IBMA welcomes new Executive Director, Paul Schiminger

Paul J. SchimingerThe International Bluegrass Music Association has announced their new Executive Director, Paul J. Schiminger of Baltimore, MD. He is expected to start on June 1, allowing him time to conclude business in Maryland and make the move to Nashville, where IBMA is based.

He was chosen for his mix of bluegrass savvy, and his extensive experience in the financial services industry. At present, Paul serves as head of not-for-profit business development at Wilmington Trust (M&T Bank) in Baltimore, and as banjo player with Baltimore’s High Strung Bluegrass Band.

Ever since the departure of Dan Hays in 2011, the IBMA Board has voiced their preference for a new Director with a strong business and finance background, and it would seem that they have found their man. Schiminger obtained his Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from James Madison University in Virginia, and a Master of Science in Finance from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.  He is also a Certified Investment Management Analyst.

Prior to his current position with Wilmington Trust, he was Head of Sales & Client Service at Alex. Brown Investment Management, and before that worked as Director, and Head of Sales & Marketing for Advisory Services at separate times for Deutsche Bank Alex. Brown.

He was interviewed for the IBMA position after being approached by a professional recruiter who knew of his credentials – and his love of bluegrass music.

In a discussion yesterday, Paul expressed both confidence and excitement about this career move.

“It is a big change – and it is pretty exciting. I told people where I currently work that to bring together my professional experience, and my passion for bluegrass, into a single thing was as close to a dream job as I could imagine.

It’s the right time, and the right opportunity for me. We’re pulling up some deep roots, but my wife and I like Nashville quite a bit.”

Both of their children are grown, with a son out of college and starting a career, and a daughter set to graduate this spring. His wife, Alys, is a yoga instructor specializing in presenting the practice to pre-schoolers. She currently operates her own business in Baltimore, and is looking forward to doing the same when they get settled in Nashville.

Paul said that he came to bluegrass the same way many of us did, through Lester & Earl.

Paul Schiminger with J.D. Crowe at Banjothon 2013“I was introduced to bluegrass when I was 15 years old. My family didn’t listen to music, but I had a friend who was a big fan. He brought The World Of Flatt & Scruggs double album over for me to hear. When the needle came down and I heard Earl kicking off Foggy Mountain Breakdown, it was like a revelation to me. My immediate reaction was ‘what in the world is that?’

I was hooked right away.

It’s been a fun journey along the way, learning and exploring all the nooks and crannies of the music. My favorites are Flatt & Scruggs and Newgrass Revival, not exactly from the same box.

Back in the ’50s and ’60s, bluegrass was huge in Baltimore. Like most trends, it’s been up and down, but recently there has been a resurgence of popularity. In Baltimore today, there is a very active scene – a very vibrant bluegrass music scene.”

Once he gets to IBMA, Paul said that he has three priorities for immediate action.

“First, to make a personal connection with the people in Raleigh, and make sure they feel good about the transition.

Then, assess how we can add additional value for our members – what resources do they need, and how can we help them connect with fans? How can we facilitate that for them?

Third, building up the grass roots fan base. How can we add value to their fan experience? That may be a good new direction for us.”

Knowing the importance the organization places on finding new sources of fundraising, I asked if he thought that was a realistic goal.

“I do think this is realistic. There are thousands of people who attend festivals each year, and sponsors would love to have their message in front of those people. I think we can help make those connections.”

Though we didn’t discuss exact numbers, Schiminger admitted that the compensation he will receive from IBMA doesn’t quite measure up to that to which he has been accustomed, but said that he was more than willing to make a lifestyle adjustment to work in bluegrass.

And Board Chair Jon Weisberger told us that the Board was prepared to go above the salary range they had originally considered to get their ideal candidate.

“We realized that we were going to have to be competitive with a salary/benefits offer. Once Paul recognized that we were serious, coming to terms was fairly straightforward.”

Paul is 55 years old, and will be introduced to the full IBMA Board during their Spring 2015 meeting, which he will attend.

Welcome to IBMA, Paul. We wish you all the best and great success in your new career.

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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.