IBMA Foundation announces Sally Ann Forrester college scholarship

During today’s IBMA Industry Awards presentation at the Raleigh Convention Center, the IBMA Foundation announced a new, one time scholarship funded by Murphy Henry. It will be granted to four young women who are bluegrass musicians entering college in 2020, in honor of Sally Ann Forrester, the first female member of Bill Monroe & The Blue Grass Boys.

The Sally Ann Forrester College Scholarship award will be for the sum of $1,000 each to the four recipients.

The Foundation, which is the philanthropic arm of the International Bluegrass Music Association, offers this thumbnail bio of Forrester for those not familiar with her bluegrass career.

Sally Ann Forrester was born Wilene Russell and known to her family as “Billie.” Sometimes called the first woman in bluegrass, she played with Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys from 1943 until 1946. Her accordion playing can be heard prominently on several of Monroe’s 1945 Columbia recordings, including Kentucky Waltz, Rocky Road Blues, and Blue Grass Special. She sang tenor to Monroe on the trio cuts, Come Back to Me in My Dreams and Nobody Loves Me. Forrester was also in the first-ever configuration of the Blue Grass Boys to include Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt, along with her husband, Howdy, on fiddle and his brother, Joe, on bass in December 1945. 

Applicants are not required to be studying bluegrass in college, or have a declared major in the music. But those who are, along with any other female grassers in college, are encouraged to apply.

Applications can be found on the Foundation web site. For additional information, contact the Foundation by phone (615-260-4807) or email.

The IBMA Foundation has also announced that a funding campaign has been initiated for a new IBMA Bluegrass College Scholarship. With plans to raise $10,000 as quickly as possible, they hope to offer a $500 scholarship each year, starting in 2021. An endowed scholarship fund at The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee in Nashville will be established, and once the endowment has reached $20,000, the annual scholarship will increase to $1,000.

Mark Hodges and Mountain Fever Records donated the first $1,000 to establish this fund, and has issued a challenge to his fellow bluegrass business folk.

“There are some amazing young musicians coming out of university bluegrass programs, and I hope my colleagues in the industry will join the effort to fund the new IBMA scholarship. These young people are the future sidemen/women and band leaders who will carry the music into the future, and I look forward to recording at least a few of them on the Mountain Fever label.”

There are no age or region limitations for applicants, and the Foundation says that full details will be announced in their January 2020 newsletter.

IBMA Foundation chair Fred Bartenstein says that they will open the applications to any students preparing for a career in bluegrass.

Students preparing for careers as performing musicians, songwriters, and other professional roles in the bluegrass music industry are welcome to apply, as well as those focused on bluegrass music-related academic research. In addition to contributions from record labels for the scholarship, we’ll gladly accept donations from other companies, individuals, and foundations who wish to support the idea.”

Look for more details soon on the IBMA Bluegrass College Scholarship.

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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.