Bio

Diane Sanabria, "Banjo Queen of the Pioneer Valley," has been wowing audiences with her unique fiery banjo playing for over twenty-five years. Her life's vocation is the result of a potent combination of her parents' creativity genes. She recalls speaking Music first, and then learning English as a second language. Formal arts training began at four years old with classical accordion lessons from her musician father. The rest is herstory:

Diane is an award winning performer and educator who is a veteran of New York's High School of Music and Art. She developed her fretted instrument skills as a classical guitar performance major at SUNY Stony Brook. American music, folklore, and banjo studies with the Red Clay Ramblers' Tommy Thompson inspired and fueled her music's stylistic, cultural and philosophical odyssey in the summer of 1975. She later earned a degree in music education from the University of Massachusetts.

The traditional music, dance and folklore community is a vibrant part of Western Massachusetts' cultural brilliance. This reputation is largely due to the vision and dedicated works of members of the Pioneer Valley Folklore Society. The society's 1980's projects greatly enriched the community's educational and entertainment offerings. PVFS projects included artist residencies in the schools, workshops and concerts, as well as research and publications about
folk arts, artists, and cultural history. Valuable archived documentation of the region's cultural history exists today as a result of PVFS' legacy.

Diane contributed to this important education and documentation through her artistic and intellectual input as a PVFS board member, artist, educator and author during that decade. The Banjo Queen earned her royal title when she became the first and only woman to place first at the now legendary Newfane, Vermont banjo competition. She has lent her musicianship, creativity, quick wit and sense of humor to groups such as Rude Girls and the Briar Hill Ramblers, and duo work with Lyn Hardy. She also plays and calls for contra and square dances throughout the New England area.

The many musicians she inspires through banjo or guitar lessons affectionately address her as Queenee, and much of the clawhammer banjo style you hear in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts has roots in Diane Sanabria's playing style and teaching. Diane's professional resume reflects a wide range of music interests, skills, honors and awards. She holds honors and awards that recognize her outstanding and innovative teaching methods as well as exciting musical performances, and is listed in “Who’s Who of American Women”.


Her students include members from an eclectic list of social groups, generations and abilities. She worked as an artist in residence and music specialist in the valley's public schools for a decade, and currently enjoys her position as banjo instructor at area colleges such as Amherst and Smith. She is also the founding mother and director of BanjoMucho, an eccentric and lovable turn of this century mostly banjo community band.

Folk music's memorable melodies help maintain its' vital role in a community's cultural identity and legacy. The Banjo Queen helps maintain her vital role in this community's cultural identity and legacy by keeping an analytical and truthful ear on history's memories, putting an intuitive and forgiving finger on popular culture's current pulse, and sustaining a hopeful, open minded creative vision for the invisible future.

Diane Sanabria teaches music lessons in Florence, Massachusetts, and downtown Northampton's summer main street is often decorated with the sounds of her banjo streetplaying tunes. Stop by and say hello, toss a greenback dollar into the banjo case, and offer her a double espresso. You can then request your favorite song and probably engage
her in a lively philosophical rant about almost anything.