Once upon a time in America, the banjo was almost exclusively associated with the South. But a new concert tour, featuring six banjo masters with ties to New York, demonstrates that prime pickers also come from north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Headlined by Béla Fleck and Tony Trischka, the 2006 Banjo Summit was one of the most memorable Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State presentations of the last decade. Fleck, who's won more than a dozen Grammy Awards, and Trischka return to Eisenhower Auditorium Thursday for Banjo Summit 2 with super strummers Bill Keith, Richie Stearns, Eric Weissberg and Pete "Dr. Banjo" Wernick.
Fiddler Alex Hargreaves, bassist Corey DiMario, mandolinist Jesse Cobb and guitarist Russ Barenberg back the banjoists.
Fleck, generally regarded as the most accomplished master of the instrument, leads a concert that finds the banjo performed in conventional and unexpected ways. From solos and duets to full-tilt banjo blowouts, the concert features the banjo in traditional settings, including bluegrass and country, along with unconventional banjo genres such as jazz, rock and classical.
Hear my interview with Trischka, a banjo player so innovative and respected that Fleck, as a teenager, sought him out for lessons.
Read my in-depth feature article about Banjo Summit 2.
Tickets are still available for the Nov. 1 concert on the University Park campus.
Artistic Viewpoints, an informal moderated discussion featuring Wernick, is offered in Eisenhower one hour before the concert and is free for concert ticket holders. Artistic Viewpoints seating is limited.