High Five

Tony Trischka and unique players

Tony Trischka.
Tony Trischka.

When the Banjo Summit comes to Sanders Theatre on Thursday, it brings with it a veritable who’s who of the instrument’s pioneers and those who will carry the torch. We recently asked Tony Trischka , who’s in the lineup, to reflect on five of his tour mates and what makes them unique players.

1. Bill Keith “He revolutionized banjo playing in the early ’60s [as part of a Boston-based bluegrass duo with Jim Rooney and as a member of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys]. He spread his melodic style around the world and basically reinvented banjo. Half the stuff I do and Béla [Fleck] does, we wouldn’t be doing without Bill.”

2. Béla Fleck “He’s another trailblazer. He broke the gentleman’s agreement on how good you could get on the banjo. You can be good, but not that good. Playing what Béla does, you really have to spend years working on various techniques. He did things that hadn’t even been considered before.”


3. Abigail Washburn “She’s a triple threat because she plays the banjo, she sings amazingly, and she sings in English and Chinese. She creates a whole world when she sings; you lose the sense of where you are. In a relaxed way, she’s very powerful with the mood and setting she creates.”

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4. Eric Weissberg “He was one of my big influences very early on. The very first banjo album I ever had was called ‘Folk Banjo Styles,’ and he and Marshall Brickman played on that. And, of course, he played ‘Dueling Banjos’ [on the ‘Deliverance’ soundtrack]. That was hugely influential in getting a lot of people to play the banjo.”

5. Noam Pikelny (from Punch Brothers) “What can you say about Noam? With any of these guys [on this tour], I can understand what they’re doing. When Noam plays, I think, ‘What are you doing? How do you do that?’ The question has always been, who will be the next major innovator after Béla? And Noam’s the guy.”


Presented by the Celebrity Series of Boston, the Banjo Summit is at Sanders Theatre in Cambridge on Thursday, 7:30 p.m. The show is sold out.