Banjo Virtuoso, Teacher Tony Trischka Returns to SU Oct. 12

October 13, 2009

Banjo Virtuoso, Teacher Tony Trischka Returns to SU for Public ‘Demo, Conversation’ Oct. 12

October 9, 2009

Tony Trischka ’85, eminent banjo musician and “godfather of new acoustic music” (The New York Times), is paying a rare visit to his alma mater, Syracuse University, thanks to a special honors course. Trischka’s appearance, billed as a special “demo and conversation,” is Monday, Oct. 12, at 2:40 p.m. in room 500 of SU’s Hall of Languages.

Trischka’s visit is made possible by SU’s Renée Crown University Honors Program, in connection with the interdisciplinary course “Linked Lenses: Science, Philosophy and the Pursuit of Knowledge” (HNR 250). That evening, Trischka will treat HNR 250 students to an innovative program of “tunes and toons” with acclaimed New Yorker cartoonist Matthew Diffee. HNR 250 is team-taught by professors Cathryn Newton and Samuel Gorovitz.

“Tony Trishka is remarkable for the combination of his virtuosity and his intellectual scope,” says Gorovitz, founding director of the Crown Honors Program and professor of philosophy in The College of Arts and Sciences. “As composer and performer, Tony is reflective about the relationship between his art and the other arts.”

Newton observes, “Trischka pursues an unusually wide range of collaborations across the arts and he is particularly energized by working with emerging musicians. As teacher and mentor, he has created a lineage of superb bluegrass musicians, and he takes great pride in their work.” In this spirit, Trischka contributed to Steve Martin’s brilliant collection of original banjo pieces, “The Crow,” and he continues to work with students. It is a point of special pride, Newton says, that Trischka is himself part of the lineage of students in our Art and Music Histories Department— a degree he began in the early 1970s and completed years later. Newton is Arts and Sciences’ dean emerita and SU’s first professor of interdisciplinary sciences.

A native of Syracuse and son of SU Physics Professor John Trischka, Tony Trischka fell in love with the banjo in 1963 after hearing the Kingston Trio’s recording of “Charlie and the M.T.A.” Within two years, he joined local favorites the Down City Ramblers and performed with them until 1971. He toured extensively over the following years with Country Cooking, Country Granola, Breakfast Special and the Monroe Doctrine; recorded several solo albums; and served as music director of the Broadway musical “The Robber Bridegroom.”

Since the 1980s, Trischka has attained prominence as a bandleader (Skyline and Psychograss), film musician (“Foxfire” and “Driving Miss Daisy”), radio performer (“A Prairie Home Companion,” “Mountain Stage” and “From Our Front Porch”), teacher and clinician. His Grammy-nominated “Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular” (Rounder, 2007), featuring Steve Martin, Earl Scruggs and international “new-grass” star Béla Fleck earned Trischka the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) “Banjo Player of the Year” award and was named IBMA’s “Recorded Event of the Year.” Recently, Trischka has been touring “Territory” (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 2008), featuring a luminous cast of five-stringed pickers.

“I’ve always admired [Trischka’s] inventiveness,” says bluegrass legend Del McCoury. “Wherever he goes musically, he always keeps it interesting. He’s got a right hand that just won’t quit.”

The Renée Crown University Honors Program is administered by The College of Arts and Sciences for undergraduates across the schools and colleges.