The recently re-constituted European Bluegrass Music Association (EBMA) board, with Irish banjo player living in Belgium Eugene O’Brien as the chairperson, has issued a mission statement indicating a new direction for organization.
The EBMA came into being in February 2001 following the evolution of the European Bluegrass Network into an association with statutes, a board and paying members.
The EBMA’s original mission statement spoke of working together to support bluegrass music and each other across national borders. The EBMA also wanted to promote and facilitate the sharing of bluegrass music enjoyment across borders (regional or national), support musicians, bands, fans, organizaations, professionals and all connected to bluegrass music.
Initially, the EBMA retained links with the European World of Bluegrass Festival (EWoB), first held in 1997, in Voorthuizen (Netherlands), and created to serve as a focal point for European bluegrass music.
The EBMA continued its relationship with EWoB until 2011 when the organisations amicably went their separate ways, although EBMA would continue to be a guest at the EWOB, and the EWoB would be a part of the festival networking offered by EBMA.
Since 2008 EBMA has held a number of bluegrass music summits at various festivals and events around Europe in order to give a voice to EBMA members and others actively involved in European bluegrass music. It has continued to support and develop Europe bluegrass music.
About 2010/2011 the first European Directory was compiled, listing bands, festivals organisers etc. across Europe.
Originally, the organisation’s magazine, Bluegrass Europe, was launched in April 1998, as a private initiative, by the first EBMA Chairman, Paolo Dettwiler, and published bi-monthly. The sixth edition, published in February 1999, incorporated the German magazine, Bluegrass Bühne, and from the sixteenth edition it was published as a triple-publication with Strictly Country magazine.
From April 2011, with issue #79, the magazine was re-designed with a BE flagstaff and became an independent quarterly magazine, as continues to be the case to date.
In October 2014 the EBMA was presented with the IBMA’s Distinguished Achievement Award.
Bluegrass Today asked O’Brien, “What were the driving forces that has led you to these new initiatives?”
There were two motivations:
The first was that while EBMA had contributed a lot to the growth of European bluegrass, it risked being left behind and becoming irrelevant if it did not develop a new focus and purpose.
In my view EBMA needed to adopt a pro-active and business-like approach, working with, and for, those that are actively involved in the European scene; the bands, festivals, promoters, luthiers, teachers and businesses.
The second was fairly obvious in that we should invest time, effort and finance in the people who would be the movers and shakers of the future. So EBMA will look support the development of young musicians and bands as well as spreading the bluegrass “gospel” to a wider and younger audience.
EBMA will not be forgetting the fans; it is the fans that keep bluegrass alive. EBMA will continue to be a source of information about what is on and what is happening in bluegrass, and by taking the approach that I have outlined, it will be working hard for the fans to ensure that bluegrass in Europe continues to grow.
Here, in full, is the EBMA statement ……..
Summer is here and the European Bluegrass world is in full swing. I have lost count of the number of Facebook posts and individual mails telling me about festivals, bands, workshops, concerts, jams, tours etc. …All show that the European Bluegrass Scene is active, healthy and spreading far and wide.
The new EBMA Board has been in office for three months and in that time it we have taken a good look at what EBMA has done and what it should be doing in the future. So now is the right time to tell you about the New Direction that we propose for EBMA.
EBMA already has a programme in place where musicians may request grants to support their learning and development. So far the uptake has been small mainly because it has not been so well known and also because the funding was not readily available.
So that we help more and more young musicians get in touch with great teachers and performers, this will be expanded into a Youth Scholarship Programme, with grants that will cover the whole or part of the cost to send good young musicians to workshops and camps in Europe and the USA.
Funding will come from EBMA resources, arrangements with the camp and workshop organisers, commercial sponsorship and, if possible, even through “crowd funding”.
The Youth Scholarship Programme will be open to any European based young musician or singer and membership of EBMA will not be a requirement.
Details will be on the new EBMA website (to be launched soon, see below) and on social media. But those who would like to apply through the Programme can register their interest by sending a mail with their details to Board@ebma.org
We have received many comments about what EBMA does, or to be precise, what it does not do, for the bands.
To serve the bands we will be instituting a Band Membership category. Each band that joins EBMA will be included in the new EBMA website with their details and pictures, embedded videos and mp3 file(s), as well as information on their CDs and links to their own website.
EBMA plans to do more for bands and will consult with them about how best we can do that. One particular initiative is for bands making their first CD to get expertise and advice AND to apply for a grant/loan towards the final production costs of their first CD.
The European Festival Network (EFN) has been excellent in promoting European Bluegrass by booking bands from across Europe, giving them the opportunity to play to new audiences, and for the fans to listen to new bands and to encourage them to travel around Europe to different and new festivals.
EBMA will continue to maintain and grow the EFN; on the website each EFN festival will be included with information, dates, embedded videos and links to their own website. As each festival date approaches they will be prominently featured on the Home page.
The Fans and Consultation
The Fans are the bedrock of the music, without them then we would have no music at all. EBMA will continue to do what it has done in keeping them informed about events, through the EBMA website, Bluegrass Europe, the EBMA Blog and Social Media.
But we need to know more about what the Bluegrass Community expects from EBMA. We want to know what else we can do. We are initiating an online survey open to all Bluegrass fans and those actively involved in music as performers, organisers and promoters to lets us know what they want from EBMA.
We expect to launch this survey as soon as the new website is up and running.
EBMA has joined with the city of Waldkraiburg, Germany in a joint venture for a major Bluegrass event to be held in their “Haus der Kultur” over the weekend of 23/24 September 2016. This event will differ from previous Gatherings in that EBMA will be playing an active part in its structure and organisation. We want to make this a major event in the Bluegrass Calendar for 2016.
This event will feature European Bluegrass bands, along with one from the USA, and it will also have some structured jam sessions for musicians of all levels as well as teaching workshops. The venue is spacious and has excellent facilities, lots of room to join a jam session…and to get away from one!
Waldkraiburg is set in the attractive Bavarian countryside with plenty of accommodation in the city and surrounding areas.
Still in the early planning stages, more details will follow but please put this date in your diary, it promises to be very special.
Are you a promising but secret journalist? Is there a topic that you wish would be covered in the magazine? Is there a CD that you think needs a review?
Now is the time to put all that right and send your articles and other submissions to the editor. Seriously, we want to involve you more in the input and output of the magazine. Bluegrass Europe is your magazine so come forward and make a contribution.
As many of you will have seen, recent issues of Bluegrass Europe were made available through the Facebook page. This will continue on the new website but in addition, EBMA members will also be able to view the current edition of the magazine, so you will get it by mail, and online.
The New EBMA Website
Thanks mainly to Richard Cifersky and Stu Vincent and with input from the other Board members, we are close to launching a new EBMA website.
As part of the New Direction it will focus on events, bands, and fans, to give everyone a bigger and better picture of what is happening with Bluegrass across Europe and to provide a dynamic view of European Bluegrass to the rest of the world.
This first phase will be to replace the old site with a basic version and to improve it stage by stage. Again we welcome suggestions and comments as soon as it is launched
Wanted for the Board
When the new EBMA Board took office in April we did not have enough people to fill all the tasks. We are now looking for two new members of the Board; one to become the Treasurer and the other to become Membership Secretary.
This is an opportunity to become more involved in European Bluegrass and in helping EBMA achieve its new goals. If you are interested in either of these roles then please mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
On behalf of the EBMA Board I wish all of you a very happy and sunny summer, with plenty of good music, good food and probably some sleepless nights at the festivals. If you see me around then please grab me and say hello.
We are working for you; so if there is anything you want to say then do not hesitate to mail me at email@example.com
The other EBMA board members are Susie Bowe, Italy; Richard Cifersky, Slovak Republic; Martino Coppo, Italy; Chris Keenan, Ireland; and Stuart Vincent, Great Britain.