Noam Pikelny

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Noam Pikelny
Noam Pikelny 2017
Noam Pikelny 2017
Background information
Born (1981-02-27) February 27, 1981 (age 42)[1]
OriginChicago, Illinois USA[1]
GenresProgressive bluegrass
LabelsCompass Records, Rounder Records
Member ofPunch Brothers
Formerly ofLeftover Salmon
Caitlin Canty

Noam Pikelny (born February 27, 1981, in Chicago, Illinois[2]) is an American banjoist. He is a member of the group Punch Brothers and was previously in Leftover Salmon as well as the John Cowan Band. Pikelny is a nine-time Grammy Award nominee, winning once in 2019 for Best Folk Album.[3]


Pikelny started playing banjo when he was 8 years old.[4] He took lessons at Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music. In high school, he began studying with Greg Cahill of the Chicago bluegrass band The Special Consensus.

Pikelny was in Leftover Salmon from 2002 until leaving in 2004 to play in the John Cowan Band from 2004 to 2006 - playing on the band's "New Tattoo" record, just before the formation of Punch Brothers in that same year. Chris Thile of Nickel Creek was planning to form a string quintet, but did not know what direction he wanted to take it, except that he wanted it to include fiddler Gabe Witcher. After Thile had a jam session with Witcher, Pikelny, bassist Greg Garrison and guitarist Chris Eldridge, he decided he wanted the band to be a quintet. The band was called "The How to Grow a Band" in 2006 when they were the backing band on Thile's solo release How to Grow a Woman from the Ground, as well as the following supporting shows.[5] After on and off touring throughout 2007 coinciding with Nickel Creek's Farewell (For Now) Tour, the band's name was changed to the "Tensions Mountain Boys" briefly, and subsequently to Punch Brothers (borrowed from a short story by Mark Twain). Punch Brothers released their first official album as a band, Punch, on Nonesuch Records on February 26, 2008.

A native of Skokie, Illinois, Pikelny currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee.[6]


Pikelny was the recipient of the 2010 Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass.[7] On November 5, 2010, he appeared on Late Show with David Letterman playing a comedic version of "Dueling Banjos" alongside Martin, and later performed with Martin and Punch Brothers.[8] Pikelny's 2011 album Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail was nominated for Best Bluegrass Album in the 2013 Grammy Awards.[9]

In 2014 at the International Bluegrass Music Awards he was named banjo player of the year by the International Bluegrass Music Association, an award that he also received in 2017.[10] He also received the album of the year award for Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe[11] - the same album that would be nominated for "Best Bluegrass Album" at the 57th annual GRAMMY® Awards in 2015.[12]

In 2019 Punch Brothers won a Grammy Award for best Folk Album for their album "All Ashore."


Solo recordings[edit]

Title Album details Peak chart
US Grass US Heat
In the Maze
Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail
  • Release date: October 25, 2011
  • Label: Compass Records
3 27
Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe
  • Release date: October 1, 2013
  • Label: Compass Records
2 21
Universal Favorite 2
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Leftover Salmon[edit]

Year Title Label
2003 O' Cracker Where Art Thou' Pitch-a-Tent
2004 Leftover Salmon Compendia

Punch Brothers[edit]

Year Title Label
2006 How to Grow a Woman from the Ground Sugar Hill
2008 Punch Nonesuch
2010 Antifogmatic Nonesuch
2012 Who's Feeling Young Now? Nonesuch
2015 The Phosphorescent Blues Nonesuch
2018 All Ashore Nonesuch


  1. ^ a b Bluegrass Unlimited June 2007
  2. ^ "MTV Music". MTV.
  3. ^[bare URL]
  4. ^ Leahey, Andrew (2017-03-01). "See Punch Brothers' Noam Pikelny Perform Lively 'Old Banjo'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2019-01-30.
  5. ^ Royko, David. "Pikelny is pros' top banjo picker". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 27 June 2012.
  6. ^ Dickinson, Chrissie (January 23, 2013). "Take your picker: Student and teacher vying for bluegrass album Grammy". Best Bluegrass Album at the Grammys. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
  7. ^ "Noam Pikelny Wins the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass". September 8, 2010.
  8. ^ "Late Show with David Letterman". November 5, 2010.
  9. ^ MTV news staff (2012-12-06). "2013 Grammy Nominations: The Full List". MTV. Retrieved 2012-12-08.
  10. ^ Betts, Stephen L. (2017-09-29). "2017 Bluegrass Awards: Earls of Leicester Named Entertainer of the Year". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2017-09-30.
  11. ^ "Balsam Range Named IBMA's Entertainer of the Year". Country Music Television. 3 October 2014. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  12. ^ "57th Grammy Awards Nominees". Billboard. 5 December 2014.

External links[edit]