Banjo Hour sessions to feature variety of music

A new and exciting series of performances will are coming to St. Peter and Mankato over the next few months and if you are a lover of musical entertainment I highly recommend you be at each of them.

This upcoming series is called Banjo Hour and the inaugural show will is Nov. 19 from 7 p.m. to 9pm at St. Peter’s Treaty Site History Center. Somewhat spearheaded by local banjoist and song-writer Eli Hoehn of Captain Gravitone and the String Theory Orchestra, Banjo Hour aims to be a beautiful blend of incredibly talented local artists that dabble in jazz, folk, and bluegrass (along with many other genres) and a variety of non-musical entertainers such as Minneapolis comedian and magician Michael Callahan, who will host the inaugural show.

With this culmination of different forms of entertainment in mind, Hoehn says that the goal of Banjo Hour is to provide the area with a collection of theatrically musical performances, to educate those who wish to be involved in the music community, and to “merge bands with the hopes of progress.” Captain Gravitone and the String Theory Orchestra, a multi-versitile group whose sound is self-proclaimed as “Super Heroes Existentialism Adventure,” has some major chops and has built a substantial presence in the area over the past few years. They will be performing at every Banjo Hour, both on their own and with the guest artists as well. Hoehn hopes this merging of local bands with polished acts will give groups like his own the opportunity to tip their hats with those of higher esteem, thus paving the road for future growth in musical skills and performance.

Banjo Hour is funded in part through the Minnesota State Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, but MNSU’s own radio station KMSU is also partly responsible for providing the grant which makes it possible for big name artists to travel to our neck of the woods.

The first group to make the trek is the jazzy Rio Nido. Formed in the seventies, Rio Nido has recently started performing again after a nearly three-decade hiatus. The sounds of Rio Nido are jivy yet calming, doo-boppy but precise, and altogether impressive. Their jazz harmonies are as near to perfect as humanly possible, their instrumentation is complex and flawless, and their sense of professionalism shines from the first notes to the final echoes of stunning harmonic reverberation that linger in the silent seconds at the end. The three-piece consists of Tom Lieberman, Prudence Johnson, and Tim Sparks, all of whom have gained great individual success in the musical realm over the past thirty years.

Also appearing at the inaugural Banjo Hour is world renowned banjo designer and connoisseur Tom Nechville, who will be giving an instructional banjo tutorial called ‘Banjo Time.’ Nechville Music is also a sponsor of Banjo Hour along with Patrick’s (of St. Peter), Morgan Creek Vineyards, Mankato Brewery, and the St. Peter Food Co-op.

Tickets for Banjo Hour are available online at and at the Mankato Brewery. There is a discounted price for anyone interested in attending all five Banjo Hours, and there are discounts for senior citizens and students as well. If you know of somebody you’d like to bring, but are worried about the cost, fear not – Hoehn says that all “students of life” are welcome, and he, along with the other members responsible for Banjo Hour, is in it for the experience. For dedicated musicians like Hoehn, musical progress is a never-ending road that is much more rewarding with company, and although this Banjo Hour series will span well into next year, I highly recommend attending the inaugural show if you wish to be involved in the local music community. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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