Banjo NewsLetter suspends publication – Bluegrass Today


After Spencer Nitchie passed away, his brother and business partner Donald announced that Banjo NewsLetter, the printed periodical for banjo players, will cease publication after the current September issue.

Donald and Spencer took over the magazine when their father, Banjo NewsLetter Founder Hub Nitchie, deceased 1992. Since 1971, Hub has passionately guided the newsletter from its inception to a popular and respected monthly contribution to the continuing education and entertainment of 5-string banjo players of all ages. styles and at all levels. Regular sections were devoted to new students, others to the game of yesteryear or the music of Earl Scruggs. It always included reviews of recently released recordings, teaching materials, and products, instruments and accessories of interest to the banjo world. Plus interviews with prominent community figures, gamers, teachers, and instrument makers.

Donald and Spencer kept the traditions started by their father and took the magazine into the future, switching to a full color format and adding an online subscription feature.

After taking over in 1992, they quickly established a workflow that continued until Spencer’s illness forced him to retire in recent months. Donald served as editor, compiling the various columns and tablature selections, laying out everything in the software and sending it to the printer each month. During this time, Spencer looked after the business side of the magazine, including advertising, subscriptions, accounts payable and receivable, and postal services. It was an effective partnership as long as it lasted, and kept Banjo NewsLetter a much anticipated publication in its 50th year.

But the combined emotional toll of losing his beloved brother and doubling the workload in the future prompted Donald to hit the pause button and consider the magazine’s next chapter. In its monthly editorial column, Calloused thumb (started by Hub when he was editor), he explains it this way.

With the loss of our editor and the need for a major reorganization, it is with deep regret that we announce the suspension of Banjo NewsLetter publication after this issue. It is too logistically difficult to continue at this time. Many subscribers might not realize that we were alone at the helm, producing each magazine, each of us in different states. This number will also be online only.

In recent years, the Banjo NewsLetter barely survived from issue to issue (it’s a tough time for print publications). Part of the magazine has always been a labor of love, and we’re trying to think of ways in which its content could continue. I spoke with several people about the future of BNL. It is too early to say for sure, but I hope the newsletter will continue, perhaps under new leadership or in a different format. We ask for your patience. Check our website for other announcements. Spencer and I were proud of the magazine we have produced together for so long, and once again, I am very grateful to our many loyal subscribers, contributors and advertisers, for your generous support over the years.

In communication with Donald since Spencer’s death, it’s clear he wants to see the magazine continue, but without him as the sole participant. Anything that lasts decades will usually pass through several hands. While Hub created something and Spencer and Donald pushed it to this point, it seems like it’s time for someone else to raise the banner of Banjo NewsLetter and wear it in the future.

Nitchie is eager to hear from anyone with ideas or a willingness to get involved. He would be willing to remain an active member of the publication or hand things over to younger, more energetic managers. It could continue on paper or be completely online. What is most important to Donald is to see the legacy of his father, and him and his brothers, remain a part of the wonderful world of the banjo.

Donald made the September issue, anchored by a lengthy interview with Béla Fleck by Noam Pikelny, completely free online.

Anyone who has any ideas on the sequel to the venerable Banjo NewsLetter is invited to contact Donald online.

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