2023 IBMA Industry Awards presentation

Country Gongbang at the 2023 IBMA Industry Awards – photo © Frank Baker

Missy Raines served as emcee for this year’s IBMA Industry Awards, recognizing those in the bluegrass community that work diligently to promote our genre. The event was sponsored by the California Bluegrass Association and publishers of the Bluegrass Breakdown newsletter.

“I have come to every single IBMA event and this one is dear to my heart,” expressed Raines as she stepped to the microphone to begin the Thursday midday luncheon and awards ceremony. “It makes me laugh, makes me cry, and to get to share this time with our community… tears of joy, tears of sadness.”

This year’s Industry awards were presented to:

  • Writer of the Year – Chris Jones (Bluegrass Today)
  • Liner Notes of the Year – Sam Bush and Jon Weisberger (Radio John: Songs of John Hartford)
  • Sound Engineer of the Year – Steve Chandler (Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum sound engineer, Rounder Records, Hilltop Studios)
  • Broadcaster of the Year – Ned Luberecki (SiriusXM)
  • Graphic Designer of the Year – Grace van’t Hof
  • Songwriter of the Year – Tim Stafford
  • Event of the Year – Blue Highway Fest (Big Stone Gap, VA)

Recognition was also given to Distinguished Achievement Award recipients: Terry Baucom, Tom Ewing, The Bluegrass Situation, Carl Goldstein, and Red Wine.

Banjoist Jens Kruger presented Bauc his award. “I saw the impact he had. I saw a shift in the entire industry.”

Terry’s wife, Knee Deep In Bluegrass radio host Cindy Baucom, shared, “Banjoists refer to his Lower on the Hog lick (from the original IIIrd Tyme Out recording).”

Upon accepting his award, Bauc received a standing ovation from all those in attendance.

Noted bluegrass author Neil Rosenberg presented Tom Ewing’s award.

“Few knew Bill Monroe as well as Tom. He joined the Blue Grass Boys in 1986, and for ten years he served as his last guitarist. He became a Monroe authority and interviewed nearly 70 former Blue Grass Boys for his 600 page Bill Monroe: The Life and Music of Blue Grass Man (2018),” Rosenberg shared. 

Ewing was unable to attend, and Laurie Matheson of the University of Illinois Press accepted the award in his absence.

Jon Weisberger presented the Bluegrass Situation (BGS), roots culture redefined.

“It promotes the full range of bluegrass in all its diversity,” Weisberger stated.

Co-founders Amy Reitnouer Jacobs and Ed Helms began a blog in 2012, and their online presence rapidly grew.

Jacobs shared, “I moved to LA and found my people in bluegrass.” She thanked Helms (who was not present) for his incredible trust for the past 12 years. “We are just getting started.”

Katy Daley, Bluegrass Stories podcaster, presented Carl Goldstein’s award. “He was a Delaware lawyer who in 1966 wrote the letter of incorporation for Bluegrass Unlimited. He has been a person of integrity of bluegrass for over five decades.”

Goldstein was humbled. “I am honored and grateful for this remarkable award. In 1971, Ralph Stanley called me about sponsoring the first bluegrass festival in the northeast. We held our 51st festival this past year.”

Christopher Howard-Williams gave Red Wine of Italy their award. “No other bluegrass band, out of this country with day jobs, has drawn such a following.”

Founded in 1978, they first toured the US in 1995.

“In 2018, we scored 40 years,” one of the Red Wine band mates relayed. “Tim O’Brien told us that keeping a bluegrass band together 40 years in Italy was like keeping an ice cube in the desert for 40 years.”

Becky Buller and Fred Bartenstein recognized those that earned IBMA Foundation grants:

  • Appalachian Fiddle & Bluegrass Associ bluegrass ation (PA)
  • Arts Quest (PA)
  • Asheville Symphony with artist-in-residence Bela Fleck (NC)
  • Birthplace of Country Music Museum I’ve Endured: Women in Old-Time Music exhibit (TN)
  • California Bluegrass Association Bluegrass Bridge program at Avenal State Prison, ETSU String Band Summit, Junior Appalachian Musicians (KY, NC, SC, VA)
  • Louisville Folk Music School bluegrass summer camp (KY)
  • a new bluegrass club at CA intermediate school, Queen Bee Bluegrass Camp (CA, NM)
  • the RW Bluegrass Jam (VA)
  • Pathways JAM at Earl Scruggs Festival (NC)
  • Wintergrass Music Festival Youth Orchestra (WA)

Arnold Shultz Fund grants:

  • Dancing with the Spirit (AK)
  • Decolonizing the Music Room’s African American Roots (TX)
  • Elephant Grass Musical Chairs Band school programs (Kenya)
  • Grassy Strings (India)
  • Jam Pak Blues N Grass camp (AZ)
  • Leadership Bluegrass scholarship for Gieselle Tambe-Ebot (AZ)
  • Montgomery Museum of Art & History (VA)
  • Lamont Pearley (KY)
  • Nelson Williams (LA)Azere Wilson

College scholarships:

  • Lucy Becker
  • Cade Botts
  • Alaina Majkz
  • Liam Purcell
  • Jack Rehbeck

Fletcher Bright Memorial Grants:

  • Bayla Davis
  • Judah Davis
  • Rae Lee Deatin
  • Sophia DiChiara
  • Alice Gould
  • Maxwell Klett
  • Jessica Lang
  • Rosy Lopez
  • Sam Mougin
  • Carlos Parra
  • Lucy Tanji
  • Joshua Willis
  • Alasya Zeweldi

Performing during the awards presentations was South Korean bluegrass band Country Gongbang.

Interim IBMA Executive Director, Paul Schiminger, explained how the young quintet came to America. “They applied for a grant to come to the World of Bluegrass. They were selected from a field to 25 applicants. It is a two-piece process. This year they perform throughout the week 10 times. Next year, they return to play the Station Inn, the Grand Ole Opry, ROMP, and Grey Fox festivals.”

Raines concluded the ceremony… “This has been a great celebration of people that do this for the love of music and the community with an insane drive. You bring so much to the table. Thank you.”

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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.