Trajan Wellington, 17, of Ashe, Awarded 2016 Brian Friesen Award at MerleFest by Deering

Published Monday, May 2, 2016 at 10:04 am
merlefest 2016

This year’s Brian Friesen Award recipient 17-year-old Trajan Wellington (left) of Ashe County, N.C. accepts his banjo from Greg and Janet Deering (center), owners of the Deering Banjo Company. Jam Camp host Pete Wernick (right) nominated Trajan for the award. Photo by Misty McGuire Case.

Deering Banjo Company selected MerleFest 2016 for the presentation of this year’s Brian Friesen Award. Trajan Wellington, a 17-year-old promising young banjo player from Ashe County received the award on Wednesday evening at the pre-MerleFest Jam Camp, and he displayed his talent on the new banjo on the Cabin Stage on Thursday evening. The award, created as a joint memorial by noted bluegrass radio host Orin Friesen and the Deering Banjo Company, is presented to a deserving young player otherwise unable to afford a professional-level banjo.


This year’s Brian Friesen Award winner, Trajan Wellington (right), performed Thursday evening on the Cabin Stage using his new Deering Banjo. He was accompanied by Liam Purcell, also a Jam Camp alumni.

Friesen’s son Brian, who is memorialized by the award, always loved banjo music in his young life that ended suddenly in 1994 at age seven of a brain aneurysm. This year’s award was the tenth banjo donated by Deering to honor him in the 21 years since the award’s inception. Each banjo bears an armrest engraved with the “Brian Friesen Award” and the date of presentation.

Trajan Wellington is a high school junior who took up Scruggs-style bluegrass banjo just three years ago. He was nominated by Pete “Dr. Banjo” Wernick, director of the pre-MerleFest Jam Camp, who was highly impressed by the youngster’s musicality and excellent learning attitude at last year’s the camp. Wellington is a member of the Wilkes region youth bluegrass band Cane Mill Road, which performed in Argentina last year to great acclaim at a world youth music festival.

Potential recipients of the award are nominated by members of the musical community who identify talented young players with limited resources for acquiring a high-level banjo. In 2013, a teenage girl in Russia, performing on a borrowed instrument with a youth bluegrass band, was presented a Brian Friesen Banjo by the U.S. Ambassador in Moscow. At age 5, Ryan Holiday was the youngest person to receive the award and the youngest performer ever to play on the Grand Ole Opry stage.

More About MerleFest

MerleFest, considered one of the premier music festivals in the country, is an annual homecoming of musicians and music fans held on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of the son of the late American music legend Doc Watson, renowned guitarist Eddy Merle Watson. MerleFest is a celebration of “traditional plus” music, a unique mix of music based on the traditional, roots-oriented sounds of the Appalachian region, including bluegrass and old-time music, and expanded to include Americana, country, blues, rock and many other styles. The festival hosts a diverse mix of artists on its 13 stages during the course of the four-day event. The annual event has become the primary fundraiser for the WCC Endowment Corporation, funding scholarships, capital projects and other educational needs.

More About Deering Banjo Company

Greg and Janet Deering started the Deering Banjo Company in 1975 as a family business. Deering Banjo Company offers a full range of American made banjos, including Deering, Vega, Tenbrook and Goodtime banjos, all hand built by Greg and Janet and their team of 48 dedicated banjo specialists. Deering focuses on making only banjos so that its staff’s 231 years of combined banjo building expertise is directed toward making the highest quality banjos in all price ranges and providing the best banjos in the world. In its 40-year history, Deering Banjo Company has made more than 100,000 banjos, each hand-crafted with special attention to every detail. To learn more about Deering Banjo Company’s selection of banjos, visit or call 800-845-7791.

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