Ken White named as IBMA Executive Director

The International Bluegrass Music Association has named Ken White as their new Executive Director, effective October 2. He steps in for interim ED Paul Schiminger, who had returned to the position following the resignation of Pat Morris earlier this year.

White appears to be an ideal fit for IBMA. He has enjoyed twin careers in music and business throughout his life, following a youth absorbed with bluegrass music. Like so many who catch the bluegrass bug as a child, Ken recalls listening to records any chance he got, and playing his banjo, which led to him taking the Kentucky State Banjo Championship at only 14 years of age.

In college he studied jazz guitar, but never graduated until 2021 when he returned and received a diploma from Wichita State University, alongside his son, Micah, who graduated with him.

A move to Nashville offered White the opportunity to work in music as a sideman, and utilize the proficiency he had earned on banjo, mandolin, and guitar. Those days saw him perform on top stages like the Grand Ole Opry, Telluride Bluegrass Festival, RockyGrass, Walnut Valley Festival, IBMA World of Bluegrass in Owensboro, KY, and The Station Inn, where like many striving artists, he also did some shifts behind the bar.

He has written or performed with the Louisville Mandolin Orchestra, the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble, and the Wichita Symphony Orchestra, and recorded a number of his own albums, the latest of which with his wife, Robin Macy. Titled Reflect, it includes songs inspired by the historic property they own together, the Bartlett Arboretum, in Belle Plains, KS.

After returning to Wichita, White launched a marketing business, Howerton+White, with noted designer Nicole Howerton in 2002. Under his leadership it has grown into a multi-million dollar enterprise.

Schiminger says that his successor has all the traits the organization needs.

“There were a handful of excellent candidates for the role, but Ken’s knowledge of our music and its community, along with his demonstrated business skills, made him stand out. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Ken through the process, and I’m excited to know the IBMA will be in excellent hands going forward.”

And Ken says he is grateful for the chance to dedicate his energy to the world of bluegrass.

“A vocation that tethers both heart and mind becomes purposeful work. I have loved bluegrass music since I was a small child. My 22-year career as a business owner has defined both technology and marketing strategies. I feel fortunate to have this opportunity to lead IBMA forward, fueled by these two life-long passions.”

He was chosen from more than 70 applicants for the Executive Director position, which is responsible for day-to-day operations, management of staff and resources, and reports to the IBMA Board of Directors. The final decision was made by a search committee led by Board Chair Dan Boner, who believes that White is the right man for the job.

“IBMA is an enthusiastic international organization with a diverse and welcoming membership. That was on our minds throughout the interview and selection processes, and Ken demonstrated, very naturally, that he understands the needs and interests of all people who love bluegrass music, and work to make it their livelihood.”

White will officially take the reins following the 2023 World of Bluegrass in Raleigh.

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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.