Date line: Raleigh, NC

Chris JonesDate line: Raleigh, NC

This is traditionally a short column, written some time in between the IBMA World of Bluegrass keynote address and a showcase I need to attend at Tir Na Nog (that’s a local pub which I believe is named for an Irish beverage very similar to egg nog, but with “tir-na” or “tdhihr-nhiaa” substituting for eggs—I have no idea what it actually is).

I’ll just offer a few observations on what is officially Day 1 of bluegrass music’s biggest week:

At the conclusion of lengthy IBMA board meetings, which saw the introduction of new members and the election of new officers, outgoing chairman Jon Weisberger appeared to be weightless, floating around the Raleigh Convention Center just about an inch off the ground, unable to stop smiling. Meanwhile, incoming chairman Tim Surrett seemed to have acquired a lot of that weight, though fortunately not on his body. He just seemed to have it stored in his computer bag, which looked really difficult to carry. Ben Surratt, the new vice chair (who is now one heartbeat and one letter away from the top job), looked cautious.

The first round of seminars concluded with good reviews, especially for the one about how to condense an entire autobiography into 140 Twitter-friendly characters or less. Example: “I was born, played with toy trucks, lots of other stuff happened, played music for a living, got tired of it, opened an ice cream store.”

In her introduction to the attendees, Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane welcomed members to the third IBMA WOB to be held in Raleigh, highlighting the benefits to both the IBMA and to the city of this successful association. She made no comment on the fact that once a year now, Raleigh’s homeless are being given, unsolicited, more bluegrass artists’ CDs and showcase flyers than they can handle, and they’re starting to protest.

Nick Forster, in his keynote address, talked about the importance of art, and the division between art and commerce (i.e. ain’t none of us getting rich here), and gave some interesting background on his journey to bluegrass and the early days of Hot Rize. Nick  demonstrates, that although in theory you can come from anywhere in the world and play bluegrass music, it’s generally considered to be more authentic if you’re from Beirut.

Paul Schiminger, the new IBMA Executive Director gave an enthusiastic speech, inspiring confidence in the attendees, while graciously thanking staff and board members. When he asked the audience to speculate on what it was that would lead him to leave a good job, uproot his family, and take on this very challenging position, one heckler-type at my table mumbled “some very bad advice?”.

The answer, of course, is he did it for the love of the music, which is really why we’re all here and why we do this. For that, we’re truly thankful.