IBMA reschedules Worldwide Bluegrass Music Month

Worldwide Bluegrass Music MonthIn a recent communiqué with a portion of the organizational membership (via IBMA-L), Executive Director Dan Hays recapped last month’s IBMA board meeting, including an announcement concerning the celebration of Worldwide Bluegrass Music Month.

A grass roots event with no official body controlling or promoting it, Worldwide Bluegrass Music Month has been celebrated in the month of May since its inception. IBMA has now brought the event under the umbrella of the organization, lending its official weight to the celebration, but at the same time changing the date.

Through the leadership of Bob Wolff, Worldwide Bluegrass Music Month was envisioned and created as a grass roots effort in 1988. With the encouragement of several industry leaders and Mr. Wolff’s blessing, a recommendation was made to shift the celebration from the month of May to September to capitalize on media interest surrounding the IBMA Awards, World of Bluegrass events and Bill Monroe’s birthday. While IBMA has encouraged the celebration since it was established, it has never assumed an official role but will officially support and declare September as Worldwide Bluegrass Music Month beginning in 2010. The goals remain the same: to further encourage a grassroots effort to celebrate the music and build new audiences, bring broader media coverage, and assist the industry in exposing the music for sale at retail, at live events, through broadcast exposure and other means.

Some are sure to cheer this move as bringing increased authority to the observance, while others are already expressing discontent with the organization over its assumption of such authority, and its seemingly unilateral decision process which doesn’t appear to have involved the international community in any significant way. Rienk Janssen, serving on the board as the International Representative, posted the following to the ongoing discussion on IBMA-L.

I believe the WWBGM in May has done a lot of good, and in Europe, the EBMA has made good use of it to shape up the European bluegrass scene. But, since this scene is active all through most of the year now, the importance of having a special month has somewhat diminished. My guess is, that the WWBGM – if it be May or September, or any other month – in the future will have less of an impact than before in the parts of the world where bluegrass now more or less has found its own place.

So, to answer your question, I have not objected to the proposal at our recent board meeting, when Alison Brown – who presented it – specifically asked me if it would be a problem from the European perspective.

Some European members remain opposed to the rescheduling though, in large part due to the fact that the European World of Bluegrass is scheduled in the month of May as a result of the original designation, and incorporating the month’s designation into the event’s promotion.

Here at Bluegrass Today we think every month is Bluegrass Month, so we don’t really have a dog in the fight over which month to officially recognize. We do think however, that the organization could have proposed the change for next year while inviting feedback from around the world. Since the event wasn’t really “owned’ by anyone, other than the community at large, there is no one to say they can’t make this change. We’re guessing it would have been viewed more acceptably by those outside the organization, and outside the US, had IBMA announced their desire to make such a change and given time for the community to catch the vision and get onboard with it, rather than simply announcing they had already done so.

The IBMA board did formally acknowledge May as Worldwide Bluegrass Music Month back in 1992, and there was some debate then concerning the idea of rescheduling it to September. For a good lesson on the history of Worldwide Bluegrass Music Month, be sure to read this post from our archives.

As it stands, those opposed seem to be expressing that this doesn’t feel like something We’ve done as a world wide community for the good of bluegrass, but rather, something They’ve done as an organization for the good of IBMA. There is no doubt this is sure to assist in the promotion of the annual World of Bluegrass event, while removing the same benefit from the promotion of the European World of Bluegrass.

Nonetheless, it appears to have happened. Go ahead and attend your favorite bluegrass event this month, but you’ll have to save the party hats and streamers for this fall.

  • StewartE

    My biggest problem here is the timing, which leaves everyone from local associations to even Bluegrass Unlimited announcing May as Bluegrass Month right when word is spreading of IBMA’s decision to establish it in September. They should either have decided this months ago or else made the change effective in 2011.

  • sanmarrb

    It does seem a little bit like a hasty, unilateral power-grab by the IBMA — claiming both the event itself and the authority to immediately reschedule it. I have mixed feelings about it. I also feel a bit of hesitation about the change of date. I felt like Bluegrass Month in May kicked off an unofficial “bluegrass season” that began with the celebration of bluegrass month, lead into festival season, and peaked with the IBMA Awards. I can see how consolidating Bluegrass Month and the awards would give us a bigger media bang, but is that more preferable to the long slow build of the unofficial “bluegrass season”? I don’t know…maybe.