Preview of The NY Banjo – A Five-String Summit, State Theatre, November 2nd

Dan Smalls Presents brings a wonderful night of music to The State Theatre in Ithaca on November 2, 2012 with NY Banjo -A Five-String Summit featuring Bela Fleck, with Tony Trischka, Eric Weissberg (Dueling Banjos), Richie Stearns, Peter Wernick (Hot Rize), and Mac Benford (Backwoods Band).  Doors to this show open at 7:00 p.m. and music begins at 8:00 p.m.  Tickets are available online through the theater’s website and via the box office and range from $29.50 to $36.50.  Gold Circle tickets (preferred seating) available for $42.50.

The NY Banjo – A Five-String Summit has a very rich tradition.  So rich, in fact, it reaches beyond its own ten year history and into the history of the banjo’s story.  Actually an instrument with African heritage, the banjo began to assume its place in the culture of americana music around the 1930s.  Pete Seeger was at the apex of that effort, and his time touring with Woodie Guthrie helped catapult him along with, and perhaps through, the burgeoning folk scene of the time.  Audiences began to embrace the banjo as a lead instrument, and as the lead instrument in many cases.  Largely because Seeger was not only an expert technician but also so adept at fusing politics and social issues with song, he and his banjo filled a much needed niche in the country given the political and social climate of the changing times.  New York City began to flourish with the sounds of flying fingers and a wave of young musicians emerged hungry to lend their thumb picks to the cause.  Among those musicians was Eric Weissberg, ultimate member of the NY Banjo Summit, who studied for a time at the nimble hands of Pete.

Bluegrass groups began to take shape and New York City was a hotspot in the early 50s, at the cutting edge of the wave.  Through the rise of Mike Seeger and The New Lost City Ramblers, The New York Ramblers and The Down State Rebels and many others, banjo players were evolving and developing their own styles.  Naturally, they cooperated, work-shopped, and listened to each other, drawing out the best innovative ideas each had to offer and strengthening the overall community.  Mac Benford and his 5 string were upstate, and so entered Ithaca’s part of this tale with Benford’s The Highwoods Stringband.  Other notable bluegrass musicians included in his I-town contemporaries include Walt Koken, Howie Bursen, and Ken Perlman and as they are wont to do, these musicians all began to collectively establish a community supportive of their genre in the Southern Tier, a healthy extension of downstate’s scene.  Communities easily blossomed into networks and it is from that The NY Banjo Summit was planned in 2002.


In the 1970s, Bela Fleck was living among the downstate limb of the body of New York bluegrass and is a part the next wave of appreciation for the banjo.  He studied under Tony Trischka and whittled his craft to precision.  He has unique techniques of interacting with his instrument and he is both traditional and progressive.


That’s quite a history and quite a root stock running through New York!  This history was recognized in 2002 when the  Empire State Plaza Performing Arts Center in Albany, NY, assembled an all star group of banjo aficionados for the first New York Banjo concert.  This marks the 10 year reunion of that effort and a 10-city New York Banjo Summit tour arose in honor of the accomplishment.

For additional information regarding this show, please reference the State Theater and Dan Smalls Presents websites.  Gold Circle Seats refer to the first 10 rows in the center section of the theater and also the first 2 rows of the balcony section.

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