Growing bluegrass music in Reno

Mountain Music Parlor in Reno, NVSurely many of our readers live in areas that might be described as a “bluegrass wasteland.” These may be places where some bluegrass fans may live, but no one is actively sponsoring or promoting the music at live shows. Or it could be a spot where the locals just don’t know much about bluegrass, even though some fans do exist.

Typically, to turn a bluegrass desert into an oasis of plinking and plunking, somebody has to take the lead. I’ve seen an active scene develop where a local music store dedicates energy to the music, or where an active amateur bluegrass association is located. In any event, education is an important element in growing a bluegrass community, just as it would have to be for any pastime with the level of fan participation we experience in bluegrass.

For Cindy Gray and a number of like-minded folks in Reno, NV, The Mountain Music Parlor is the culmination of such a plan, and a great deal of hard work. They have rehabbed an old home and turned it into a setting where they can offer classes for people who want to learn to play bluegrass. While advanced classes and workshops are offered regularly, they specialize in turning listeners into pickers with a rotating schedule of programs in the various stringed instruments, plus music appreciation and history courses.

Cindy says that she got involved after a life playing folk and bluegrass music when when she moved to Nevada and found the amount of acoustic music wanting.

Fiddle class at the Mountain Music Parlor“We started this ‘dream’ of playing and promoting bluegrass and traditional music in 2005 when we started our non-profit organization (originally called, Nevada Bluegrass Project, later changed to Traditional American Music Project).

Our organization promotes and presents this music through festivals (our 2011 Americana Music Festival made the USA Today Top Ten list of best bluegrass festivals in the country!), concerts, classes and workshops. But we never had a home until we partnered with the owners of this historical building in Reno. Renovating the house took about a year and a half, and we started offering classes out of it in August.

We modeled our program on the Swallow Hill Folk School in Denver.”

And now that the school is open, the Traditional American Music Project is hoping to convert an adjacent warehouse into a concert space. They are using Kickstarter to raise money for the construction and renovation work.

Whichever way the fundraising goes, Cindy says that they are determined to complete the project.

“The warehouse is a bigger project. It’s a cinder block building that was added on (in the 1960’s) to the original 1906 house—it has a sort of Station Inn feel to it! We’re hoping to have it open by late Spring/Summer. The Kickstarter Campaign will certainly help us, if we can succeed in meeting our funding goal. But even if we don’t get Kickstarter Funds, we’ll press on and get ‘er done!”

To tell their story, this video was created to help engage crowd souring efforts.

This is how it’s done, folks. Don’t wait around for somebody else to start promoting bluegrass and acoustic folk music where it isn’t popular – do it yourself! Hat’s off to Cindy and Renee, and all the Reno folks who are working to making this a reality.

If you want to offer financial assistance, there are many options available at their Kickstarter page.

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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.