How To Write A Banjo Concerto – Béla Fleck

During 2011 while Béla Fleck was writing his banjo concerto, The Imposter, he was closely tailed by filmmaker Sascha Paladino to capture the process. Entering the realm of the symphony orchestra was something completely new for Fleck, who doesn’t read music, much less have training in orchestration or composition.

But he agreed to the challenge when he was approached by the Nashville Symphony about commissioning such a long form work.

Béla was willing to take the risk of having this ordeal filmed, as he trusted Paladino from their work together on a previous film, Throw Down Your Heart, which chronicled Fleck’s 2007 journey of musical discovery in West Africa. Oh… and the two are half brothers.

The resulting 96 minute film, Béla Fleck: How To Write A Banjo Concerto, is completed and set for screenings at film festivals this Spring. It is described as an intensely personal portrait, including discussions and interviews of an introspective nature, following Béla from the time he accepted the commission up to the premiere performance in September 2011.

Others included in the presentation are Edgar Meyer, Chick Corea, Marcus Roberts, Future Man, Julian Lage, Chris Thile, Earl Scruggs, Noam Pikelny, Abigail Washburn, and Greg Liszt.

Here’s a peek at the trailer…


Béla Fleck: How To Write A Banjo Concerto will be screened at this weekend’s Green Mountain Film Festival in Montpelier, VT, and next month at the Nashville Film Festival.

Visit the film’s web site for more details.

UPDATE 3/18/24 – The full-length film can be purchased on DVD, or rented for viewing at Amazon Prime.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.