Moments in Bluegrass BG75 #3 – Becky Buller’s first IBMA

Following an invitation that the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) extended to its members that they share a memory from “75 years of bluegrass,” we thought that we would collect a few to share with you. 

Becky Buller, an award-winning fiddler, vocalist, and songwriter, began performing at age 10 with her parents in the band, Prairie Grass. As well as being a solo artist and band leader, as she is now, she has been a member of Valerie Smith’s band Liberty Pike; the Darin and Brooke Aldridge band; and is one of the illustrious First Ladies of Bluegrass. Buller is an East Tennessee State University and IBMA Leadership Bluegrass alumna ….. 

“When I was 16, I attended my first IBMA World of Bluegrass week. Looking back now that I’m a mother, I can’t believe my parents let me travel all the way down to Owensboro, Kentucky, along with my friend Donica Christianson and her banjo teacher, then executive director of the Minnesota Bluegrass Old-Time Music Association, Jed Malischke. My high school principal let me out of school to attend, telling me he had taken part in a similar event when he was my age and he felt it would be a transformative week for me.  

It certainly did change my life, setting me on a path toward pursuing a career in the music. It was a turning point for me, in part because it was probably the first ‘festival’ I had experienced of my own free will, without my family. And, while I had the chance to hear so many great bands at festivals around Minnesota and Iowa, this was the first time I had gotten to see some of the bands I was really getting into at that time: the Del McCoury Band, Alison Krauss & Union Station, the Bluegrass Album Band, IIIrd Tyme Out, Blue Highway, and more. I remember that Ronnie Bowman’s Cold Virginia Night won Song of The Year at the award show. (To this day, I love that album!) I even got to jam with some of the folks from these and other bands!  

It was addictive and, to this day, I’m hooked. I’ve been to almost every World Of Bluegrass week since then… I think I missed it in 1996 because I was working on graduating from high school and getting down to bluegrass school at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, TN, just as fast as I could.  

In recent years, I served on the IBMA board of directors (2013-2017). I currently serve on the board of directors for the IBMA’s Foundation For Bluegrass Music, the educational arm of the IBMA. I’m all in when it comes to our bluegrass music community.”

Although filmed in 1993, the Robert Mugge DVD Gather At The River: A Bluegrass Celebration (the World of Bluegrass Festival in Owensboro, KY) captures some of the spirit of the time Buller speaks.

OK, readers, does this story trigger any thoughts of bluegrass music in days gone by? What related event would you like remembered? Please share in comments. Thanks.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.