Pikelny to IBMA: Don’t Preach to the Choir

Noam Pikelny delivers the Keynote Address to the 2013 IBMA World of Bluegrass - photo by David MorrisBluegrass is alive and well and is poised to grow for years to come, but members of IBMA need to embrace contemporary pickers instead of trying to ostracize them, Punch Brothers banjo player Noam Pikelny said Tuesday in his keynote address at the World of Bluegrass.

If music fans think something is bluegrass, that’s good enough for him – and good for the genre.

“I think because of Mumford and Sons, a college student is much more likely to wander into a bar and listen to a bluegrass band,” he said. And if those fans don’t know traditional bluegrass players and history, it’s not the end of the world.

“To me, having 10,000 people out there who have never heard of Flatt and Scruggs is not a tragedy,” he said. “It’s an opportunity.”

The focus shouldn’t be on the definition of bluegrass, which he said has always been a point of contention. It should be about music that is “authentic, organic and connected to tradition.”

Pikelny’s route to bluegrass was circuitous. He liked the music as a kid, but didn’t see much chance to make a living so he headed off to college in Chicago to study computer science. But one night, he headed off with friends to hear the Yonder Mountain String Band. He found himself thinking, “Maybe there is a market for this. If these guys can do this, I can do this.”

Soon, he was playing his first gig with Leftover Salmon in Colorado. Then, at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, he played with Chris Thile for the first time, and it changed his life.

The standing room only crowd received the message well, but Pikelny said IBMA has more work to do, starting with expanding the awards show to accommodate contemporary pickers.

Without continuing to encourage a broader approach to bluegrass, he said, IBMA will end up some day “preaching to the choir.”

After the speech, he said IBMA’s growing focus on music that pushes the traditional boundaries should be embraced by songwriters, bands and anyone else interested in reaching a broader audience.

“I see the opportunities growing,” he said.

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About the Author

David Morris

David Morris is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist, songwriter and upright bass player. He has spent much of his career as a wire service political reporter, including nearly 14 years with The Associated Press and a stint as chief White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, and has recently retired as senior editor for Kiplinger Washington Editors.

  • Temperance Bellerin

    It all sounds so good on the surface but git underneath and listen closer…Git yer ears down on the ground at least.

    “If music fans think something is bluegrass, that’s good enough for him – and good for the genre.” That’s horse pucky. And you’d never git a manufacturer of any major brand product to ever agree with that. Let me give Noam sum of my crankcase drainings ‘n tell him it’s Coca Cola. If he thinks it is that’s good enough….. Do you really think you can water down an image that Coke has spent billions of dollars to create just because you happen to like crankcase drainings? It IS about creating a definishun for bluegrass. It ain’t about playing all over the musical spectrum and naming it “Bluegrass”. He’s right about it being an opportunity…an opportunity for him ‘n his kind to make lots of bucks while destroying something.

    • Darren Sullivan-Koch

      ….aaaaaaaaaaand they’re off.

    • Chris Miller

      wow! so cool that one Bill Monroe’s original Bluegrass Boys is replying to this post!

  • Chris Skaryd

    I agree with Mr. Pikelny. In same way that I am able to distinguish Rock music into subcategories such as Hard Rock, Punk Rock, Pop Rock, etc… I am able to distinguish between traditional bluegrass, contemporary bluegrass, gospel bluegrass, newgrass, and jamgrass. I don’t see why they can’t all be represented by the same group. I don’t have to like each subcategory. I don’t have buy a bands’ records in that subcategory. But the organization can certainly recognize each category. Similar to how a radio station will play various kinds of rock, and how (some) record labels will release different categories in the same genre.

    There doesn’t have to be a written definition of bluegrass acknowledged by the IBMA. Listen to what you like, and understand that the genre may grow in several directions you don’t care for. Ignore those and move on with your life.

    I’m not suggesting that Metallica should be categorized as bluegrass. But when the Rangers or the Osborne Brothers add a small drum part, it’s ok to say that’s a subcategory of bluegrass. Same as when Flatt & Scruggs added the occasional harmonica. It’s not “Traditional Bluegrass,” but a fork of the genre inspired by the traditional version.

    “Can’t we all just get along?”

  • Phil Bankester

    Sadly I wasn’t able to be present to hear Noam speak, but I attended the keynote addresses each of the last two years. There seems to be a continuing theme here, and it’s also evident in the variety of official showcase bands selected in recent years.

    In parts of the U.S. ‘coke’ is a generic reference to any kind of carbonated soda pop. In other parts “coke’ refers to any cola drink. In England I’m told that people ‘Hoover” their floors. We vacuum them here in the U.S. When someone asks for a kleenex they’re generally happy if you hand them a Puffs.

    IBMA doesn’t exist to define a ‘brand’ and keep all counterfeits from selling their version. There is another organization dedicated to that. I have personally heard from many people in recent months that they never thought they liked bluegrass until they heard __________ (fill in the blank). These folk are much more likely to listen to other bluegrass in the future.

    There is one official Bluegrass Music Museum in . IBMA is here to breathe, grow, and nurture those who want to create rather than just replicate what has been done before.

    Don’t forget that the ‘bluegrass founders’ were innovators and rule breakers. I’m pretty sure they’d have given Noam a standing ovation.

  • Jacob Underwood

    While Pikelny has a some good points, let’s not forget what has happened to country music. Sure, most people that listen to “country” radio think it is country, but that doesn’t make it country. Most of the stuff being played on the so called “country” stations is in fact pop and rock. Real country music has nearly ceased te exist. I don’t want to see bluegrass go down that same road.

    That being said, I like innovation as much as anybody. Bill Monroe was an innovator, there is no doubt about that. Hot Rize is one af my all time favorite bluegrass bands. I even like the occasional use of phase shifter on banjo.

    Bluegrass is a genre based on instrumentation. Guitar, mandolin, fiddle, banjo, dobro, and bass is really about it. If you start adding other stuff, then it really isn’t bluegrass. I don’t have anything against anyone because they want to play a different genre of music; that is their decision. However, if someone is playing music with drums and electric guitar and labeling it as bluegrass, I will hold that against them.

    • TimA

      Plenty of real country from Whitey Morgan to Eleven Hundred Strings and other bands that don’t top the charts. And even a band like the Pistol Annies is country to my ears. And if listening to the pop/rock country stuff makes people notice Morgan and that gets to them Waylon I’m fine with that. I hear this argument there no real country out there all time, and it just tells me the person doesn’t hit the honky tonks and bars because if they did they’d be hearing plenty of it.

  • Dennis Jones

    The Osborne Brothers stopped using drums and electric guitars. I’ve seen very few photos of them on stage using drums. I did see them get booed at a festival in GA with the “new” sound. Jim and Jesse? I never saw them with a drummer. Jimmy Martin? I’ve seen one video where his son was in the far background with a snare. JD Crowe? I have seen a few photos. But all went back to the template of Traditional Bluegrass. Flatt&Scruggs? How many times did they tour with a drummer or harmonica player? I’ve only seen one video of F&S with a harmonica. They broke up over the use of instruments outside the template. Name me one song The Earl Scruggs Review…NOT FMB…did. Bill Monroe? After 1946/47 he stayed with the template on stage. Sure, other instruments were added to his recordings…after he had cut the tracks and much to his displeasure.

    Look at the Bluegrass charts…Contemporary/Traditional Bluegrass. Look at the awards voted on by “The Membership” of The IBMA.Contemporary/Traditional Bluegrass artists and songs. Preach to the choir? I think it’s time The IBMA promoted what 90% of the people know is Bluegrass, help make Traditional Bluegrass strong and let Blur-Grass be. Mumford and Sons??? They have as much to do with Bluegrass as Taylor Swift does Top 40 Radio Country music. Is that what we as REAL Bluegrass fans want to happen? Join The IBMA and take back Bluegrass.

    • Chris Skaryd

      Please understand I mean no disrespect. I truly appreciate all you do for bluegrass and music in general. You and your station is how I found bluegrass – as there isn’t much of a scene for that in Cleveland, Ohio. I listen near religiously to all 8 hours of Going Across the Mountain and every morning to Mountain Mornings. You’ll see my name come across your desk next week when the pledge drive kicks in so that I can help keeping you do what you do.

      BUT, after all prefacing with all that, I do want to say that I have heard the occasional drum on your show. Enough so that the wife and I comment on it whenever we do hear it. (“Whoa! Dennis is playing a drum song! That’s not bluegrass!”) I don’t want to hear Mumford or Rascal Flatts on Going Across The Mountain. That isn’t bluegrass just because they found a 5 string. But I also don’t think the last two Rangers albums should be entirely shunned off the show either. Certainly every song doesn’t fit, but one or two do. I don’t want to hear Yonder, the current Stringdusters or the Punch Brothers on GATM either. But – at least in my opinion – it doesn’t hurt for the organization to recognize that those bands have absolutely been inspired by bluegrass. And since the IBMA has had guys from all three of those bands speak at IBMA presentations, there might be a lean towards that direction.

      I don’t want to dilute traditional bluegrass, and as long as there are guys like Travers Chandler around, it won’t happen. But I don’t think it hurts to branch the circle out A LITTLE BIT as long as there is a string clear line from the source.

    • Andy Alexander

      I think that the term “progressive” would be used better than “contemporary” to describe styles of music on the fringes or outside of what most people would call bluegrass. There are a lot of bands playing their own contemporary music done in a traditional style.

  • Jacob Underwood

    Exactly. If people think that Skillet is bluegrass, that is not good for bluegrass, it will destroy bluegrass.

  • Darren Sullivan-Koch

    Pretty soon, the “bluegrass scene” is just gonna be two old white dudes arguing at a Stuckey’s while their wives knit.

    • Darren Sullivan-Koch

      That’s right: It’s gonna be HALF the size it is today.

  • Lynwood Lunsford

    Nobody is against creativity. I agree that without creativity, the music will die. What is lost in the discussion is the type of creativity. The greatest of our performers, since the birth of the music, used innovation in their music. But the key was, they stayed within the genre. Today, being creative/innovative seems to mean a complete changing of the genre. That is creativity…….but not the kind that is going to be beneficial to “Bluegrass”. That kind of innovation will serve to kill it…….or at the very least, make “Bluegrass” unrecognizable.

    I agree that being creative, while still staying within the genre, is difficult. It takes exceptional musicians to pull it off, while not sounding like the same ol’ same ol’. That’s why there is a move towards changing the genre……because that is a much easier form of creativity. And of course, it’s a lot easier to just pile onto a term that already exists, rather than coin a new term and spend the time it takes to promote and grow that term.

    The IBMA has embraced this practice of changing the genre rather than promoting creation within the genre. For that reason, I do not support the organization. Recent elections will continue that trend and will (IMHO) spell the demise of the organization.

    • Chris Langdon

      Are you trying to say that what the Punch Brothers do is a “much easier form of creativity”?

      • Lynwood Lunsford

        ABSOLUTELY!

      • Derek

        While I disagree with some of what he has said, I would, overall, agree with Lynwood that the Punch Brothers have a easier form of creativity. They don’t claim to be a bluegrass band and are not bound by the “rules” that such a designation would entail. They can be as free as they want to be. Now…that’s now saying that what they do is easy to come up with. But they have a MUCH larger well to draw from creatively. But, they can also bust the living hell out of some “traditional” bluegrass.

    • Jacob Underwood

      That is very true. It’s easier to take something that already exists and call it something else than to come up with something truly original. Pop music existed before Taylor Swift said she was country.

      Jesse McReynolds in a great example of a true innovator. He came up with something no one had ever done before, and kept the bluegrass sound. That is the true creativity we need in bluegrass today.

  • Suzanne E Galbraith

    I most certainly agree with Lynwood. Some days I cannot even enjoy listening to Bluegrass Junction on xm radio for all the new Artists and what they have presented as their spin on bluegrass, not only in the instrumentation but especially the subject matter of the tunes… It seems like I ‘ll turn it off more likely than listen
    for very long. I am so thankful we got into bluegrass when it still was (the early 80’s) got to see the Great Performers, and know what the real stuff is… The waters ahead are so murky… it ‘s scarey what can become of bluegrass if traditions are not kept up……

    • Darren Sullivan-Koch

      I’m sorry, but “subject matter of the tunes”? Are you saying that songwriters are only allowed to be inspired by certain things now?

      Bluegrass Songwriting 101 – please restrict your compositions to songs about:

      – home
      – mother
      – the girl in ol’ Virginia
      – life on the road
      – workin’ hard ’til ya die
      – Jesus

      THAT IS ALL.

      • AMW

        You don’t listen to much bluegrass do you? Your ignorance show.

        • Derek

          He was being sarcastic, not ignorant.

        • Darren Sullivan-Koch

          Thank you, Derek.

          AMW, I think you meant “Your ignorance shows.” It’s always fun when the person calling me “ignorant” can’t be bothered to use proper grammar.

          I’ve listened to tons of bluegrass, modern and traditional, and there’s a vast variety of songs out there about a huge range of topics. Some of which are pretty darn daring — like Rhonda Vincent’s “Little Angels.” The thought of a song topic being inappropriate for bluegrass strikes me as ridiculous. And I hate the idea of a great bluegrass songwriter — Chris Stuart, for instance — getting inspired and then saying “Oh, I better not write this — it’s not gonna be a bluegrass song.” That’s just asinine, and will lead to the continued atrophy of the genre.

    • Derek

      What is your definition of “traditions?”

  • Derek

    At the risk of getting into this debate, I have a question. And I want you that respond to keep it academic. If you can.

    Other than the denotation and philosophical implications of this argument, what ACTUAL effects will it give you? Will someone having drums on their live show stopping people from seeing Big Country Bluegrass? Will someone calling Mumford & Sons bluegrass (a categorization that I do not support, btw) stop people from listening to Going Across the Mountain? I’m not trying to attack anyone here. But arguing on an internet forum about the definition of something doesn’t really show what real world results will be.

    • Lynwood Lunsford

      Derek, I guess my question to you would have to be; “What purpose does it serve to define anything?”

      And the possibility was offered up that maybe someone would search out more “Bluegrass”, if they were to hear a band like Mumford & Sons…..believing that M&S is “Bluegrass”. What if, after hearing M&S, someone decided they HATED “Bluegrass”? Without the mislabeling, is it possible that the same person might have heard F&S first, thus falling in LOVE with “Bluegrass”? Either scenario is equally possible!

      • Derek

        I recognize your valid points. I myself was first aware local bluegrass musicians and hated it. Then I heard the Stanleys. I didn’t much care for them either (I have a greater appreciation now, but it is has been years in the making). THEN I heard Flatt & Scruggs and the doors were knocked off my tiny little world. So even hearing “traditional” bluegrass is not a sure sign that someone is going to like it. They have to find a band they like.

        As for defining things, as far as music is concerned, it really isn’t needed outside of the Billboard charts. If you like something, you should support/listen to/play it.

    • Temperance Bellerin

      Don’t think we’re arguin’ ’bout the definishun of BLUEGRASS as much as the fact that there shud be a DEFINISHUN. It cain’t be whatever I want it to be and whatever you want it to be and whatever IBMA wants it to be and be all over the board.

      If I played Sons Of The Pioneers songs with a Banjo added an’ we stayed true to the western style…but I want to call it bluegrass, would you accept it as bluegrass? If I got Lynard Skinnard music and added a banjo and called it bluegrass would you accept it as bluegrass and expect the rest of the world to also accept it as bluegrass? The thing is there ain’t nuthin wrong with the Sons of the Pioneers music and there ain’t nothin’ wrong with Lynard’s music. What’s wrong is callin’ it somethin’ it ain’t.

      • Derek

        Jimmy Bowen did a Skynard (the correct spelling, by the way) album. Just saying.

  • Donald Teplyske

    I got inspired: I wonder if this is how they do it in Nashville.

    The day I left ol’ Virginia, Mother was standing outside our family home,
    the one grandpa built with his hands.
    I was leavin’ behind lil’ Becky Simpson, Rufus the tickhound, and Jesus,
    for life on the road as a man who took a stand.

    I was workin’ hard at makin’ a livin’
    Takin’ back what had been stoled from me.
    Those banks didn’t need the money,
    Just so a rich man could buy a giant TV.
    I was workin’ hard at makin’ a livin’
    Sendin’ money back to my Virginia mountain home
    I worked hard every day like a miner
    ‘Til the day I was shot down by Deputy Jones.

    • Darren Sullivan-Koch

      Well done!

  • Ethan Hunt

    I like almost all styles of acoustic music, so to me even if it isn’t “strictly bluegrass” If i like it i don’t really care what banner it is under. But as bluegrass is concerned i do still think there should be line between tradition and contemporary, new stuff is always great, but if new bands keep forgetting tradition, “bluegrass” is over. Which i dont want to see happen.

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  • Temperance Bellerin

    Hey ya’ll, It ain’t about what ya like or don’t like. All of usns have got the right to like whatever and not like sumthin else. No one is sayin’ ya have to like bluegrass. No one is sayin’ ya can’t like Mumford.

    It is about what IS or what AIN’T Bluegrass.

    I don’t like Aloe Vera Juice. My wife used to mix it in with Orange Juice. She thought it made the Aloe Vera more tasty or easier to git down. I thot it ruint the orange juice. But neither of us tried to call it prune juice so we could bottle it and sell it.

    Mumford and Sons ain’t a subgenre of bluegrass. They ain’t even in the same arena.

    Remember you can call yer dog TIGER, but that don’t make him one.

    Lynwood has got the right angle.

    • Derek

      But your definition of bluegrass may no be someone else’s definition of bluegrass. That’s the problem. And just because some might use drum and someone calls it bluegrass, it doesn’t mean that the very next people like Joe Mullins and Junior Sisk and Danny Paisley are going to have drummers and electric guitar players in their bands. Whether folks want to believe it or not, so-called traditional music is alive and well and will continue to be so. I would almost bet that this debate has been going on since bluegrass has existed (well, almost) and there is still traditional bluegrass out there.

  • slaureda

    I agree that Bluegrass needs to move forward but if that means LOUD and ELECTRIC and endless jams that have little or no musical content I will not buy it nor do I care to listen to it, in concert or otherwise. I like songs with words that have meaning. I like fiddle tunes that have a melody that will go around in your head in the middle of the night. They can be new or old. Some of the new stuff is just endless NOISE. I’m sure there is a market for it but I hope all of Bluegrass doesn’t go that way. I’m seeing a lot of the festivals going with the newer electric groups and they have lost my ticket. When I can’t sit through a show without wearing earplugs and there is not one tune I can remember or want to hear again, why go? When I listen to music I hope to be touched in some way, not leave with a headache.

    • Lynwood Lunsford

      That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout!!

  • Andy Alexander

    The IBMA has embraced the “Big Tent” and is accepting many different styles of music as bluegrass. They encourage bluegrass venues to feature these acts. Instead, why can’t the IBMA put more effort into getting real bluegrass bands into mainstream venues in front of a non-bluegrass audience. The only thing wrong with real bluegrass is that not enough of the general public are exposed to it. While certainly not everyones cup of tea, real bluegrass music is good stuff and I’m sure that it would win a lot of fans if more people got to hear it.

  • Temperance Bellerin

    Preachin’ to the choir is still better than lettin’ the devil in yer church jest ’cause you hope he might be droppin a few coins in the collecshun plate.

    • Darren Sullivan-Koch

      What’s with the tacky faux-hayseed spelling?

  • Temperance Bellerin

    Derek, my definishun of blue may not be same as yours but that don’t make it red either. Yer right. That is the problem. With out havin’ a clear ider of rules, boundaries, guidelines…it gits to bein’ a freeforall.

    Imagine a football leeg runnin’ the way bluegrass does…how wud ya ever git a champeen outta somethin’ like the Super Bowl when one team says it’s OK to use 15 guys on the field at the same time and another says they use sticks to hit the ball and still another wants to play the game on a 200 yard field with goal posts on all 4 sides. It just wudn’t be foot ball wud it?

    • Derek

      Nice analogy, but when did bluegrass become a competition? For that matter, when did music become a competition?

    • Darren Sullivan-Koch

      And, honestly, I find football as boring as refried dirt. What you’re describing sounds way more fun and interesting.

  • Chet Pope

    I’ve been into acoustic music for a while now. Was first introduced in ’94 with the Flecktones and fell completely in love with the banjo. So, I went backwards in time to find out what or who may have influenced a style of playing. Sure Earl was one, but what about John Hartford is that bluegrass? I don’t really think so. I consider him the grandfather of newgrass, While Sam Bush the father. What happened in the 70’s when New Grass Revival came out on the scene? I bet they were attacked just like people are downing Mr. Piknely for saying what he thinks. Change is a good thing, especially in music, after all there are only so many chords.

  • Jerry B

    Noam is a great player and can play virtually any style on the banjo…that is given. IBMA, in trying to make bluegrass bigger and more profitable is giving a big ten approach to all who think they are playing bluegrass. There are quite a few producers in Nashville that call something bluegrass if there is a slight hint of anything they associate with the genre. Those folks have no idea what they’re talking about…but it must sound good to them. I suppose there are endless arrangements of music that can be “associated” with bluegrass and there are folks that will argue with you unending about what bluegrass is and is not. As far as I’m concerned, true BG is all acoustic but that’s just what I consider as true. Monroe, Jim & Jesse, Flatt & Scruggs, Jimmy Martin, Osbornes etc. all went beyond the classic instrumentation of their day in experimentation…some pretty tastefully and some not so much. I have heard Skaggs do some mighty tasteful stuff with instruments not usually in the realm of bluegrass but it was done tastefully. We have not yet been blessed with a hard line definition of what bluegrass is and isn’t so I suppose the argument will continue on. I have heard Mr. Bill say, “That rat there ain’t in my music.” to some in his own band but he didn’t leave a template for us as far as I know….it’s just what we individually think it is or isn’t.

  • Lynwood Lunsford

    While doing some work around the house today, I was thinking about this problem of defining music. Especially “Bluegrass” music. The IBMA has adopted the position that they do not wish to define it. However, taking this “Big Tent” direction has actually done just that. So what is the definition, you ask? “BLUEGRASS ~ Any music, acoustic or otherwise, that does not squarely fit into any other genre.”

    • Dennis Jones

      Yes Lynwood, by The IBMA choosing the Big Tent and their including so many Edge of The Yard/Blurgrass acts in the “Offical” showcases they define The Music as Anything With Strings.

  • Kevin

    Life goes on and as it does everything changes. It doesn’t matter what it is it will change.
    In 20 or 30 years time the new batch of Bluegrass fans will be listening to Bluegrass music that our generation will barely recognize. It’s called evolution.
    As for the IBMA in time a younger group of people will enter into its administration and they will bring about changes including broadening the acceptance of sub genres.
    Who knows, maybe new instruments will find their way into bluegrass. All I hope for is whatever the new instruments they retain basic acoustic Bluegrass sound

  • Jacob Underwood

    Tony Rice’s speech was as good as Noam Pikelny’s speech was bad.

  • Lyn

    I think the bottom line in these posts is that each of us like what we like and use that ‘like’ as the benchmark to shape commentary of our peers. An organization dedicated to promotion like IBMA needs to cultivate an openness to our opinions so the genre can work to find its market.

    After all, any of us who are trying to make a living playing music know that ultimately, it doesn’t mater how good a performer you are; talent is required. But next in importance to talent, is an audience to market yourself to. That’s what IBMA should be doing for the music: finding the market for its member musicians. Leave the interpretation of the music to the musicians and to the market, not the promotional tool. Just look at what record companies (promotional tools) have done to country music. Believe me, the people buying (or not buying) your music will shape what you play if you are paying attention to them. Last thing we want is a promotional tool defining what your music should be. There is room in the bluegrass genre for diversity and creativity and we should all encourage it for the music’s sake.

    Lastly, and case in point, the midwest bluegrass festival scene (Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, etc.) is consistently seeing smaller, older audiences at festivals. Several parks have closed in the last few years as well. Economy is definitely and issue, but far bigger in my opinion, is an inability and maybe an unwillingness of promoters to change to meet and even grow the market. The music has to find a larger and younger crowd if it is to thrive and survive. Personally, I am a traditionalist, but my daughter, who loves the music, prefers the edgy progressive styles to the point that I would have to say I don’t really know what it is. But, it is acoustic, it’s rootys, it’s real, and she spends money on it. THAT’s the market we are looking for. That doesn’t mean throw out the old and in with the new. It means balance.

    The cool thing about bluegrass is that it stands on its own two feet. I trust in it’s ability to inspire, create, re-create, and ultimately, survive whatever we try to do to screw it up. For me, the conclusion to this discussion is to let the musicians pick, the audiences cheer and IBMA promote whatever it is the first two groups like.

  • Temperance Bellerin

    wonst agin Lynwood, you say it well. But in the balance when you got such differnt ends of the scale ya gots to know you can’t please everbody. Thats what IBMA seems to wanna do. Somewhere ya gotta draw a line.

    I seen good festivals try to please both sides by switchin’ bands -first a tradishunal then a newedge group. I seen older folks git shoved aside as they make room fer kids to stand right down front where they can look eyeball to eyeball with the band. I don’t care who you are and what you like…that is rude. To block the view of some paying ticket holders who prefer to sit n listen so that other payers can stand is not pleasing everybody. At the same festivals they make them with high-back chairs sit in the back sos not to block the view….seems like they talk outta both sides of their mouths. And all this is created because they wanna cater to both groups n sell as many tickets as they can.

    Sorry but you can’t cut down the mountain to build yer condominimums and still have the pretty mountain view out yer winder. It don’t work that way. These two sides are never gonna agree until all of one side dies off and it seems as if IBMA is just waitin’ fer the day.

    It ain’t about what I like,or what you like or what a festival promoter thinks his customers will like or what the IBMA likes. It is about keeping something of value from becomin’ worthless. Same as you polish yer car and fix the dents. Same as you water and mow yer grass. You cultivate what you have – allowin’ it to grow, mature, CHANGE. But ya don’t bring yer grass into the parlor and call it a carpet. Even though you walk on both, they still aint the same.

    I suppose if somebody really wanted to do that ther’s no law stoppin ’em but that don’t mean your neighbors have to like it, agree to do it also and then start callin’ their carpets by grass names….”Honey did ya vacuum the bluegrass today?” “Well we got tired of the old turf so we had some new bermuda laid down in the front room and hallway.” And you don’t call just ANYTHING bluegrass n expect the rest of us to go along with it. Natural Evolution is one thing but forcin’ it to suit tastes n trends is like tryin’ to git yer fiver to look like a fifty dollar bill.

    What these edgy pickers is – is nothin’ but counterfit. They cain’t find a home in any other kinda music so IBMA opens the door to git their membership dues.

    • Darren Sullivan-Koch

      God your fake hillbilly spelling is getting really old, really fast.

      • Darren Sullivan-Koch

        I’m sorry, let me rephrase that:

        Yer sill-e fayk hillbillee talk makes yer argumentations alful hard to take seriouslike. Is like you’s hidin beehin sumptim.

        • AMW

          You can keep your new age trash at home. Or better yet find another genre to intrude on…

          • Darren Sullivan-Koch

            I’m sorry, but there’s a great tradition of southern intellectualism, and those noble men had a lot more respect for the written word than the rather insulting caricature that Tempest Bledsoe makes himself out to be.

            And intrude? I have been a part of the bluegrass world for decades in innumerable capacities. Maybe you’re the intruder.

        • Temperance Bellerin

          Thar are sum what don’t like how I talk er the way I write. I cain’t help em. Thar moma shuda told ’em bettern that wen they’s yunguns.

          Wen I growed up, we only had us 1 contry skool hous an are teecher only had a 12 grad edjucashun. We thot that she wern whatcha call hihly edjucated. I dint no til long time later that teechers go to more skoolin after that.

          I got all the way past the 8th grad with my rithmatic an histree but didt do so good on my pinmanship and words.

          When I was 10 year old, I was workin’ in my granpas lumber mill and a saw blade come off and it flew cross the air rite at me. I tried to duck back of a pile of logs but I wernt fast nuf cos the blade got my head an rite ear an 3 fingers on my rite hand cos I’s tryin to pertect my head.
          They dint think it was to bad rite then cos I never pased out an didnt cry er nuthin. But later on as years gone by they new I was slower in my learnin in sum things. When it got to hard an the other yungins was passin me an funnin’ me all the time, my granpa said I dint have to go no more an I went to work at age 15.

          I been workin now fer 84 years doin lots of differnt jobs and I kep learnin new stuff but it aint like reel learnin.
          I lernt how to use this computar an the web few years back but with my fingers gon I dont hit all the keys ever time. I had me a gal one time taght me how to cut an post so sumtimes I can take sumpin alredy wrote an post it in my lines an that speds up the ordel elsewise it takes me purtyneer a hour er more to git sumpin said.

          So ifn ya don’t lik the way I rite ya don’t havta go pokin fun an lower yersef to ridacule. Wen I used to be on radio folks thot I was foolin em to but i wernt. Nowdays wen kids dont spell thar words rite they call it texin an thar cool fer bein like that. At leest I come by igerance honestly. A feller is who he is. I dont go pokin fun at you fer bein’ hifalutin.

          • Darren Sullivan-Koch

            I’m sorry.

            But as a native southerner, I’m tired of people mocking us and looking down at us for being uneducated and slow-witted. We’re quite the opposite, as you well know. You’re obviously a thoughtful dude. So when I see someone willingly portray themselves as such, it hurts.

            I’m not the one who’s putting on airs here: You are. It’s clear you know how to write properly. You’re just choosing to play into a stereotype that has been used to demean and insult people from my part of the world for centuries now. If I spoke in a mock African-American dialect or a tacky fake Asian accent, would it be so welcomed?

          • Scranton Pemberton

            Darren has a point here. In fact, if you look back at the comments to https://bluegrasstoday.com/putumayo-bluegrass-collection-searches-for-new-ears/ , this “Temperance” character speaks perfectly fine English. This ridiculous fake-hillbilly jargon is just a put-on, and does no one any favors.

    • Derald

      T.B. You sound a lot like Wichita Rutherford sounds on the radio.

  • terry martin

    i tend to agree with lynwood on this one,, although i will say up front i do enjoy and appreciate some of the newer stuff and new bands.. i am not a lifer in bluegrass,,only been in it about 35 years and was first introduced to it with the seldom scene, ,mavericks i their own right. but over the years have learned to play and learn about the pioneers of the music…
    so where do you draw the line in the sand? well first off IBMA doesn’t say anything about the preservation of bluegrass,, it is to recognize and promote bluegrass in the music world.. on the other hand SPBGMA says it right in the title. perhaps this is a good time to let the 2 stand on their own in different ways,, IBMA more so for the newer progressive bands and new sounds,, and SPBGMA for the traditional bluegrass music. while i agree top 40 country is nothing but bad rock and roll any more,, i would hate to see the same thing happen to bluegrass, not saying the new music is bad or i don’t enjoy it because i do,, i was NGR before NGR was cool. the talent level of some of these new players is in the stratosphere.. but like the old saying goes if you forget from where you come from you won’t know where you are going.

    terry m

  • Andy Alexander

    In my opinion, the IBMA’s “Big Tent” approach clearly shows the effect of money on integrity.

  • Darby Brandli

    My two cents: it is not the IBMA’s job to define bluegrass but instead to support the bluegrass industry. It is up to the musicians, associations and fans to define the music if they think they are able.

    • Lynwood Lunsford

      If the IBMA has no definition of the industry, how does the organization know what to support?

    • Temperance Bellerin

      Who’s bluegrass is IBMA promotin’

      • Darren Sullivan-Koch

        Good question! And is it an all-or-nothing kind of thing? Bluegrass has the weird quirk of having its least representative exponents (Krauss, Thile, etc.) be its most popular…it’s tricky, and from this thread it seems like no one’s going to be happy all the time.

  • Dick Bowden

    Terry Martin makes a very good point. Traditional bluegrassers already have a fine organization in SPBGMA. Not that I want to dis, or exclude IBMA from my best wishes, but SPBGMA really supports where my heart is at. I’ve attended their functions in Nasvhille, and other than it usually being a cramped venue for the boisterous crowd they draw, they seem to be doing a good job supporting what I truly like. Maybe it’s their Missouri location that keeps them off the radar here in New England, but perhaps I should look into supporting them more actively? Maybe IBMA and SPBGMA could even support each other????

    • Derald

      Except that SPBGMA doesn’t want to be a broad organization beyond the boundaries of their own back yard. It appears to anyone on the outside as a closed group or in other words, a clique. I’ve tried to join the group from the west coast, and again from the Rocky Mt.-west and they can’t be bothered to answer an email. There is bluegrass in Washington DC that is every bit as good as anything produced in Kentucky or North Carolina. There is excellent bluegrass on the West Coast of the U.S. and up in Alaska. And beyond the U.S. Australia, New Zealand Japan and Europe all produce top shelf representations of the genre but SPBGMA seems to think it all belongs in the Southern states of the U.S. They’re not the organization to counter IBMA and that has been proven by lack of attention given to much of what they do….even by the industry itself.

      • Lynwood Lunsford

        I think you first must understand the purpose of SPGBMA. This organization was created as a money-maker for the promoter. And although the title implies some sort of preservation, the truth is, it is merely a show for entertainment……and profit. At the time that SPGBMA was created, there was no means to recognize people in the industry with any kind of award. There had been the Muleskinner News awards that fans voted on through the magazine and were presented at the Camp Springs, NC bluegrass festival, but that had long passed. One of the motivations in creating the IBMA was to counter what was happening with SPBGMA. The unknowing public thought that the SPBGMA awards….and the organization….. were somehow sanctioned by the industry. They were not. The IBMA, being a non-profit trade organization, would give more “legitimacy” to any accolades given to our industry professionals. Now I’m not saying there is no value in what happens with SPBGMA because the fans do decide the awards……but it’s all just part of the “show”.

    • Jon Weisberger

      SPBGMA and the IBMA aren’t really comparable. The IBMA is a trade association with a mission to serve its members and the industry. SPBGMA exists essentially to put on festivals and contests, and to give awards voted on by folks who buy tickets to those events. I always enjoy playing at the SPBGMA convention, and I enjoy visiting and sometimes picking with all the friends I see there, but the event feels and is organized very differently from the IBMA’s World of Bluegrass. SPBGMA is an organizational member of the IBMA and has been for many years.

  • Daniel Salyer

    I can’t believe I just stooped to such a level that I actually sat here and read every single comment on this post. If IBMA didn’t even exist bluegrass would still go on. Who cares what they support or what they don’t. I think you just like to argue for the sake of arguing. I’ve got an idea…like and support what you like, play what you want to play, forget about recognition and trophies and just shut up. Who cares if the whole world doesn’t know about bluegrass? As long as you do that’s all that matters. Having an organization like IBMA is not going to sway anyone’s opinions even after we’re all long gone. Maybe what “bluegrass” needs is less bickering and more picking.

    • Scranton Pemberton

      …that’s kinda why I walked away from bluegrass some years ago. Too much ignorance, too much bickering, too much bullying. I’ve been drawn back in lately because the quality of the music — traditional AND contemporary — is so good. But once I scratched the surface, I find all this contempt and bile. It’s depressing.

      Bluegrass could take a lesson from the Irish/Celtic music community, who seem to have no problem having a wide variety of sounds and styles being sheltered under the same roof: from ancient traditional sean nos singing to bands with (GASP) synthesizers in them. They recognize the common core, and the genre’s need to innovate to stay relevant and exciting.

      In other words, pick ’em all and let God sort ’em out.

  • Donald Teplyske

    I’m surprised at the voracity of your response, Daniel. As someone who is a music professional, I would think you could have a significant and vested interest in what the IBMA does and how the organization can promote the music, be it bluegrass or ‘acoustic.’ Who cares if the whole world doesn’t know about bluegrass? Well, me do care. And I’m thinking a bunch of folks with mortgages, families, and obligations do as well. Perhaps you don’t have to worry about money, about being part of a professional trade organization. I’m guessing others feel differently.

  • Donald Teplyske

    Voracity was not the word I was looking for. Duh. “Forcefulness,” perhaps.