Béla Fleck has reinvented the image of the banjo through a remarkable performing and recording career that has taken him all over the musical map and on a multitude of solo projects and collaborations. The 15-time Grammy Award winner is considered the premier banjo player in the world. Born and raised in New York City, he began his musical career playing the guitar. In the early 1960s, while watching the Beverly Hillbillies, the bluegrass sounds of Flatt & Scruggs flowed from the TV set and Earl Scruggs’ banjo style hooked Fleck’s interest. It wasn’t until 1973, the week he entered New York City’s High School of Music and Art, that his grandfather bought him a banjo and it became his full time passion.
Any world-class musician born with the names Béla (for Bartok), Anton (for Webern) and Léos (for Janacek), as was Fleck, would seem destined to play classical music. Already a powerfully creative force in bluegrass, jazz, pop, rock and world beat, Fleck made his first venture into the classical music world with Perpetual Motion, his critically acclaimed 2001 Sony Classical recording. It went on to win a pair of Grammys, including Best Classical Crossover Album. Collaborating on Perpetual Motion was Fleck’s long time friend and colleague Edgar Meyer, a bassist and composer whose virtuosity defies labels. In the wake of that album’s release, Fleck and Meyer came up with the idea of a banjo/bass duo, which they developed and refined during a concert tour of the U.S. They later went on to compose two concerti for the Nashville Symphony–a double concerto for banjo and bass which debuted in 2003, as well as a triple concerto, The Melody of Rhythm, with Zakir Hussain, the Indian tabla virtuoso. In 2012 Fleck wrote Night Flight Over Water for Banjo and String Quartet and recorded it with genre bending Brooklyn Rider.
In 2011 Fleck premiered The Impostor Concerto with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. He will perform its West Coast premiere with the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra on Opening Night, August 1, 2014, conducted by Marin Alsop. The composer and the making of The Impostor Concerto are the subject of a newly released documentary, which will be shown at the Del Mar Theatre on July 30, 7:30pm. A Q&A with Béla Fleck will follow.
Visit Béla Fleck’s website.