Catherine Bowness

Catherine B.

Cambridge, MA

Lesson Details


Levels Taught:
Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
Catherine has performed and taught banjo throughout the USA, Australia and New Zealand, studying with renowned banjo players Noam Pikelny, Tony Trischka and Alan Munde. She graduated from the New Zealand School of Music in 2011 with a BMus, majoring in Jazz Performance. She won first place at the 2015 Freshgrass Banjo Contest and currently performs nationally with the band, Mile Twelve. She has taught banjo both privately and in group settings to all ages and levels for the past 10 years.
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Catherine teaches



Catherine delivers an exceptional lesson experience and ranks in the top 15% of our teachers nationwide.
Teaches students:
Ages 5+ and special needs

Teaching since:
March 2010

I've been playing the banjo for 13 years, beginning in my hometown of Marton, New Zealand. I very quickly fell in love with the instrument and have spent a lot of my time practicing, performing, teaching, recording and collaborating with other musicians ever since. As a teenager, I was given the opportunity to travel to the United States where I attended banjo camps and got to study with some great banjo players (Tony Trischka, Noam Pikelny Alan Munde). In 2011, I graduated from the New Zealand School of Music with a BMus, majoring in Jazz Performance on the banjo. I moved to Boston shortly afterwards to pursue a career in music and have kept a busy teaching schedule privately in Boston and worldwide via Skype. I also perform throughout the United States with my bluegrass band, Mile Twelve. I'm very thankful to have met a wide spectrum of different people while teaching the banjo and am always eager to meet more people who are interested in learning and sharing this great instrument. Please say hi if this sounds like you!

N.B If you can't see an available lesson time that suits your schedule please send me a message. My availability changes weekly depending on my touring schedule so I may have just the spot for you.

~ About the lessons
I structure my lessons so students learn what they want to learn, while also building strong technique and a knowledge of the bluegrass banjo repertoire. Topics we will cover include Scruggs style, melodic style, single string technique, transcribing, arranging tunes, music theory and jamming or playing well with others.

We will start with talking about how to hold the banjo, tuning the banjo, playing with fingerpicks and how to read tablature. Then we will work through your first tunes in the bluegrass style gradually learning more tunes with harder techniques such as slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs etc. I take into account each students interests and goals so we will work on specific songs you request or licks you'd like to learn. You will have slow, medium and fast recordings of each tune we work on in the lessons as well at the tablature for that tune.

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Music Performance
Oct 2014 - Present
Mile Twelve

Performed throughout the United States, Canada and Ireland with Boston based bluegrass band, Mile Twelve.

Private Banjo Lessons
Jan 2010 - Present
BB's Banjo Studio

Private Banjo lessons from my home studio and online via Skype.

Banjo group classes
May 2015 - Jun 2015
Club Passim Music School

Beginning and Intermediate group bluegrass banjo 6 week classes.

Saturday Music classes for children
Mar 2010 - Oct 2010
Wellington Music Center

Saturday morning group classes for children aged 5-9 learning the ukulele.


Bachelor of Music - Jazz performance on 5-string banjo
Feb 2009 - Nov 2011
New Zealand School of Music


Fluent / Native Proficiency


NZSM Alumni
Feb 2012
New Zealand School of Music


1st place in Bluegrass Banjo
Sep 2015
Freshgrass Banjo Contest
1st place in Bluegrass Banjo
Jul 2006
Uncle Dave Macon Days Banjo Contest

Photos & Videos

Mile Twelve live at Club Passim.
Performing "Ain't Coming Back" with Mile Twelve. Filmed and edited by Sean Trischka in Jamacia Plain, MA.
Performance at the Lucas Theatre for the Arts as part of the 2013 Acoustic Music Seminar in Savannah, GA
With Mile Twelve performing at the 2015 North East Regional Folk Alliance.

Performing "When Joy Kills Sorrow" with Blue Hat, Yeah! Filmed by Adrianna Ciccone in Boston, MA. Tune written by Bela Fleck
Photo by Catherine B.


11 Reviews

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Ian Jan 23, 2018
Banjo · In studio

Catherine is a very kind and patient teacher. Highly recommend.

David May 15, 2017
Banjo · In studio

I knew BB was the real deal when I hired her to record banjo on my first album 4-years ago--an intelligent player with a driving sound and warm personality. I enjoyed working with her so much that we now play music together professionally with the band Mile Twelve. In addition to her instrumental chops, she knows how to bring out the best in others. Her deep knowledge of and facility on the banjo combined with her generous and helpful disposition make her a teacher in high demand.

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Howard Apr 4, 2017
Banjo · In studio

BB is a fabulous instructor. Obviously a great, talented musician, she is equally committed to her teaching skills. She is patient, inspiring and motivating...and lessons are great fun!

Mary Jun 8, 2016
Banjo · In home

BB is a great teacher. Her lessons focus allow me to start playing tunes right away. It provides immediate satisfaction to be able to make music with a new instrument.

Matt R. Jun 3, 2016
Banjo · Online

Great instruction.

Barbara Feb 20, 2016
Banjo · In studio

It is rare to find a great banjo player who is also a great teacher, but BB is the whole package. I have been studying with BB for about 3 years and have been impressed with her ability to craft lessons tailored to my learning style and abilities. She somehow manages to make the most of our time, whether I have practiced daily with a metronome or barely picked up the banjo. She is always prepared, attentive, patient, motivating, and wise about what will help me progress. She has a vast well of musical knowledge and teaching techniques to draw on in her lessons. BB is a truly gifted and generous teacher.

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Florencia Feb 17, 2016
Banjo · In studio

BB is such an amazing teacher! I started playing the banjo for the first time about 4 months ago and thanks to her I feel like I've really come a long way. She's enthusiastic, patient, eager to help and just a fun person to be around! I always look forward to my banjo lessons, her love for the instrument is contagious. I'm so glad I found her and absolutely recommend her as a teacher!

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Ken Feb 16, 2016
Banjo · In studio

Catherine is a wonderful teacher with amazing patience trying to teach this old dog new tricks. She is very professional, yet caring and interested in my development as a musician. I usually leave the lesson enthusiastic to try new exercises, lessons and ideas. She is also a wonderfully accomplished working musician, and enjoys sharing what she's learned through her own experience. I highly recommend her.

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Tim Feb 16, 2016
Banjo · In studio

I've been fortunate enough to work with BB for about a year and a half now. I'm sure if not for my busy home and work life she'd have me sounding like Earl Scruggs. Because she is so versatile herself in just about any style of banjo picking- Scruggs, melodic, clawhammer, traditional, modern, bluegrass, jazz- she can relate to the needs and struggles of pickers from all backgrounds and knows how to gently and encouragingly push them in the direction they need to go. There was a time that finding such expert instruction was difficult in the Boston area, but the ever increasing bluegrass scene has attracted some of the most talent players to the Boston area and for my money BB is at the top of the list.

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Ed Feb 16, 2016
Banjo · In studio

Catherine (aka BB!) has been my banjo teacher for about two years. During that time, I have made tremendous progress and have developed a real passion for the banjo. She is first and foremost an incredibly talented player herself and importantly, banjo is her main instrument versus other teachers who are, for example, guitarists who also play banjo. Banjo is its own thing and in my view this matters a lot!

BB teaches at the level of the student and has been very patient and encouraging with me especially at the beginning I struggled through more complicated passages and ideas. She is also flexible about both the "curriculum" (i.e., she is comfortable with the student helping to set direction) and the pacing and timing of lessons, which is great for me because I can't always commit to a set schedule.

Best of all for me have been the results. I have now gotten to the level where I can easily sit in with and contribute to pick-up jam sessions, and I have even performed a number of times with a group I formed. I would highly recommend BB as a teacher for anyone interested in learning the banjo!

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Michael Feb 16, 2016
Banjo · In studio

I can't believe the stroke of luck that befell me in finding BB. With little musical talent, a horrible short-term experience with another banjo teacher a decade earlier, and no idea how to hold a banjo, I happened upon her two years ago. While it might be possible to find other talented banjo players who profess to teach, BB is—in fact—a fabulous teacher. For those of us who need a teacher who has a process, who can look at our individual learning needs, and be good humored and patient, she’s the one. My biggest worry in writing this review is that she will have a bit less flexibility with a larger teaching load, but if that mean more aspiring banjo players benefit from her talents, so be it.

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