Fleck is known for bringing the banjo back to Africa, where it was invented. He chronicled that adventure in his 2008 documentary, "Throw Down Your Heart."
"The African instrument is a gourd, or a carved out piece of wood with a skin stretched over it and gut strings, with fretless broomstick neck," Fleck said. "After it had been here for a century or two, it became a more refined, modern instrument with frets, and a metal, circular design."
Some bluegrass music can be traced back to Africa as well. According to Fleck, traditional African music and bluegrass are centered on a main melody and strong beats, rather than different harmonies. Fleck will play some of the music he learned while traveling in Africa during the performance.
But most of the concert will center on what the banjo is known and loved for here in the States - bluegrass, jazz and rock. "The music made on [the banjo] in the United States has acted as major building blocks in creating the heart of blues, jazz and folk music," Fleck said. "Those are American, and so is the banjo now. [But] just like an immigrant who has gotten his or her citizenship, the banjo should never forget where it comes from."
Fleck doesn't believe, however, that the banjo's versatility is specific to the instrument itself. Many instruments have cross-genre capabilities, he noted. "It's really dependent on the musician who plays it."
The summit's participants are a good example of that, he continued. "You will find a vast amount of musical experience in this amazing group of banjo players.
"Richie Stearns is fantastic at the old-time music styles, but with his own twist. Tony Trischka can play you perfect versions of minstrel music from the early 1900s. Several of the guys will play marvelous [Earl] Scruggs style, and there are some phenomenal innovators in the crew. Everyone is fantastic, and I can't wait to see how this tour develops."
Béla Fleck Banjo Summit, 8 p.m. Friday, Grand Opera House, 818 N. Market St., Wilmington, Del., $34-$48, 302-652-5577, thegrandwilmington.org.
Art Attack is a partnership with Drexel University and is supported by a grant from the Knight/NEA Community Arts Journalism Challenge, administered by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.