Applications open for IBMA Arnold Shultz Fund grants

The IBMA Foundation is now accepting applications for grants to be provided next year from their recently-established Arnold Schultz Fund. Grants will be made for qualified activities, scholarships, or programs designed to increase participation in bluegrass music by people of color.

Launched earlier this year, the Arnold Schultz Fund hopes to encourage contemporary black Americans to reclaim the legacy of their ancestors’ involvement in the development of what we know as bluegrass today. In naming this effort, the Foundation honors the man that Bill Monroe listed as among his greatest influences, Arnold Schultz, the son of a freed slave, from whom he picked up the blues side of his music. Arnold was a fiddler, a guitarist, and a vocalist, and he taught young Bill a great deal about the traditional music he played, and gave Monroe his first professional gig.

For several generations, bluegrass and even country music had developed a reputation among black music lovers as a “white thing,” partly because record companies promoted music that way at the time bluegrass was new. Perhaps as a result, radio was segmented as well into black and white markets, and new musical styles grew up side by side, but in different lanes. It didn’t help that some venues in parts of the country prevented black Americans from attending shows where bluegrass might be performed.

Now, with more and more young black and mixed race people reaching for information about their past in this country, the Foundation is poised to do their part to invite those interested in traditional string music into the bluegrass fold. This effort is also meant to include indigenous native people, Pacific Islanders, Asians, and Latinos typically underrepresented in bluegrass circles.

Applications for 2021 grants, expected to total $5,000, must be received by January 31, 2021. Further details and a downloadable application form can be found online.

The IBMA Foundation offers these suggestions for the sorts of programs that will be eligible for 2021 grants, though not meant to be an exhaustive list.

  • Programs designed to encourage participation in bluegrass music by people of color of any age (e.g. producing or distributing an educational bluegrass video, creating an online bluegrass workshop designed for people of color, bluegrass mentor program, etc.).
  • Bluegrass performance outreach programs to populations that are underrepresented in bluegrass.
  • Scholarship or expense reimbursement for people of color to attend a bluegrass music camp, take bluegrass music lessons, attend a school or program focused on bluegrass music or the bluegrass industry (e.g., music business), etc. 
  • Funding for an instrument or instrument lending program, particularly if it benefits people of color with economic challenges that keep them from being able to own an instrument and play bluegrass music.

Priority will be given to programs or activities that demonstrate a commitment to inclusivity and serving diverse, underrepresented populations in bluegrass music. 

Donations to the IBMA Foundation in support of the Arnold Schultz Fund can also be made online, with these contributions earmarked for this specific campaign. Donations of any kind are always welcome.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.