Banjo Summit 2 to feature Bela Fleck, other prime pickers on Nov. 1

October 03, 2012

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Headlined by Béla Fleck and Tony Trischka, the 2006 Banjo Summit was one of the most memorable Center for the Performing Arts presentations of the last decade. Fleck and Trischka return to Penn State’s Eisenhower Auditorium on the University Park campus— along with banjo masters Bill Keith, Richie Stearns, Eric Weissberg and Peter “Dr. Banjo” Wernick — for Banjo Summit 2 at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 1.

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 with all six players, the concert features the banjo in traditional settings, including bluegrass and country, along with unconventional banjo genres such as jazz, classical and rock.

The banjo was once associated almost exclusively with the South. But the Banjo Summit 2 tour, featuring six banjo masters with ties to New York, demonstrates that prime pickers also come from north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

The banjo had a regional following in the southern Appalachians because that was the home of bluegrass. But the folk revival, which began in the 1950s and blossomed in the 1960s, along with the growth of television, introduced bluegrass to the North. The banjo also figures prominently in African-American musical traditions. The precursors to today’s banjo came from Africa and were introduced to the Americas by slaves.

“I got into it through the folk scare of the early ’60s — the Kingston Trio — and then from there found bluegrass,” said Trischka, who grew up in Syracuse. “Béla Fleck (a native of New York City) heard the Beverly Hillbillies, which was, you know, the national media.”

Keith is a trailblazer of melodic-style playing. Stearns, perhaps best known as a member of the Horse Flies, helped revive the old-time clawhammer style in rock settings. Weissberg had a No. 1 hit with “Dueling Banjos,” the theme from the "Deliverance" soundtrack. Wernick is an influential instruction-book author and force in bands such as Hot Rize and Country Cooking.

Fiddler Alex Hargreaves, bassist Corey DiMario, mandolinist Jesse Cobb and guitarist Russ Barenberg form Banjo Summit 2’s backup band.

Corvette America will sponsor the performance. Artistic Viewpoints, an informal moderated discussion featuring a visiting artist or local expert, will be offered in Eisenhower one hour before the performance and is free for ticket holders. Artistic Viewpoints regularly fills to capacity, so seating is available on a first-arrival basis.

Tickets for the concert are $48 for an adult, $19 for a University Park student and $29 for those 18 and younger. Tickets are available online at or by phone at 814-863-0255 or 800-ARTS-TIX. Tickets are also available at four State College locations: Eisenhower Auditorium (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays), Penn State Downtown Theatre Center (9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays), HUB-Robeson Center Information Desk (11 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays) and Bryce Jordan Center (10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays). A grant from the University Park Allocation Committee makes discounted ticket prices for students possible. For more information, view the Center for the Performing Arts on Facebook at

Last Updated October 03, 2012