For many of us, the thought of even getting near a $45,000 banjo is enough to make us break out in hives.
But at Elderly Instruments, one of the exhibitors in the International Bluegrass Music Association’s trade show, you are more than welcome to pick up the pricey instrument – a Gibson TB-18/TB12 Conversion banjo – and try it out.
“We’re not going to limit people from playing it,” said Lillian Werbin, whose father runs the Michigan-based business. “We want it to be an experience just like playing in your living room.”
Karl Smakula, an IBMA attendee from Elkins, W.Va., picked a little on it Thursday and loved the sound. Though he acknowledged that he likely wouldn’t be buying it unless he gets lucky with a lottery ticket.
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Even if you don’t want to take an expensive instrument for a spin, the trade show – in the bottom of the Raleigh Convention Center – has much to offer. And starting Friday at 11 a.m. and continuing on Saturday, the show is free and open to the public.
Wander around and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to shop, whether for an instrument, a CD or a T-shirt. Many vendors also have freebies – guitar picks, stickers and buttons abound.
You’ll have plenty of opportunities to shop, whether for an instrument, a CD or a T-shirt. Many vendors also have freebies – guitar picks, stickers and buttons abound.
There are booths supporting music festivals and attractions – the Earl Scruggs Center in Shelby or Virginia is for Music Lovers – and those that promote special causes – the European Bluegrass Music Association or Musicians United for the Protection of Bristol Bay.
Down East Hearing Associates of Knightdale is there talking to musicians about ear plugs and protecting their hearing. “We just want to make people aware,” said Sarah Thomas, who was working at the booth. “It’s better to protect yourself now when you’re young.”
You might even meet – and play a childhood game with – an up-and-coming musician. On Thursday, Rachel Baiman of the Nashville, Tenn.-based duo 10 String Symphony (“Two of us play five-string fiddles”) had set up a Twister board at the band’s booth to entice expo-goers to stop by.
It was all about attracting potential new fans and – like most everything at World of Bluegrass – having fun.
If you go
The trade expo is on the bottom level of the Raleigh Convention Center. It’s free and open to the public from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday.