Early in a blistering set at the Birchmere Music Hall Friday night in Alexandria, Va., Tony Rice made it clear that music wasn’t the only thing on his mind. Referring to the horrible news from Japan that was just starting to spread, Rice said, “If you so desire, ask your man upstairs to send them some help, because they’re sure going to need it.”
Call me naïve, but I think we in the bluegrass community can – and should – do more than that, though prayers are essential. Japan has a thriving bluegrass culture, with clubs and festivals, and the musicians and fans there play a big role in spreading our music and preserving its roots and traditions.
And now they need our help.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that many musicians and fans aren’t walking around with money falling out of our pockets – there’s a reason my bumper sticker says, “Bluegrass Musician, Driver Has No Cash.” But many of those without a lot of money do have a lot of talent and celebrity cache that can be put to good use.
So here’s my pitch. Let’s start the Bluegrass Musicians and Fans For Japan fund, set a goal and a date for reaching that goal – and then let’s get started. I’m thinking $100,000 is a reachable target, but maybe I’m shooting too low! And I’m thinking the start of the IBMA conference and festival in late September is a good date to shoot for, although funds would be distributed as they come in.
Here’s what we need to get started:
- A bank to set up an account to hold and distribute the money. If you or someone you know is a banker, speak up!
- A volunteer board to figure out how to distribute the money, and volunteers to come up with ideas to raise it, get the word out, etc. We don’t need to limit this to cash contributions. The bluegrass community has always stepped forward to help our own in times of need with benefit concerts. We could also auction off donated goods and services – a house concert by a band, signed instruments … the possibilities are endless.
- A strategy for getting the word out. For starters, I’m using this article to ask my bosses at Bluegrass Today to donate some advertising space. If there’s a printer in the audience, maybe we can scare up some posters and flyers for upcoming festivals.
I’ll write a $1,000 check to get things started and will volunteer for the board or work in any other capacity.
Trouble finds us all, and some of us get saddled with more than our share. But in ways big and small, the bluegrass community always rises to the occasion. Now is one of those times.
If you’re willing to help or have suggestions, email me at email@example.com, use the comments box on this page or get in touch with the folks at Bluegrass Today. The sooner we get started, the sooner we can help. Thanks!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Of course, we will be only too pleased to offer whatever help we can in this effort.