IBMA Foundation announces $14,000 in 2020 grants

The IBMA Foundation, the charitable arm of the International Bluegrass Music Association, has announced the recipients of their 2020 grants.

The Foundation functions as a bundler for donors who wish to make contributions to further the growth of bluegrass music, but who may lack the industry awareness to choose among the many deserving groups seeking assistance. The staff at the Foundation investigate the various submissions, and award grants that average roughly $2,000 each year.

Board chair Fred Bartenstein says that this year’s grants go to 8 organizations totaling $14,000.

“We’re proud to announce a diverse list of recipients for 2020 which will support bluegrass education, historic preservation and leadership development programs for both young people and adults across the globe. We are grateful to our donors, whose generosity has made it possible to award grants to these very deserving programs.”

The newly announced recipients for 2020 include:

  • Acoustic Music Seminar (Savannah Music Festival) – Savannah, GA
  • Ballard High School Fiddlers – Seattle, WA
  • Bluegrass Day Camp for Kids (Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua) – Washburn, WI
  • IBMA Leadership Bluegrass – Nashville, TN
  • A Life of Sorrow: The Life & Times of Carter Stanley, presented by Showtimers Community Theatre – Roanoke, VA
  • Mateřská škola Bludovice (Kindergarten Bludovice: Bluegrass to Kindergarten) – Nový Jičín, Czech Republic
  • Stokes Junior Mountain Music and 3rd Saturday Grass – Danbury, NC
  • Yadkin Junior Appalachian Musicians – Yadkinville, NC

The IBMA Foundation has provided these thumbnail descriptions of the grant awardees.

The Acoustic Music Seminar in Savannah, GA, is a part of the Savannah Music Festival, a 17-day spring festival presenting a diverse selection of genres including bluegrass, jazz, classical, Americana, and international music styles. SMF provides cost-free, year-round education to more than 10,000 local students and more than 300 young musicians through four programs, including the Acoustic Music Seminar. Now in its ninth year. AMS is a week-long residency program that mentors aspiring virtuoso bluegrass musicians and songwriters. Every year 16 young musicians up to 22 years of age are hand-selected by online audition and travel to Savannah from across the globe to participate. Designed to honor traditions and to nurture future leaders in bluegrass and acoustic music, participants receive six days of intense coaching, collaboration, and hands-on instruction with master class faculty, punctuated by visits from festival artists. The program is led by Associate Artistic Director Mike Marshall, with additional leadership in 2020 from Aoife O’Donovan, Darrell Scott, and Bryan Sutton.

The Ballard High School Fiddlers based in Seattle, WA, an after-school group led by Seattle-based bluegrass musicians Lee Callender and Jimmy Hall, and overseen by orchestra director/fiddler Elizabeth Fortune, meets weekly to learn bluegrass music. The grant will help pay the two instructors during the school year and fund visits by other professional bluegrass musicians and bands, as well as provide for modest instrument purchase and upkeep needs. The BHS Fiddlers will participate in the teen program at Wintergrass in Bellevue, WA, in February 2020 and at Northwest Folklife in Seattle in May 2020. The group is open to all students in the Ballard High School community who are interested in playing American roots music on bowed or strummed stringed instruments, including players in the symphonic, chamber, and concert orchestras as well as those who are not classically trained. Students work with professional bluegrass musicians from the greater Pacific Northwest region and beyond, learning traditional music by ear for jamming, stage performances, and for accompanying live square dances.

Bluegrass Day Camp for Kids at Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua in Washburn, WI, takes place in a one-of-a-kind canvas tent theater founded in the old Chautauqua style of traveling tent shows that brought entertainment and culture to rural communities across the US in the pre-radio era. Founded in 1985, the Big Top has a long history of presenting the best in bluegrass music. Bluegrass Day Camp for Kids is led by Tom Draughon, a musician who has lived his life steeped in bluegrass music. With help from an IBMA Foundation grant, scholarships for families who could not otherwise participate will be provided, along with loaner instruments as needed. The Bluegrass Camp is extremely popular in the region, with 60 percent of campers returning year after year.

IBMA’s Leadership Bluegrass, a flagship program of the International Bluegrass Music Association, was created in 2000 with the purpose of connecting and educating leaders in the bluegrass music industry at a three-day, intensive class in Nashville, TN. Each class typically consists of 25 participants selected from a pool of applicants representing various areas of the industry from diverse geographical regions. There are currently more than 400 alumni. IBMA tries to minimize the cost to participants through affordable fees, scholarships, and travel stipends. Grant funds from the Foundation will help IBMA deliver a quality program in 2020.

A Life of Sorrow: The Life & Times of Carter Stanley, written and performed by Gary Reid (Bluegrass Productions of Virginia) and presented in conjunction with Showtimers Community Theater in Roanoke, Virginia, is a one-man show that uses storytelling and music to bring to life the late bluegrass/Appalachian mountain music treasure Carter Stanley of the Stanley Brothers. Launched in 2014, the program has been presented 99 times in 16 US states and three Canadian provinces, with over half of the performances free to the public at library events, as well as at theatres, museums, house concerts and festivals. A Life of Sorrow seeks to entertain and educate. According to Reid, while many people are familiar with Carter Stanley’s name and some of his songs, they don’t know the man behind the music; his story and legacy are largely forgotten. The IBMA Foundation grant will enable Reid to offer the program to 12 libraries at a deeply discounted rate in 2020.

Mateřská škola Bludovice (Kindergarten Bludovice – Bluegrass to Kindergarten) Although there are many bluegrass fans in the Czech Republic, most are 40-50 years old or older, so Petr Brandejs and Ondra Kozák have decided to target the youngest Czech audience with the “Bluegrass to Kindergarten” program. Most musical education in the Czech Republic is focused on classical music, but Brandejs and Kozák will present 20 interactive programs for up to 1,000 kindergarten children, demonstrating bluegrass instruments and teaching music education standards with Czech folk songs and tunes from their bluegrass CD Pro děti (For Kids). Longtime veterans of popular Czech bluegrass bands, the two musicians have organized dozens of workshops for Czech as well as European bluegrass musicians, and Ondra runs the online education platform “ATAmusic.” Petr is the first European Wernick Method-certified teacher. He has played weekly in a local kindergarten for five years, and his former band, Poutníci, has presented dozens of bluegrass programs for secondary schools.

Stokes Junior Mountain Music and 3rd Saturday Grass in Danbury, NC, is a weekly evening program providing top quality, free and reduced-fee group music instruction to students in grades 4-6 on mandolin, fiddle, banjo, guitar, and bass. The program currently has 42 students. Instruction takes place three nights a week at the Arts Place of Stokes and at Mount Olive Elementary School. Third Saturday Grass is a monthly concert series celebrating Stokes County and North Carolina’s bluegrass musical past and present. Local and regional bluegrass bands are featured, with opening music provided by Stokes Junior Mountain Music student ensembles. The project, which began in January 2020, will address a priority need for preserving Stokes County’s bluegrass heritage (artists originally from the area include Alan Bibey, Ronnie Bowman and Lou Reid), with instruction for the next generation of bluegrass musicians. The IBMA Foundation grant will help grow participation for the 2020-21 fiscal year. 

Yadkin Junior Appalachian Musicians in Yadkinville, NC, is a Junior Appalachian Musician (JAM) program which envisions a world where all children have the opportunity to experience community through the joy of participating together in traditional mountain music. The mission is to provide communities with the tools and support they need to teach children to play and dance to old-time and bluegrass music. JAM organizers believe children who are actively engaged in traditional mountain music are more connected and better prepared to strengthen their communities for future generations. IBMA Foundation grant funds will be used to support program expansion among Yadkinville students, as well as provide materials, supplies and additional instruments. 

To find out how you can help support these, and many other charitable bluegrass efforts through the IBMA Foundation, visit their donations page online.

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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.