IBMA Chief Discusses Awards

IBMA AwardsIBMA Executive Director Nancy Cardwell is interested in hearing from members who have ideas about the rules for the association’s award for emerging artist of the year.

Cardwell responded after my commentary last month, which pointed out what I saw as some shortcomings in IBMA’s awards process, and which attracted a number of reader comments.

One of my issues: That the emerging artist award should go to an up-and-coming artist or band, not a band that happens to consist of terrific veterans who are getting together as a unit for the first time or a band that includes a couple of newcomers and a long-standing picker or two.

Cardwell seems open to change, or at least considering it.

Nancy Cardwell“If any IBMA member is dissatisfied with the criteria for the Emerging Artist of the Year, I strongly urge him/her to come up with a proposal for the board to consider that would clarify or change the criteria,” she said. “I’m especially interested in taking a look at this one, in light of the new Momentum Awards.”

The emerging artist award is selected by IMBA’s professional members in several rounds of voting. The momentum nominees and winners are chosen by a special committee, with no vote of the broader membership.

This year’s band nominees for the Momentum Award are The Bankesters, Cumberland River, Front Country, the Snyder Family Band and Town Mountain. The emerging artist nominees are Della Mae, Flatt Lonesome, Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen, the Spinney Brothers and the Darrell Webb Band.

Cardwell also addressed a point I made about avoiding the appearance of a conflict of interest in the awards process. While nothing prevents a board member from being eligible for an award, she said there are provisions for members of special awards committees to step down from the committee for a year in which they have any connection to a nomination.

This year, for the first time, the special committees chose the five finalists for each category, but the winners will be chosen by the Panel of Electors – 200-300 professional members with more than 10 years of bluegrass industry experience.

The committees for the special awards are listed on the IBMA website. Cardwell advised against listing the special committees in headlines because, “I want them to be able to quietly and almost anonymously be able to do their jobs.” Since the selections for this year have already been made, though, and since the list is available to anyone who stumbles across it on the web site, I’m comfortable putting the link here.

As far as I can determine, the Panel of Electors isn’t listed on the web site. But Cardwell said the information will be made available. “Any member can request a look at this list,” she said. “It’s not a deep, dark secret.” (I encourage anyone who is interested to ask to see the list, but out of fairness to the executive director and her small staff, I suggest waiting until after the IBMA’s annual conference in Raleigh, N.C., at the end of the month. Everybody is busy now getting ready.)

I’m interested in the thoughts and comments of Bluegrass Today readers, especially on the topic of rules for the emerging artist award. Who should be eligible? Is the emerging artist category even necessary now that the Momentum Awards seem to cover the same ground? Post away.

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About the Author

David Morris

David Morris, an award-winning songwriter and journalist, has written for Bluegrass Today since its inception. He joined its predecessor, The Bluegrass Blog, in 2010. His 40-year career in journalism included more than 13 years with The Associated Press, a stint as chief White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, and several top editing jobs in Washington, D.C. He is a life member of IBMA and the DC Bluegrass Union. He and co-writers won the bluegrass category in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in 2015.