North Carolina Bluegrass Music Association inducts new leadership

Vivian Pennington Hopkins, president of the North Carolina Bluegrass Music Association, has passed the baton to Steve Leatherwood of Shelby, NC. 

“I’m thrilled to have Steve serve as president. He and a new slate of officers have brought new ideas and renewed life to the organization. Under his leadership, we will continue to grow and expand the support for bluegrass musicians across the state,” shared Hopkins.

DJ, picker, grinner, and longtime supporter/enthusiast of bluegrass and old time music, Leatherwood is a good choice to head the association. He has already rolled up his sleeves and gotten to work. Joined by an impressive group of officers, president Leatherwood stated, “We are back and under new management.”

Other new officers include: Darin Aldridge – Vice President, Rick Dancy – Secretary, Debbie Jones – Treasurer, Marta Jones – Community Relations Chair, and Dan X. Padgett – Historian (Museum). NCBGMA board members are: Big T and Pammy Lassiter, Jeff McCorkle, Jack Bingham, and Sam Blumenthal. JT Leatherwood handles Computer Technical Support.

Aldridge shared, “Steve and I met earlier last year about establishing a museum to remember local musicians that have passed on. Steve got in touch with Vivian about the project and she asked if he would take over the organization.”

“Our mission went from local to statewide. We wanted to create a place for folks to go for info on all North Carolina bluegrass music.”

A bluegrass summit was held this spring at the Earl Scruggs Center in Shelby, NC. It was a meeting of the minds with some of the most active and influential folks in the North Carolina bluegrass music industry. In addition to Leatherwood and Aldridge, Ron Raxter of Pinecone (the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music), Mary Beth Martin of the Earl Scruggs Center, Sam Blumenthal of the IBMA Foundation, Amelia Ricci of Bluegrass Road Trip, Milton Harkey of Bluegrass First Class, Greg Clark of Charlotte Folk Music Society, Laura Boosinger of Blue Ridge Music Trails, Claire Armbruster of Planning Stages, Cindy Baucom of Knee Deep in Bluegrass, Joe Greene of WNCW, and Debbie Hayes of High Lonesome Strings were in attendance.

“We had a good selection of different organizations. We discussed what was best for our state,” Aldridge explained. “We want to make it the best that we can.”

Leatherwood stressed, “Our mission is simple. We work to celebrate bluegrass through exposure, awareness, and community involvement throughout the year. Even though every October 1 is World Bluegrass Day, our mission is to promote, share, and inspire others throughout the year to listen or start listening to bluegrass music, play or start playing an instrument, or travel to and support places and venues displaying roots and bluegrass music. In addition, we provide as much information as possible to help the music community locate and enjoy bluegrass and roots music events, and to learn about the history and origins of bluegrass and roots music. We believe bluegrass music is ESSENTIAL!”

“Our goals include: aid in providing festival promoters and talent buyers with the best talent that North Carolina has to offer; stimulate interest in, and pass on the heritage of bluegrass and traditional music to the youth across the state; commit to the support of bluegrass music and musicians for growth and success.”

Leatherwood has started a monthly newsletter which is emailed to all members. He spotlights a member band each month and remembers those in the industry that have passed. He also compiles a list of all festivals, bands, venues, and jam sessions held throughout the state. The NCBGMA is currently working with JAMkids to bring a Junior Appalachian Musicians group to Cleveland County.

Established in 2012 by Ron Ackerman, Vivian Pennington Hopkins took over the non-profit when he relocated.

“I became President when his military job transferred him back to Ohio,” Hopkins explained. She is happy for the new blood in the organization.

The North Carolina Bluegrass Music Association is supported by memberships, sponsors, and donors. NCBGMA is grateful to its sponsors that include: Bluegrass Today, Zager Guitar, Piedmont Folkways, Fiddleshop, Bluegrass Unlimited, Charlotte Folk Music Society, Don Gibson Theatre, Morrell Music, EMS Music Production, Blue Ridge Music Trails, Banjo Ben Clark, WGWG, Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour, Haywood County Arts Council, and the Earl Scruggs Center.

Individual membership is $15/year, Senior membership is $12/year, and Band membership is $45/ year. Any of these memberships can be activated on the NCBGMA web site.

Visit the North Carolina Bluegrass Music Association web site for more information.

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.