Banjo lessons in San Francisco

Joel Stafford has taught the five-string banjo for fifteen years

and has been playing for over thirty years.

He has performed as a solo and with many bands during this time…

The Reel Band

Raging Sea String Band

Gone City Rope Band

The Beamish Boys

The Stowaways


In addition to traditional and neo-traditional styles such as clawhammer and bluegrass, for the banjo, beginning lessons for jawharp, mandolin and ukulele are also available.


Based in San Francisco, Joel can be reached

by telephone at (415) 255-9548 or

by email at


San Francisco has been a home to many professional and amateur banjoists over the years.  Lotta Crabtree came to SF from NYC in 1853, at the age of six, and learned to play the banjo as a teenager from the famed minstrel, Jake Wallace, while staying in Grass Valley.  Tom Briggs, renowned on the East Coast, came West to tour the Gold Camps, caught Typhoid fever and was buried in San Francisco. In 1865, Lotta took her banjo back to NYC and hit the big time on Broadway, initiating a banjo craze among young women there. That same year Sam Clemens arrived in SF. Unsuccessful as a prospector, he had begun to make a name for himself as a writer in the Nevada Territory.  In his youth he had picked up some licks from his sister and was known to serenade objects of his affection while he strummed the banjo. He wrote the following while living in San Francisco.


“The piano may do

for love-sick girls who lace themselves to skeletons,

and lunch on chalk, pickles, and slate pencils.

But give me the banjo.

Gottschalk compared to Sam Pride or Charley Rhoades,

Is as a Dashaway Cocktail to a hot whisky punch.

When you want genuine music--

music that will come right home to you like a bad quarter,

suffuse your system like strychnine whisky,

go right through you like Brandeth's pills,

ramify your whole constitution like the measles,

and break out on your hide like the pin-feather pimples on a pickled goose--

when you want all this, just smash your piano,

and invoke the glory-beaming banjo!"


Mark Twain,

S.F. Dramatic Chronicle,