2022 IBMA Industry Award winners and Distinguished Achievement Awards

Bill Evans presents a Distinguished Achievement Award to Dan Crary (9/29/22) – photo © Frank Baker

IBMA’s annual Industry Awards luncheon, sponsored by the California Bluegrass Association, brought together some of the best and the brightest in the bluegrass music industry. The midday meeting recognized the impact the hard work of the various support people have made on the music community over the years.

With the witty and talented Tim Stafford serving as MC, the mood was light and the action fast-paced.

“I’m pleased to be here. We’re giving away some really important awards,” the longtime Blue Highway guitarist began. “When I was 15, I saw my first bluegrass concert at the Carter Family Fold, and heard Raymond McClain pick the banjo and it blew my mind. I said that looks like a lot of fun and I could make a lot of money.”

Once the laughter died down, Stafford introduced Ruth McClain of the McClain Family Band and Morehead State University to recognize IBMA Foundation projects and their recipients.

McClain stated, “At the Foundation, we work with you to create a brighter future for bluegrass music.”

Project Grant recipients:

  • Ashe County Arts Council in North Carolina, for the Ola Belle Reed Songwriters Retreat
  • Ballard Performing Arts Booster Club in Washington, for the Ballard High School Fiddlers
  • Bluegrass Battles Hunger in Missouri, for artist-in-residency program
  • Cabell County Schools in West Viriginia, for developing a new appreciation of bluegrass music through artists in schools
  • Carrizozo Elementary School in New Mexico, for American Roots Guitar with Bill Evans
  • East Tennessee State University in TN, for the 2022 String Band Summit
  • Monroe Mandolin Camp in Virginia, for the 9th Annual Monroe Mandolin Camp
  • Annie Savage in Iowa, for Free Strings Jam Bluegrass Module
  • Earl Scruggs Center in NC, for Roots and Strings: the Foundations of Bluegrass
  • Sisters Folk Festival in Oregon, for Bluegrass Jam Camp
  • Tellico Plains Junior Appalachian Musicians in TN, for Jam Programs

The second round of the Arnold Shultz Fund (encourages participation in bluegrass music by people of color) grants were awarded to:

  • Dancing with the Spirit in Alaska, for bluegrass song videos and curriculum for Alaskan Village Schools
  • Jam Pak Blue ‘N Grass in Arizona, for the Fair Black Rose Band, World of Bluegrass CD
  • Kealakai Center for Pacific Strings in Hawaii, for the Royal Hawaiian, Roost of America’s Acoustic Heart documentary film
  • Oscar Chilumo Mbwana and Stepanie Waithera Mwaura in Nairobi, Kenya, for Zoom fiddle lessons
  • Oakland Public Conservatory of Music in CA, for the Black Banjo & Fiddle Fellowship
  • PineCone in NC, for the Arnold Shultz Tribute Performance at IBMA’S WOB and documentary video
  • Eric Shi of Zhejiang, China, for Educational Bluegrass Videos

The first J.D. Crowe Banjo Scholarship was award to Max Allard of Oberlin Music Conservatory. Katy Daley Broadcasting & Sound Engineering Scholarships were awarded to Faith Pierce of Berklee College of Music and Chun Si Lee at UNC-Asheville. IBMA Bluegrass College Scholarship went to Jalee Roberts at Middle Tennessee State University. Sally Ann Forrester Scholarship recipients were Bethany Kelley of Berklee and Gracie Mae Grossman of ETSU. The Rick Lang Music Songwriter Scholarship was presented to Hayley King of Morehead State University, and the Rosenberg Scholar Award was given to Gabby Cameron of the University of Maryland.

The winners for the 2022 IBMA Industry Awards were:

  • Writer of the year – Akira Otsuka
  • Broadcaster of the year – Chris Jones
  • Liner notes of the year – Ted Olson, Doc Watson – Life’s Work: A Retrospective
  • Sound engineer of the year – Steve Chandler
  • Songwriter of the year – Ronnie Bowman
  • Graphic designer of the year – Grace van’t Hof
  • Event of the year – Industrial Strength Bluegrass Festival, Wilmington, OH

2022 Distinguished Achievement Awards were presented to:

  • Dan Crary
  • FreshGrass Foundation
  • PegHead Nation
  • Steve Huber
  • Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will the Circle Be Unbroken album’s 50th anniversary

Bill Evans presented the award to Dan Crary who was not present, but provided a video comment.

“Dan has his own style,” Evans shared. “Today is his 83rd birthday.”

Evans then led the crowd of 300 in singing Happy Birthday, recording it on his cell phone for the flatpicking legend.

Alison Brown paid homage to FreshGrass Foundation.

The banjoist shared, “It is the best kept secret in bluegrass.”

She relayed about their festivals, scholarships, commission of artists, and much more, including the Steve Martin Banjo Award.

Martin made a video appearance, praising the non-profit organization. “Thanks for the work you’re doing. It’s fantastic.”

Sharon Gilchrist presented PegHead Nation’s award. 

“PegHead has been a leader on-line in music education.”

Steve Huber spoke after receiving his Distinguished Achievement Award.

“I’ve had so many opportunities with so many great bands.’ The banjo-picker and builder recalled his beginnings with the instrument. “My mom said multiple times, ‘That’s a pretty loud instrument. Are you sure you want to play that?’ My dad, who’s 83, still makes all my resonators. I hope he doesn’t stop because I have no clue how to make one.”

Climaxing the Distinguish Awards was Jerry Douglas’ presentation to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band for the 50th anniversary of their 1972 bluegrass collaboration album, Will the Circle Be Unbroken.

Flux shared of the triple album, “Every 25-30 years there’s a renaissance in our music. We’re in one now. The Dirt Band started it when they cut Will the Circle be Unbroken. Music is what calms and heals.”

Two of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band members, John McEuen and Les Thompson, were on hand to accept the award.

Thompson confessed, “We traveled to Nashville and would go to Earl’s house, jam, talk, and play. As a teenager, I had white knuckles and was totally devastated. I wasn’t worthy to be playing with these guys. I told Vassar (Clements), ‘I’m not even sure I know these songs.’ Vassar said, ‘Let’s just sit near each other and you can just follow my lead.’ Follow his lead? I would play one note out of his 400! Bill Monroe was the only one who said no to the project. That meant I got to play almost all the mandolin on the album.”

At the close of the ceremony,  musical entertainment was provided by the California Bluegrass Reunion. The powerhouse ensemble of musicians included Darol Anger, Chad Manning on fiddles, Bill Evans on banjo, John Resichman on mandolin, Jim Nunnally on guitar, and Sharon Gilchrist on bass.

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.