A number of people have contacted us, asking about the controversy during last week’s International Bluegrass Music Awards, or wondering why we haven’t covered it on Bluegrass Today. Both Brance and I were at the show (live blogging backstage), and had the chance to watch the controversy develop, before, during and after the show itself.
There have been strident and emotional reactions to the inclusion of a patriotic-themed presentation during the Awards Show, and it has led to some upheaval within IBMA’s leadership. We have contacted many of the folks directly involved to get their comment, but feel that we need to address it here now.
In a nutshell, what happened is this:
The producers of the show had included two numbers with what was described in an official press release about ten days prior as having a “patriotic theme.” This was to include a song by Rhonda Vincent, and a performance by the US Navy bluegrass band, Country Current. A number of non-US members of IBMA felt that this was adding an inappropriately political tone to the show, and that a salute to the US military was a slight to the notion that IBMA was an international organization. Several US members shared this assessment.
These concerns were conveyed to the IBMA Board, who met with non-US members just days before the show, and amongst themselves to address these concerns. A decision was reached by the Board that the Navy band would be asked to change the song which they had originally been asked to perform – a medley of US military service anthems – and instead perform one of Chief Wayne Taylor’s original songs.
Rhonda’s performance was to go on as planned, with a tribute offered to US service men and women. Several representatives of the various military branches were to join her on stage, standing silently stage left and right, to be spotlighted for recognition during the song.
At the show, Country Current performed the newly-inserted song as per their new agreement with IBMA, but then launched into the service themes as per their original agreement. There is dispute among the principals – chiefly Wayne Taylor and former IBMA President David Crow – over the conversation that followed this performance, and whether the Navy Band had been authorized to include the second song. Crow resigned immediately following the performance.
In a letter to the IBMA membership, he indicated that his resignation should be seen as his assumption of responsibility for having “lied” to the membership in saying that the military anthems medley would be removed, but a subsequent letter suggested that a desire to dedicate more time to his family and legal practice – both rapidly growing – also played a large part in his decision.
There has been no official statement from IBMA about this as yet, but we have asked Executive Director Dan Hays to speak with us about it when he feels it is appropriate.
We are also seeking comment from the show’s producers, Rhonda Vincent’s management and the Navy band. I can’t swear that we can get all the details, but we’ll try, and will report what we can find out.
UPDATE 11:20 a.m.: Jon Weisberger emailed to correct an error he found in this post, to wit that IBMA had made no official statement about this controvery. He passed along a statement that he had sent on Monday to the IBMA member discussion list on behalf of the Executive Committee, posted as coming from Greg Cahill, Stan Zdonik and himself.
“Since the staging of the IBMA’s annual Awards Show on Thursday night, members of the Board of Directors’ Executive Committee have conferred both in person and by telephone to discuss aspects of the show that contravened the Committee’s and the Board’s prior decisions. The Committee views the failure to implement these decisions with deep concern, and is undertaking a timely review of events to establish responsibility for the failure. The results, along with recommendations for appropriate actions, will be communicated as rapidly as possible to the Board for consideration.”