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Noam Pikelny
NoamPikelny 09 2007.jpg
Noam Pikelny 2017
Background information
Born (1981-02-27) February 27, 1981 (age 43)
Origin Chicago, Illinois
Genres Progressive bluegrass
Instruments Banjo
Labels Compass Records, Rounder Records

Noam David Pikelny (born February 27, 1981) is an American banjoist. He is a member of the groups Punch Brothers, Mighty Poplar 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.

Early life, family and education

Pikelny was born in Chicago, Illinois, and raised in nearby Skokie, Illinois. He started playing banjo when he was 8 years old. 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 the music group 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. 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 Punch, their first official album as a band, on Nonesuch Records on February 26, 2008.


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

In 2014 at the International Bluegrass Music Awards he was named banjo player of the year by the International Bluegrass Music Association; he received it again in 2017. He also received the album of the year award for Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe - the same album that would be nominated for "Best Bluegrass Album" at the Grammy Awards in 2015.

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

Personal life

Pikelny resides in Nashville, Tennessee.


Solo recordings

Title Album details Peak chart
US Grass US Heat
In the Maze
  • Release date: July 20, 2004
  • Label: Compass Records
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

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

Punch Brothers

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
2022 Hell on Church Street Nonesuch
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