IBMA SERIES: Gina Furtado of The Gina Furtado Project & Nominee for IBMA Banjo Player of The Year
When you immerse a child in a foreign language, they learn quickly. And when children are given rigorous musical instructions, they soak up the sound like a sponge. Wanting her children to be fluent in the language of music, banjo player Gina Furtado’s mother immersed her nine children in the Suzuki Method.
Music wasn’t something the Furtado family “did”; it was a way of life. The Suzuki Method is rigorous, and in philosophy, goes beyond the music. The founder of the teaching method felt that the potential of a child was limitless, and given the proper instruction, any child could excel on an instrument. So the Furtado children played. All the time. The result? Well, Gina Furtado is nominated for IBMA Banjo Player of The Year this year, and her little brother Victor just won the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. That’s a pretty solid family representation within one genre of music, one instrument, and one year.
NC Music Magazine recently chatted with Gina Furtado a couple of days after she returned home from her last tour with Chris Jones and The Night Drivers. Now, Furtado is focusing on her own band, The Gina Furtado Project (which includes her sister, Malia, on fiddle), which she will be bringing to this years IBMA Bluegrass Ramble.
BT: When did you start playing music?
GF: I started playing the piano when I was 5. There are nine siblings in my family and she had us all study the Suzuki Method. We were homeschooled, and the music was the main focus. There was always music in the house.
BT: Where did bluegrass fit into the classical Suzuki training?
GF: Suzuki is based in classical music, and that really didn't do it for most of us. And it’s very intensive and tedious. But when we went to our first Bluegrass Festival (Old Fiddlers Convention in Gaylax, VA) when I was ten, the community aspect really pulled us in. And that changed everything. We all got into old-time, bluegrass, and folk music. Playing music socially was the immersion that inspired us.
BT: Did you go to a lot of camps and conventions growing up?
GF: Not really. That was expensive to do with nine kids. We just learned by doing. We were always jamming together. My siblings that played violin, just switched over to fiddle, and did not take any fiddle lessons or anything like that. But I was lucky enough to take lessons from the banjo player Murphy Henry. Who is amazing. (Murphy Henry is known for teaching banjo by ear)
BT: I would imagine having a woman like Murphy Henry showing you the ropes did a lot for you.
GF: Murphy Henry gave me all the confidence I needed. She taught me how not to be intimidated, or isolated, as a woman in the scene. Her daughter Casey Henry was really inspiring to me too. Because she was writing songs and touring at an early age. Casey lives a couple of blocks away from me now.
BT: Have you ever felt isolated as a female banjo player in the bluegrass scene?
GF: Not at all. I have always felt included. Even when I was the only girl at a jam session. Bluegrass music bridges the gap between differences and ages.
BT: What are you most looking forward to at this years IBMA’s?
GF: I am looking forward to putting my band out there now. I have been playing between the cracks while I was in Chris Jones and The Night Drivers. We have played a bunch together as The Gina Furtado Project, but now I get to make that the priority. I just got off the road with Chris a couple days ago on my final tour. Chris is just awesome. I am gonna miss playing with him in a lot of ways. Chris knows so much about the history of the music, and knows everyone in the industry, so it was huge for me to get to play with him. I don’t think I could have come so far without his help. He gave me a really strong start in the community and scene.
The Gina Furtado Project IBMA Bluegrass Ramble Schedule
Wednesday September 25, 2019 12:15am - 1:00am
Kings 14 W Martin St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Wednesday September 25, 2019 9:00pm - 9:45pm
Vintage Church 118 S Person St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Thursday September 26, 2019 2:00pm - 2:25pm
Raleigh Convention Center Room 304 500 S Salisbury St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Friday September 27, 2019 12:00am - 1:00am
Women in Bluegrass Jam
Marriott Congressional Room 500 Fayetteville St, Raleigh, NC 27601
BUY TICKETS for IBMA’s Bluegrass Ramble HERE