The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.
Front and Center: Deering Banjo Company Inc. CEO, Janet Deering
by Pauline France
Deering Banjo Company calls itself The Great American Banjo Company – and rightfully so.
Founded by visionary couple Greg and Janet Deering in 1975, and based in Spring Valley, Calif., just 10 miles east of Downtown San Diego, Deering Banjo Company has become the leading banjo manufacturer in the United States.
The family-run business offers a full range of American-made banjos, including the Deering, Vega, Tenbrooks, and Goodtime banjos, all hand-built by Mr. and Mrs. Deering and their team of 48 dedicated banjo specialists, who hold a combined 231 years of banjo-building expertise.
The company also boasts an impressive artist roster featuring names like Mumford & Sons, Ashley Campbell, Béla Fleck, “Mean” Mary James, and many others.
Mrs. Deering, who now holds the position of CEO at Deering Banjo Company, earned her way to the top through lots of arduous work – she’s done everything from bookkeeping to sanding, but has always managed to find time to play banjo along the way.
When asked what type of advice she would give to women with aspirations within the music products industry, Mrs. Deering says, “Don’t give up when you are discouraged – just keep on going. Perfect your craft to the highest level of professionalism and you will succeed if you are persistent. Success takes time – it won’t happen overnight.”
The formidable CEO also discusses how she’s seen the banjo industry evolve since her company’s inception more than 40 years ago, what she wishes everybody knew about the banjo, and some exciting news about upcoming leadership for Deering Banjo Company. Hint: it’ll stay within the family.
Learn more at www.deeringbanjos.com.
WiMN: Are you a musician? If so, what do you play and for how long?
JD: Yes – I have played banjo and guitar for about 30 years.
WiMN: Since founding Deering Banjos in 1975 with your husband Greg, what different roles have you held within the company?
JD: I began as a craftswoman sanding the banjo parts, staining them, and doing the in-between coat sanding and buffing of the final finished parts for the first 15 years; all the while taking the orders, doing the bookkeeping, promotion and financial management.
In 1990 I became focused on administration and delegated my production jobs. I developed our sales and marketing programs and hired and trained a sales and marketing team. I organized our inventory cage and helped to implement lean manufacturing into our company in the last 10 years, and I have been the CEO for the past 15 years.
WiMN: What’s one thing you wish everyone knew about banjos?
JD: How much fun they are to play and how quickly one can learn to play one. They are tuned in a G chord and so one can do a bar cord on every fret and play a song without any complex fingering in the beginning. Songs can be learned in just a few minutes with our two-finger banjo method.
WiMN: What advice do you have for women pursuing a career in the music products industry?
JD: Don’t give up when you are discouraged – just keep on going. Perfect your craft to the highest level of professionalism and you will succeed if you are persistent. Success takes time – it won’t happen overnight.
WiMN: What type of outreach does Deering Banjos to female musicians?
JD: We work with many female artists the world over and include them in our family of Deering artists equally with male musicians. While banjo may have originally been a male-dominated instrument, this is very much not the case now. You can find women such as Alison Brown and Rhiannon Giddens, among the top most respected banjo players in the world.
In every aspect of our company and in our artist relations women are respected. In addition to this, we make lighter-weight banjos so they are more comfortable for some women to handle, as well as our Parlor banjos for those who need a shorter distance to reach on the neck.
WiMN: How do you think banjo ranks in popularity now compared to four decades ago?
JD: Banjo has grown in popularity at a very fast pace since the introduction of the Internet because now information is freely available all over the world to learn about banjos, and you can see on YouTube how they are played. Banjo popularity has skyrocketed in the last 40 years.
This has been spurred on by artists who have brought the banjo to new audiences, such as the Dixie Chicks, Steve Martin, Mumford & Sons and Taylor Swift. And now continuing the movement there are artists such as Elle King who can be seen regularly rocking a banjo!
WiMN: Who are some amazing female banjo players people should know about?
JD: Alison Brown, Beverly Dillard, Mean Mary, Linda Williams, Rhiannon Giddens, Taylor Swift, Ashley Campbell, Elle King, Kasey Musgraves, Shook Twins, Randy Abby, Paula Fernandez, and Willow Osborne and Abigail Washburn.
WiMN: Anything else you’d like to add?
JD: Set high goals and high standards for yourself. Continue to be creative in promotion and outreach and just don’t give up – there is always a way to solve every problem in life if you seek the solution and continue to go forward to find it.
Our daughter, Jamie Deering is working as our V.P. Public Service & Outreach and will provide leadership for Deering Banjos into the future.