Wesley Corbett

Associate Professor
617 747-6136
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"I found my way to the banjo completely by accident, through the roots of the banjo. We did an African percussion workshop at a Suzuki workshop that I was at. I started doing that as well as playing piano, and then from that started playing the kora, which is a West African traditional harp. It's basically a grandfather to the banjo. And then I heard Béla Fleck when I was 16 and just went banjo-crazy."

"Banjo has a reputation for being very unmusical, for being super loud, and for people having bad rhythm. It doesn't have to be that way. There's a whole vernacular that's only specific to the banjo and it doesn't apply to any other instrument. Bluegrass banjo is a really specific thing, because it's based on the playing of Earl Scruggs. A lot of banjo players learn all of that, and then everything else is a mystery. Improvising with harmony and single-note melody as opposed to improvising within the bluegrass vernacular are two very different things. I definitely view my job as trying to balance those out."

"I play full-time in a band called Joy Kills Sorrow—it's bluegrass mixed with indie rock. I'm very involved with the acoustic scene in Boston. It's close-knit. We all grew up meeting each other and playing together at bluegrass festivals all over the country; it's like a little bubble that travels from one place to the next. Everybody is very supportive."

Career Highlights


  • Banjoist
  • Member of Joy Kills Sorrow
  • Performances with Mike Marshall and Darol Anger, Crooked Still, Laurie Lewis, Biscuit Burners, and the Bee Eaters
  • Recordings include Darkness Sure Becomes This City and This Unknown Science (Joykills Sorrow); The Bee Eaters and Oddfellows Road (The Bee Eaters); and Take Me Home (Biscuit Burners)
  • Publications include the Banjo Newsletter