Andy Denny lives with his family and builds banjos in Mazeppa, Minnesota. Located in the southeastern part of the state among scenic bluffs and river valleys, Mazeppa was founded in 1855, three years before Minnesota became a state at a time when the banjo was beginning to emerge as a uniquely American instrument. Today, with a distinctive sound in mind for his openback banjos as well as a committed approach to building, Andy works to continue the evolution of the instrument, with a nod to tradition and an eye towards the future.
The sound that Andy wants from his banjos in is neither excessively bright nor overbearing. It’s warm and full, suitable for solo playing and compatible with other acoustic string instruments. And his approach to building? It’s simple. Keep it affordable, use good quality parts and emphasize craftsmanship in all things.
Andy graduated from the violin repair program at Minnesota State College Southeast Technical in Red Wing, and he also repairs violins. Among his banjo building mentors are Tom Nechville, who he’s worked with since 2007. Another is Wayne Sagmoen, another Minnesota builder who showed Andy several techniques including the practice of using a wooden band to anchor the brackets. Andy has also studied with Michigan-based banjo builder Bart Reiter, and he works on an ongoing basis with award-winning violin maker David Folland in Northfield, Minnesota.
As much as possible, Andy builds banjos with locally available woods such as cherry, walnut and maple. He prefers traditional woodworking tools and builds his banjos with hide glue and a shellac finish.
If you’re looking for a resonant, easy playing banjo, contact Andy today. Finished banjos are available at his shop in Mazeppa or at Cadenza Music in St. Paul, and he can ship anywhere in the U.S. or internationally.
Custom options are also available. If there’s a certain sound you have in mind or a playing style your prefer, choices can include the pot size, scale length, wood, head, bridge and hardware.