Banjo Teachers and Presidents

I made the mistake of offering to help somebody on the Facebook clawhammer group.

I posted a couple of videos to illustrate some concepts. I knew one of the videos was controversial. It shows me playing a simple folk melody in three tunings.

Almost immediately after posting I was under attack. An anonymous jerk with no evidence of even owning a banjo started trashing Dear Old Dad and myself. Then a bunch of other jerks piled on. I walked away, but Dear Old Dad says they are still going at it.

A few hours ago, I turned off the computer and watched 47 Meters Down with my folks. Dear Old Dad is a certified scuba diver. His comments made the movie a lot of fun. Netflix is so much better than going to the theater.

After the movie Dear Old Dad was channel surfing. Several news reports popped up. Each anchor was discussing the running commentary on President Trump’s mental capacity.

I will admit that I take a jab when President Trump posts something goofy on Twitter. That said, a lot of the hate directed at him in the press reads close the mean crap the banjo community posts about me.

Donald Trump wasn’t supposed to win the election. Say what you will, but most the irrational hate directed at him is sour grapes over the election.

In a similar vein, Pat & Patrick Costello weren’t supposed to teach you how to play the banjo.

The good news is that none of the cruelty is evident at the Maryland Folk Musicians Retreat. When people are together in the real world it is easy to create harmony.

People say that none of the haters matter, but it does wear me down. This nastiness has been following us for over twenty years. I was planning to post a new workshop today, but my heart wasn’t in it.

It is difficult to present a smiling face into the same computer that spews hate at me

I am starting to think I should change my focus to more real-world workshops and events. The Internet is too cruel for banjo teachers and presidents.

13 thoughts on “Banjo Teachers and Presidents

  1. Hi Patrick, I recently discovered your site after years of owning but rarely ever playing my 5 string banjo. Your videos and books have brought so much joy to me over the past month. I feel like I’m finally learning how to play my banjo and be a musician rather than just reading and memorizing tab. Your videos are inspiring and empowering, and I haven’t seen any out there that come close to being as helpful. Being new to the online banjo world, I’m surprised by how divisive the community is. Don’t let the negative comments make you forget about the amazing work your doing in helping so many people find joy in the banjo.

  2. I have no idea what anybody could complain about after watching this video. Perhaps they are simply jealous? I got started successfully playing the banjo because of your books and videos. In fact, I’m still playing and getting hours of enjoyment from the banjo and music because of your efforts. Thanks so much Patrick.

  3. All my life I have loved the sound of the banjo. I don’t know why. But it uplifts me. Makes me feel better. Bluegrass fingerpicking or strumming. It doesn’t matter. It just makes me smile. So maybe ten years ago now at the age of fifty, I can’t be sure quite when, I bought a banjo. Not a very good one but it served. I got the Pete Seeger book and a hefty fingerpicking manual. But I didn’t do very well. The wonderful banjo was frustrating me. This joyful instrument was depressing me because I could not make it sing. And then one day by chance I stumbled across a you tube video of a smiling young man sitting in front of a staircase who said, I’ll teach you to frail. A word I had never heard. And day by day and lesson by lesson and patient video minute by patient video minute this man taught me how to play. I am not a great player. I am not a good player. I still don’t practise enough. But I have the joy. And I have played and sung for church groups, schools, clubs. I have stood up in front of ten people and in front of hundreds. And at almost every event someone says to me, I always wanted to learn the banjo. And I say to them we’ll go and watch Patrick Costello. He will teach you. If I know them I even lend them my old Ozark banjo, and the book I bought from Patrick, and give them the links. And I can and do say with honesty, not only will you learn but you will enjoy his humour and his style and his integrity and decency. There is nothing unusual about my little story. I rarely watch the you tube channel now. I used to wait for the new posting every day. It’s not because I don’t still love them or think they are less than they were. It is because I have done exactly what Patrick wants….I don’t know, I have never asked him…..but he doesn’t want to create a world fulll of frailing Patrick clones, but people who dance down their own musical paths, and, hopefully, spread a little more if that joy.

    So what I want to say to you, Patrick, is that I am so sorry you take a beating from the trolls who feed a darkness within themselves. I do not read them. I do not care what they say. What I care about is the fact that when your page on the book of life is read it will say, “He made them smile, he taught them to sing a joyful song, he set feet tapping and hands clapping. And he cheered and changed the lives of hundreds of thousands whose existence he never knew, and who in turn had never heard of him. And on a World Wide Web so full of invective, a tool for extremism, a conduit for pornography and a place where the banal is applauded, where decency and integrity are too often despised, he and his father ran a site that did a thing that was and is simply good.”

    I cannot guide you in how you react to this pressure. But you are making s difference in a way your detractors cannot even imagine.

    Thank you


    • I hate to point out that the remark ” Donald Trump wasn’t supposed to win the election ” is the same mentality of the banjo haters. — – -If someone is supposed to win , something is wrong.
      Likewise if Patrick’s banjo playing isn’t uniquely his own, – something is wrong. The one thing that brought me to the banjo and especially to Patrick’s site is that for the MOST part players and listeners are open to new sounds, styles, etc. Ralph Stanley once remarked that there are so many three finger pickers that can play a thousand notes a minute, AND, you can close your eyes and wonder who is playing. I watch and practice what Patrick teaches hoping to never fall into that rut.

  4. Was this the video they had issues with? That’s some practical and beautiful banjo playing — how in the world could anyone have an issue with that?

    I just wanted to thank you for reigniting my love of the banjo. Your books and online content, specifically, have helped bring my family closer together and enriched my life through music.

    Ultimately, you need to take care of yourself and if being offline for awhile is the best way to do it, then I wish you the best and extend my heartfelt thanks for all your content over the years.

    Have a great weekend


  5. Patrick, i to stumbled upon your banjo workshops when I was trying to learn how to play a 6 string banjo. I remembered the video to this day, the one where you were showing the subway shuffle . when everybody else had managed to leave me more confused. With every video i watched you simplified it to where i was ready to keep on going I didn’t want to stop. I even learned how to frail from your teachings. I liked the fact you would show me the tools I needed to get started and allowed me to make discoveries on it wasn’t rushed. I have to say you have influenced me in such a way that I started teaching on YouTube as well. Though it is nothing that comes close to comparison to your videos. I just hope that I can make the same joyful impact on just one person, that you have made on me. Who knew that something as simple as frailing a few strings on a hoop attached to a stick, that you would be able bring large community together.

    Please keep up the great things you do.

  6. Patrick – so glad your videos are up on Youtube again. I have been learning from them for ages.
    Big thank you for all you’ve done for us learners


  7. Patrick,
    I am sorry to hear about your experience on the net. Please keep in mind that for every negative person out there you reach so many many more who are extremely grateful for the work you and Dear Old Dad have done to help people like me learn the banjo. I was a professional educator for 40 years before retiring. I was both a teacher and a principal and had many opportunities to observe instruction. You are an excellent instructor and I have learned a ton of music from you. Keep on trucking dude. Don’t let the haters drag you down.

    Take care. Love. Peace. Banjo!

  8. In order to start a banjo stuffiness change, some folks are bound to act or be offended. Don’t look at people who are saying negative things. They help noone. Don’t give mean people the time of day, or a platform. Other people’s actions should not affect your decisions. If they do, then you are allowing a bully to bully you. Determine that you will be happy regardless of who says what. I e always said you are brave enough to get up there and play, just follow through and be brave enough to ignore the mean folks.

    • Sing the Banjo is really great – I just learned about and watched them all. Hope to see more

  9. Hello Patrick,
    First I want you to know I don’t have a banjo. I have ordered one and its on its way to me.
    As most of my pastimes I do a lot of research and look at youtube and blogs on the subject I’m interested in.
    There are 10 ways to skin a cat. And as long as the job gets done most of the time most all are good ways as long as the out come is what your looking for.
    I get so tired of forums and social sites having “anonymous experts” that hide behind there keyboards and use google for there comments of expertise. It is truly sad. That said I have weened myself from all forums because theres not enough high blood pressure pills and my pharmacy to control me.
    You have impressed me and I have found myself watching video after video of you and your father.
    There is a few others online that have impressed me but not as much as you and your family.
    I like what you say, the way you say it and I can see the wisdom and knowledge you have.
    I wish you and your God speed in you endeavors….
    Dave Bardin
    Johns MS…..
    Just an ole redneck in the Mississippi swamps trying to bide my time till the Lord calls me home…

  10. I was surprised to hear that Patrick gets any negative feedback. That sort of thing just doesn’t belong in the banjo world.

Comments are closed.