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Mike Munford, master of banjo, honed skills in Baltimore
Mike Munford, master of banjo, honed skills in Baltimore

The world's best banjo player of the past year lives in a log cabin about 40 miles from Baltimore. On a recent Wednesday afternoon, 55-year-old Mike Munford sat on a couch in his living room in Glen Rock, Pa. He held his favorite banjo, a Gibson five-string, as his Labrador-mix Miki rested her head by his side. Then Munford began to play, first goofing around a bit to fill the silence, and then playing a combination of more complicated riffs he'd written. He even mixed in "Carol of the Bells." With a fluid, near-hypnotic rhythm generated mostly from his thumb, index and middle fingers, Munford, a Roland Park native who still calls Baltimore "home base,"...

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