Teaching Roster

The Banjocats – Michael and Jennifer McLain

Contact Name: Michael McLain


PO Box 156
White Bluff, Tennessee 37187
United States

Email: Click to email

Phone: (615) 496-1996

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Celebrating the cultural heritage of Tennessee, Michael and Jennifer McLain use banjo music as a way to teach about stringed instruments, how the banjo is unique, the culture in which bluegrass music originated, how music can illustrate stories and more. Their program is a blend of creative banjo instrumentals, upbeat stories, demonstration of instrumental skills, techniques and vocabulary and traditional American repertoire.

Based in Nashville for over 20 years, husband and wife, Michael and Jennifer McLain both grew up in musical families, are both banjo players, and have been playing together since their first date. Together they have performed in 27 states, including events for the Library of Congress, Boy Scouts of America, 5 Tennessee universities, Country Music Hall of Fame and Grand Ole Opry. Live media appearances include NPR, NPT, WSM, RFD, KET, IPT, TNN, CMT and the PBS show, Song of the Mountains.

Michael and Jennifer have been involved in education for many years. Michael taught in the School of Music at Belmont University for 13 years (Bluegrass Ensemble, banjo, guitar and mandolin). He holds a B.M. in commercial music from Belmont University. Jennifer earned a B.M. in music performance and a M. Ed. degree. She served as an elementary school counselor for 8 years in Nashville Public Schools.

Sample Programs Offered

Program Title: The Story of Molly and Tenbrooks: Illustrated with Banjo Music

Program Type: Arts Curriculum, Arts Appreciation

Program Description:

Through the story of the horse race between Molly and Tenbrooks students will explore traditional southern culture and music. The story is illustrated on banjo using iconic American tunes including: Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Whoa Mule, Bugle Call Rag and Bill Monroe’s classic, Molly and Tenbrooks. The story culminates with the running of the race illustrated on two banjos. Also included are some well known bluegrass songs such as the Tennessee state song, Rocky Top.

Lesson Plan Example: Download File

Program Title: The 5-String Banjo in Bluegrass Music

Program Type: Arts Curriculum, Arts Appreciation

Program Description:

An informative demonstration about the role of the banjo in bluegrass music. Scruggs roll, melodic and single string styles will be discussed using traditional tunes such as Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Soldier’s Joy and Blackberry Blossom. Specific soloing, back up and rhythm techniques will be discussed using a variety of traditional and contemporary bluegrass songs and instrumentals. Other topics include: tuning, range, articulations and unique characteristics of the instrument.

Lesson Plan Example: Download File

Program Title: Improvisation in Bluegrass Music

Program Type: Arts Curriculum, Arts Appreciation

Program Description:

The relaxed nature of bluegrass and American folk music provides a great introduction to improvisation. An overview of three primary techniques will be used 1) Melodic Paraphrase – using elements of pitch, rhythm and contour, 2) Formula – connecting licks from a known vocabulary, and 3) Motivic Development – developing musical ideas. Students will learn several bluegrass songs such as Bill Monroe’s Blue Moon of Kentucky as these techniques are combined. Other topics include continuity, essential melodic elements. melodic rhythm and embellishment patterns.

Lesson Plan Example: Download File

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