Béla Fleck Dares Students to Explore Musical Frontier
Banjo legend and esteemed composer Béla Fleck, who has been nominated in more Grammy categories than any other musician, met with Berklee students on Saturday, March 12 at Warner Music Nashville as part of the college’s annual spring break trip. Fleck, who is currently working on a project with renowned jazz pianist Chick Corea, is best known for his work with the group he founded, Béla Fleck and the Flecktones.
The eclectic group, featuring the virtuosic bassist and Berklee teacher Victor Wooten, is known for its eclectic incorporation of jazz, bluegrass, Celtic, and other genres, and will soon reunite for a two-week touring stint that will include a stop at this year’s Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Displaying his incredible banjo technique for students, Fleck said, "The banjo is kind of a percussion instrument if you play it right."
Fleck advised students not to limit themselves to what might be considered a “standard” path in music, pointing to himself as an example of what is possible when thinking outside of the box.
“It seemed like a long shot that I could have a career playing esoteric banjo,” Fleck said. “Find something that no one else is into that you can be the king of, because then you’re not competing with anybody. That’s a great thing to look for for all of you. You don’t want to be songwriter number 127 when you sit down for the audition. You want to be the one that has that thing that nobody else has.”
Fleck said that he has suggested this approach in his producing work with Berklee alumna and mandolin player/vocalist Sierra Hull ’11, who will also deliver a clinic to students as part of the Nashville trip.