Q&A – attending a Virtual Wold of Bluegrass

Well, if you’ve checked your email, yesterday’s Bluegrass Today stories, or just talked to one of your perpetually in-the-know friends (that third one is usually the least reliable of these sources), you’ve already heard that the IBMA World of Bluegrass will not be happening this year, at least not in the physical sense.

Since it was in the physical sense that we enjoyed this annual gathering, the concept of a “Virtual World of Bluegrass” is leaving a lot of people skeptical and with a lot of unanswered questions. 

These are a few of those questions:

Will a seminar on web site design be as interesting even if I don’t oversleep and run from my hotel to get there 10 minutes late?

Answer: Probably.

Will the keynote address be enhanced by the fact that I’ll be doing a load of laundry while I’m watching it?

Answer: Possibly. I know of at least one keynote address that would have been greatly improved by my doing laundry at the same time. I’m thinking specifically of the keynote I helped deliver myself.

Will a virtual awards show still run an hour and 40 minutes overtime?

Answer: Yes. With all the change going or in our lives, we really shouldn’t mess with tradition. The schedule will be drawn up once again based on the assumption that all speeches will be an average of three seconds long.

Will schmoozing and trying to drum up business be the same when it’s done virtually?

Answer: No. It’s too easy to end a virtual conversation by claiming that the internet went out. 

Will the money I save by not physically attending the IBMA World of Bluegrass enable me to take my family on a cruise of the Grecian islands?

Answer: Have you been following what’s happening in the cruise industry? Or on Grecian islands?

These are all valid questions, and we’re all wrestling with the profound disappointment of the loss of our “Bluegrass Christmas” on top of all the other losses of 2020 piling up. The Christmas analogy is fitting, since at least at first glance, a virtual IBMA World of Bluegrass seems about as exciting as a virtual Christmas celebration, with its virtual caroling, opening of virtual presents, drinking of virtual egg nog, and having virtual family arguments via Zoom.

This news was pretty inevitable, though, and we have to support the IBMA’s prudent decision. Let’s face it: the World of Bluegrass was already a health hazard, with the event being an almost perfect environment for the spreading of germs and for those germs to wreak havoc on a large group of people who spent the week doing all the things known to compromise the immune system: sleeping less than 4 hours a night, consuming more than the recommended daily allowance of caffeine and alcohol, singing in stairwells, etc. This behavior was always followed up by close contact with other attendees, a lot of handshaking, and of course plenty of face-touching (last year’s seminar, “Face-touching in Bluegrass Music, a Retrospective” was very informative).

In years past, some attempted to blame the hotel ventilation in Nashville, Louisville, and even Owensboro for the number of people who got sick the following week, ignoring the obvious culprits. In fact the last person who talked to me about that theory did so loudly, talking over a band that was playing, after which he coughed in my face. No, this is probably not the time to put our powers of disease-resistance to the test.

You know what, though? We’re going to get through this, even if things may not look quite the same on the other side. We’ll have our virtual experience this year and then look forward to an IBMA World of Bluegrass like none other in 2021, with in-person schmoozing, in-person jamming, very little sleeping, and yes, some face-touching. See you then.