Artist rendering of Arnold Shultz; Shultz with Pendleton Vandiver
The IBMA Foundation, the charitable arm of the International Bluegrass Music Association, has announced today the establishment of a new endowment to support increasing participation from people of color in bluegrass music. Named the Arnold Shultz Fund, it recognizes the western Kentucky blues musician who Bill Monroe has credited as a major influence on the sound he developed as a young man.
Shultz was the son of a freed slave, grew up in a musical family, and learned to play fiddle and guitar as a child. On top of work in the Kentucky coal mines, he worked the Mississippi river boats allowing him time in New Orleans. The near universal poverty of the mountain folks in the early 20th century found blacks and whites working side by side, and Arnold performed with both hillbilly and early jazz bands, often as the only black member.
He was acquainted with Monroe’s fabled Uncle Pen Vandiver, and is said to have hired young Bill for his first professional music gig. The taste of blues that Monroe acquired playing with Shultz has been a part of bluegrass since the very beginning, apparent in Bill’s singing, his mandolin style, and the many songs he wrote.
The Foundation is currently setting up an advisory committee to guide the Arnold Schultz Fund, making grants for scholarships, awards, and various projects designed to welcome and encourage Americans of African descent to study and learn to play bluegrass music. Chairing the committee are Dr. Richard Brown, a Boston dentist and a member of the IBMA Foundation’s board of directors who is also a celebrated mandolinist in the style of Bill Monroe. His co-chair is Neil Rosenberg, noted bluegrass historian and Bluegrass Hall of Fame member.
Dr. Brown created this video to express his thoughts on the creation of this fund.
Rosenberg likewise salutes the Foundation for this effort.
“We have to see where bluegrass music can go, where it hasn’t gone before, by paying attention to people who are sometimes seen as on the fringe or outsiders. The Arnold Shultz Fund seeks to welcome people of color into bluegrass. As a musician I’ve always appreciated the progressive nature of this music. It’s never the same. Here’s an important opportunity for us to develop, to take new directions.”
Donations to the IBMA Foundation can be earmarked for The Arnold Shultz Fund.
Another opportunity to support the Fund comes next Friday (June 26), when a group of Denver grassers will offer a free livestream concert as The Denver Bluegrass Allstars. The band will include Andy Hall and Chris Pandolfi of Infamous Stringdusters, Paul Hoffman of Greensky Bluegrass, Greg Garrison of Leftover Salmon, and Flatpicking champ Tyler Grant.
The livestream will be offered free of charge by nugs.net but donations will be requested. Monies raised will be shared by the band, with a portion sent as a donation to the Foundation.
Andy Hall said that the guys are delighted to participate in this fundraiser.
“We feel it’s incredibly important to help promote diversity in bluegrass. A portion of proceeds from [the Denver Bluegrass Allstars] stream will go to the brand new Arnold Shultz Fund, powered by the IBMA Foundation. The goal of the foundation is to increase the participation of persons of color in bluegrass music. Let’s do what we can to help make bluegrass a place for everyone!”
More details about the IBMA Foundation can be found online.