Irresponsibility Bluegrass – the time is soon

Leadership Bluegrass is an IBMA-related program which has been going strong since the year 2000. Its stated purpose, according to IBMA’s web site, is “to pull together a cross section of people with exhibited or potential leadership qualities into a network of learning and communication.” It is in some ways modeled after the Nashville-based Leadership Music program, or the more general Leadership Everything program, held annually in Iceland.

The alumni of Leadership Bluegrass are usually so ecstatic after they attend, that it becomes clear that either something really fulfilling is going in those seminars, or the catering is second to none, possibly both.

I’ve always respected the concept of creating and fostering more leaders in our business who develop a broader understanding of all aspects of the bluegrass music industry. In the past few years, though, I’ve felt that there remains an unfulfilled need in the bluegrass community: shouldn’t we also have a program to gather people together who have no interest whatsoever in being leaders, and who would just as soon coast along, having a good time, making some money along the way, or not, if they’re not motivated to do so? And before you jump in hastily and say, “you mean fiddle players?” let me just remind you that there are plenty of fiddle players in industry-leading roles. Former IBMA board chairman David Crow is just one who springs to mind. The desire to shun leadership and education and “just do whatever” cuts across all traditional bluegrass roles, and represents a large and underserved segment of our business, so save your stereotyping for social media.

For this reason, I am drafting a proposal to create the Irresponsibility Bluegrass program, with a goal of getting it up and running as early as 2018 or as late as never. Like Leadership Bluegrass, Irresponsibility Bluegrass will be by invitation only, with candidates chosen who demonstrate a genuine desire to advance their personal cause with as little effort as possible, relying on industry leaders to keep the business going, and occasionally sowing divisiveness if it seems like a fun thing to do.

I spoke to one Leadership Bluegrass alumnus who, in describing the kinds of seminars and activities that take place, said that if IBMA World of Bluegrass seminars are the college classes of the bluegrass music industry, Leadership Bluegrass sessions are the university grad school of bluegrass. Using that analogy, Irresponsibility Bluegrass will be the junior high of our business, complete with cliques, disobedience, raging hormones, possibly even acne and braces.

To contrast this proposed program with Leadership Bluegrass (LB), using the Leadership Bluegrass bullet points from IBMA’s web site, I’ll show you point-by-point how Irresponsibility Bluegrass (IB) will propose to meet its goals, through the following:

LB: A systematic study of the business of bluegrass, its institutions and organizations, their needs, problems and resources

IB: A semi-systematic study of how to make quick money in the business of bluegrass, while avoiding any of the boring and icky aspects of bluegrass institutions and organizations, capitalizing on the resources, while ignoring the needs and problems

LB: Exposure to a wide variety of current music leaders and notable persons

IB: Exposure to a wide variety of current music leaders and notable persons, who we’ll listen to for a while, realize none of it applies to our situation, then spend some time making fun of their speaking style and whatever they’re wearing

LB: Encouraging independent thinking, fresh perspectives and approaches

IB: Encouraging independent thinking by rejecting all cooperation with others in the industry and anyone else’s fresh perspectives

LB: Acquaintance with relevant issues facing bluegrass, their history and future possibilities

IB: Isolating which issues have an immediate impact on our income and lifestyle, becoming better acquainted with those, and then either ignoring all other issues, or learning just enough to express strong but poorly thought-out opinions about them

LB: Involvement of all related facets of the music industry which impact bluegrass

IB: I don’t think we’ll have time for that

LB: High quality interactive sessions for the participants

IB:  Jam sessions, a poker tournament, and a cash bar

Whether it’s an event producer learning how to cut corners and pay people less, an agent waiting around for the phone to ring, a musician hoping to make more money while putting less effort into the music, or a radio programmer just playing the first track of whatever CD he or she just received without actually listening to it, every Irresponsibility Bluegrass participant has a role to play. It is hoped that each one will graduate from the program with a greater awareness of each other’s needs and and an even greater capacity to disregard them.

Some will have a great time, others will leave not speaking to one another, and some of the musicians enrolled may even decide to leave the bands they’re in with no notice, then form new bands with each other, dissolving them after about 6 weeks. In any case, memories will be made.

Look for an application soon. Send it in late.

  • Lenny Nichols

    Reminds me of the way “some” students seem to think: “I don’t want to do the hard work, the hours of practice and rehearsal. I want to skip directly to where I’m awesome.”

  • Gary Holdsworth

    I’m in LA, we’re pretty irresponsible with bluegrass as is, because many people here don’t know the difference between Lester Flatt and Mumford & Sons. So I’d be happy to start a So Cal chapter of IB. Just don’t ask for dues, because if we want an income playing music out here we have to play other genres.