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The Banjo’s Twisted History, The Washington Monument's Restoration, and Nick Sjostrom’s “I Am OK"

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The twisted history of the banjo in America; a visit to the Washington Monument at Mount Vernon Place; and Nick Sjostrom’s album, “I am OK”

  A new exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Industry highlights the city’s important place in American music history.  The first commercially produced banjos were built here in the 1840s at a shop on Baltimore Street, and they sold fast.  But why the sudden demand?  Aaron Henkin shares the story.

 

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Washington Monument, Detroit Publishing Company - LOC 1906

  If you drive through Mount Vernon Place these days, you can’t help but notice the scaffolding.  A venerable Baltimore landmark is shrouded in it from top to bottom.  After nearly two centuries of wear and tear, a monumental makeover is now well underway.  The Signal’s  Aaron Henkin paid a visit to the Washington Monument as its spa treatment was about to begin, and he put together this story.
 
(You can check out videos of the restoration's progress at the Mount Vernon Place Facebook Page.)

The Banjo’s Twisted History, The Washington Monument's Restoration, and Nick Sjostrom’s “I Am OK"
A radio tour of Baltimore's soon-to-be-renovated Washington Monument

 

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Nick Sjostrom

By day, Nick Sjostrom produces custom-tailored music for commercial clients.  Television programs, film studios, and radio stations order up the different melodies and soundscapes they need, and he caters accordingly.  Sjostrom works at Baltimore’s well-appointed industrial sound studio, Clean Cuts, and his job happens to come with a major fringe benefit:  After the five o’clock whistle blows, he gets the keys to the castle.  Sjostrom has made good use of the place during off-hours; he’s just wrapped up an original album titled, I Am OK. The Signal’s Aaron Henkin takes us along for a visit with the moonlighting songwriter.

The Banjo’s Twisted History, The Washington Monument's Restoration, and Nick Sjostrom’s “I Am OK"
Music and conversation with sound engineer, singer, and songwriter Nick Sjostrom

Aaron creates and produces original radio programs for WYPR. His current project is the neighborhood documentary series, Out of the Blocks, which earned the 2018 national Edward R Murrow Award. His past work includes the long-running weekly cultural program, The Signal, and the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings series, Tapestry of the Times. Aaron's stories have aired nationally on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, PRI’s Studio 360, & The World.