Bela Fleck to open summer series

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The internationally renowned banjo player Bela Fleck will kick off the Steamboat Springs Free Summer Concert Series.

On June 22, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones are set to play in Steamboat Springs as the first of six free summer concerts.

Bela Fleck, who has played the banjo since he was 15, has his roots in bluegrass, but the band Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, formed in1989, has diverged into a mixture of jazz, funk, rock and bluegrass.

"When banjo players of any type are mentioned, you always hear Bela's name," John Waldman of Great Knight Productions said. "He is one of the best banjo players in the world, hands down."

Fleck is the only musician to be nominated for Grammys in jazz, bluegrass, pop, country, spoken word, Christian, composition and world music categories, the Flecktones Web site notes.

Booking the band was a chance of luck, Waldman said.

The band is scheduled to play at the Telluride Blue Grass Festival the week before its Steamboat appearance then travels to California for a weekend show. They had extra time in between their trip from California to Illinois, Waldman said.

"They really weren't planning to play anywhere else in Colorado. But last week I got a call that there was a hole in their schedule," Waldman said. "It was good, good timing."

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones will be one of the bigger names in this year's series, Waldman said. The series also will bring Sonia Dada on July 10, the South Austin Jug Band on July 30, Galactic on Aug. 12, Little Feat on Sept. 4 and Dilbert McClinton on Sept. 5.

The two Labor Day weekend concerts will be held at the base of Headwall at the ski area, but times are undetermined. All other concerts will be held at 5:30 p.m., but locations are undetermined.

In its 12th year, the Free Summer Concert Series started as a small gathering of music lovers on the courthouse lawn, but it has grown to an audience of thousands with the budget to bring in acts such as last year's lineup of Creedence Clearwater Revisited and Los Lobos.

"It has definitely become a community staple of the summer," Waldman said.

The city of Steamboat Springs sponsors the series with $25,000. B&K Distributors, Steamboat Ski Corp., the Downtown Business Association and the Mountain Business Association are other contributors.

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