About Douglas Back



Classical Mandolin Society of America's
5th Annual Mandolin Championship, 2006

1st Place-Doug Back,
2nd Place-Jonathan Rudie
3rd Place-David O'Brien

Multi instrumentalist Douglas Back performs on a wide variety of fretted string instruments including the classic 5-string banjo, 4-string plectrum banjo, classical guitar, classical mandolin, and renaissance lute. Recent years have found Doug gaining ever increasing recognition as one of the world's leading artists on the classic-fingerstyle 5-string banjo. He has been a featured guest headliner at banjo festivals around the U.S. and abroad including the Bath England International Banjo Festival, Banjo Rally International, The Mid-Winter Banjorama,  The Birmingham Banjo Bash, and The New Orleans Banjo Rendezvous. Often appearing in full tails, as banjo artists would have done at the turn of the last century, Doug performs banjo solos that draw from the more than 10,000 pieces that were published for the banjo between the years 1880 and 1915. This includes arrangements of Operatic Overtures, The Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, Flight of the Bumblebee, works by Chopin, Lizst and other classical composers, and characteristic pieces written for the banjo. In addition, Doug often closes his programs with dazzling 4-string plectrum banjo solos in the style of Perry Bechtel and Eddie Peabody. Doug has also developed a concert program entitled The Golden Era of American Fretted Instruments: The Gilded Age (1873-1914) in which he performs music for classical guitar, classical mandolin, and classic banjo. Highly regarded as an outstanding performer on each of these instruments, Doug's programs are unique, entertaining and enlightning.

Doug Back is the author of four anthologies and companion recordings of classic guitar music for Mel Bay publications and his articles and reviews have appeared in Guitar Review, Soundboard, All Frets, Mandolin Quarterly, British BMG, The 5-Stringer, The Resonator, The Banjoist's Broadsheet, American Record Guide, and Filipinas magazine. In addition he contributes a regular column entitled "The Classic 5-String Banjo Corner" to All Frets magazine (Fretted Instrument Guild of America). Doug has appeared as a soloist on classic banjo, classic guitar, plectrum banjo, mandolin and renaissance lute in recitals and concerts throughout the United States, Australia, Great Britain and The Philippines, with performances in major cities such as London, Sydney, Brisbane, Manila, Honolulu, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Nashville, Minneapolis, Birmingham, Atlanta, Buffalo, etc. His performances and interviews have been broadcast on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," NPR's syndicated broadcast "150 Years of the American Fingerstyle Guitar" concert, and ABC National Australian Radio and Television. He is a full time director of  classical guitar and related fretted instruments  at Baldwin Arts and Academics Magnet School  in Montgomery, Alabama.  His advanced student ensemble, "Fretworks," a banjo, mandolin and guitar youth orchestra,  has received international acclaim and performed on the nationally syndicated radio program, "From the Top" in 2002." In addition, he formerly served as director of the Montgomery Fretted Orchestra, a community orchestra of approximately twenty members. In 2003, he received the "Teacher of the Year" award by The International Network of Performing and Visual Arts Schools.

Originally trained as a classical guitarist and considered one of the foremost authorities and interpreters of 19th century American guitar music, Doug Back took up the classic banjo in 1998 in an effort to help recreate the early 20th century American fretted instrument ensemble known as The Big Trio. The Big Trio was the name newspapers of the time gave to three stellar fretted instrument soloists, Frederick Bacon (1871-1948) on classic 5-string banjo, William Foden (1860-1947) on classic guitar and Giuseppe Pettine (1874-1966) on mandolin, who joined forces and toured the United States and British Columbia  in 1911-12. Though Back originally intended to recreate the guitar position of William Foden (whose guitar music he had previously recorded and published), finding an available banjoist who could play in the classic fingerstyle method of Frederick Bacon proved to be futile. Taking up the instrument primarily just to fill this role, he soon became fascinated with the nearly forgotten 19th and early 20th century virtuoso classic banjo tradition and began to devote himself to its mastery. He has since gone on to be recognized as one of the leading masters of the classic fingerstyle banjo.

While earning undergraduate and graduate degrees in music performance (classical guitar and lute) Mr. Back studied at the St. Louis Conservatory, The University of Missouri-St. Louis, and The Florida State University. As a student, he won top prize in The George C. Krick Memorial Guitar Competition in 1981. His principal guitar teachers were Rodney Stucky, Alan Rosenkoetter, and Bruce Holzman. A recipient of a prestigious National Endowment for the Arts Recording Grant Award in 1993, Mr. Back was the first guitarist to record the solo guitar music of American guitarist/composers William Foden (1860-1947) and Justin Holland (1819-1887) in a critically acclaimed album entitled American Pioneers of the Classic Guitar. Soundboard magazine noted his performance of this music at the 1996 Guitar Foundation of America's International Festival to be "a commendable merger of scholarship and performance. Thoroughly entertaining!" A concert review in the St. Louis Classical Guitar Society's newsletter stated that Back is "possibly the world's most able performer of these neglected works." "Douglas Back plays it all with huge gusto and no little ability," wrote Classical Guitar magazine (UK).

Other  Honors and Awards:

Alabama Governor's Grant Award
Plucked String Foundation Grant Award
Fretted Instrument Guild of America (FIGA) -Grant Award
Montgomery County, Alabama, Middle School/Jr. High Teacher of the Year, 2009. add text.