IBMA Foundation announces 2022 project grants

The IBMA Foundation, the educational and philanthropic arm of the International Bluegrass Music Association, has announced this morning the recipients of their 2022 project grants. These awards are going to 11 organizations across eight states, amounting to more than $21,000, a jump from $14,000 last year.

Recipients for 2022 include:

  • Ashe County Arts Council, Ola Belle Reed Songwriter’s Retreat – West Jefferson, NC 
  • Ballard Performing Arts Booster Club, Ballard High School Fiddlers – Seattle, WA 
  • Bluegrass Battles Hunger, Artist in Residency – St. Joseph, MO 
  • Cabell County Schools, Developing a New Appreciation for Bluegrass Music through Artists in Schools – Huntington, WV 
  • Carrizozo Elementary School, American Roots Guitar with Bill Evans—Corrizozo, NM
  • East Tennessee State University, 2022 String Band Summit  – Johnson City, TN  
  • Monroe Mandolin Camp, 9th Annual Monroe Mandolin Camp – Abingdon, VA 
  • Annie Savage, Free Strings: Join the Jam Bluegrass Module — North Liberty, IA 
  • The Earl Scruggs Center, Roots and Strings: The Foundations of Bluegrass – Shelby, NC 
  • Sisters Folk Festival, Bluegrass Jam Camp – Sisters, OR 
  • Tellico Plains Junior Appalachian Musicians – Tellico Plains & Madisonville, TN 

Applications for these project grants are reviewed annually for projects that involve arts and culture, education, literary or academic programs, or historic preservation involving bluegrass music.

IBMA Foundation board chair Fred Bartenstein says that this year’s boosted award amounts are as a result of the continuing beneficence of donors, especially a handsome bequest from bluegrass lover, Dick Barnhart.

“A diverse list of recipients for 2022 will support bluegrass education for both young people and adults. We are grateful to donors who have continued to support the Foundation during the COVID pandemic. Their generosity has helped to support very deserving programs.”

The Foundation shared this thumbnail description of the 2022 projects.

The Ola Belle Reed Songwriter’s Retreat, presented by the Ashe County Arts Council in West Jefferson, North Carolina, April 8-10, 2022, is a weekend event for approximately 30 students. The goal of the retreat is to honor Ola Belle Reed as a native North Carolinian songwriter by connecting traditional music and storytelling to contemporary songwriting. The retreat will include multiple workshops for students and two public performances that serve the community.

The Ballard High School Fiddlers program at Ballard High School in Seattle, Washington, is open to all students who have an interest in playing American roots music on bowed or strummed stringed instruments. Currently the Fiddlers serve approximately 15 members of all three orchestras (Chamber, Symphonic, Concert) as well as band and choir ensembles. The goal is to reach more students, including those who are enrolled in non-orchestra music classes and those not enrolled in music at all during the school day. Three hours of coaching per week will be provided during the academic year. 

Bluegrass Battles Hunger is a two-day music event held in downtown St. Joseph, Missouri, in late September. The event began in 2009 as a Leadership St. Joseph project to benefit the local community food bank, while also providing a free weekend of musical entertainment not readily found in the area. The event is made possible through sponsorships from businesses and various in-kind donations. The IBMA Foundation grant will help fund an Artist in Residency component, in which a performing artist will host free workshops to teach skills like playing the banjo or fiddle, vocal harmony, and clog dancing. 

The Developing a New Appreciation for Bluegrass Music through Artists in Schools program for Cabell County Schools in Huntington, West Virginia, will bring educational activities led by bluegrass musicians into four middle schools and four high schools. The goal of the program is to introduce and develop an appreciation of West Virginia’s bluegrass heritage. Directors Megan Darby and Luke McKnight, along with the Glenville State Bluegrass Band, will be the guest artists. Cabell County Schools also plan to offer a one-day bluegrass camp in the summer of 2022, as a learning enrichment opportunity.

The American Roots Guitar with Bill Evans program at Carrizozo Elementary School, in the town by the same name in New Mexico, is a series of instructional guitar lessons taught by bluegrass musician and ethnomusicologist Bill Evans. The IBMA Foundation project grant will allow Evans to provide a second month of music and guitar instruction for kindergarten through fifth grade students in a small, rural school, using ten guitars donated by Taylor Guitars. 

The 2022 String Band Summit will gather musicians, teachers, students, and scholars of bluegrass and string band music for an academic conference at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee, April 8-10, 2022. In addition to providing a forum for addressing string band music generally, this event will 1) support students’ professional, intellectual, and artistic development; 2) create and deepen connections between faculty and students at institutions of higher education where string band musics are taught and studied; and 3) foster collaboration and understanding among scholars, string band artists, and other stakeholders. For more info on the event, hosted by the Department of Appalachian Studies and ETSU’s program in Bluegrass, Old-Time and Roots Music, go here. Project grant funds will cover costs of media production and honoraria for workshop leaders. 

The 9th Annual Monroe Mandolin Camp, hosted in Abingdon, Virginia, September 28 – October 2, 2022, offers instruction in original and first-generation bluegrass music for mandolin, fiddle, banjo, guitar, upright bass, songwriting, old-time music, and harmony singing. Instructors include former members of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys band, special guest presenters, side musicians and luthiers, who will provide a full immersion, hands-on, in-depth learning and playing experience. MonManCamp provides a learning environment that meets the needs of its diverse participants and engages people who are underrepresented and underserved in these genres. 

North Liberty, Iowa, based music educator and fiddler Annie Savage has been tasked to create a “learn to jam bluegrass style” professional level video for the American String Teachers Association (ASTA) Eclectic Styles Committee: The Free Strings: Join the Jam Bluegrass Module. During a three-day video shoot, Savage and her team will produce eight instructional videos of familiar fiddle tunes, plus write and arrange parts for viola, cello and bass for application in public schools. Savage will design a training version of the module to present at live workshops throughout the country, with the hope that teacher participants will become comfortable enough with jamming bluegrass-style to use the program in their public school orchestra programs and communities.

The Earl Scruggs Center in Shelby, North Carolina, will host Roots and Strings: The Foundations of Bluegrass for fourth graders in the Cleveland County school system, reaching 1,100 students over a period of four days. The program, presented by the Henhouse Prowlers through their Bluegrass Ambassadors program, will teach the basics of bluegrass and regional roots music, emphasizing African roots and African American influences on these genres, which are important to Cleveland County’s history. Students will learn how the banjo evolved from an African instrument that was introduced through the slave trade and later evolved through traditional playing styles into the three-finger technique Earl Scruggs made famous. The Ambassadors will also share songs that connect students to the agricultural and textile history of Cleveland County.

The inaugural Sisters Folk Festival Bluegrass Jam Camp will take place June 23-26, 2022, at the Sisters Art Works campus in the mountain community of Sisters, Oregon. The four-day program will focus on musicianship and collaboration through ensemble practice and performances. Led by members of the professional bluegrass band FY5, with instructor Eli West, the camp will explore the role of instrumentation in a bluegrass format and provide opportunities to form bluegrass bands. The student ensembles will learn collaboration and performance skills, culminating in a final concert that will be open to the public. FY5 and Eli West will perform at a free community concert June 25, as a part of the Bluegrass Jam Camp. 

The Tellico Plains JAM (Junior Appalachian Musicians) program in Tellico Plains and Madisonville, Tennessee, loans out instruments and teaches children in grades 5-12 how to play bluegrass and traditional Appalachian music at no cost. In 2022 the program will expand from one afternoon a week in one town to two afternoons in two towns. Grant funds will be used to bring in additional instructors and expand the instrument lending program. The public school system in Monroe County does not  have a formal music program at any grade level, so JAM helps to fill that void with bluegrass and old-time music. 

The IBMA Foundation accepts donations of any size, from small one time gifts to ongoing contributions and major gifts/bequests. These are bundled together to allow the Foundation to distribute funds throughout the community, after careful research into the work of the organizations who receive them, something the average donor is not able to accomplish. Donations can also be earmarked for specific scholarships or funds.

They are proud to state that over $340,000 was raised in 2021 in support of bluegrass education. You can see more information about donating to the IBMA Foundation online, along with their annual finance and program report.

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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.