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A virtuoso five-string banjo player, Noam Pikelny was born February 27, 1981 in Chicago, Illinois. His childhood, he has said lightheartedly, was split between the Chicago Cubs' Wrigley Field and the Old Town School of Folk Music. He was already playing in traditional bluegrass bands while he was in high school, and went on to study music at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, after which he moved to Boulder, Colorado. He joined the Colorado ensemble Leftover Salmon in 2002 (he remained with the band until 2004), and two years later he issued his first solo album, In the Maze, on Compass Records. Pikelny relocated to Nashville in 2006 and began playing with New Grass Revival bassist and singer John Cowan. He also started playing with mandolinist Chris Thile that same year in the progressive chamber bluegrass band Punch Brothers. His second solo album, Beat the Devil & Carry a Rail, appeared from Compass Records in 2011.