflect its regional nature, its focus on music of the early 20th century, and the featured style of music.

In 2018, the Good Tymes Banjo Band stepped up to help support the festival in light of a declining number of members in the jazz banjo community.


 rev 2-5-23