Thursday report from World of Bluegrass 2021

Abbie Gardner at World of Bluegrass 2021 – photo © Tara Linhardt

Thursday at World of Bluegrass 2021 was a day of awards and conferences that I have to admit made me tear up more than once throughout the day. There were awards for the “best of” categories for this year, as well as a number of lifetime achievement awards (insert your link here for listing of award people). Hearing the histories and contributions that some of the award recipients have made over the years, and sometimes the struggles they may have had to overcome to continue with their pursuits and dreams, was quite moving and inspiring.

First were the stories Alison Brown told of how the Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Jarda Prucha found his love for banjos in the Czech Republic, and could not find a good banjo to play there, so started making them based off of photos he had seen. Then we went to Larry Stephenson introducing Cliff Waldron, and the huge positive impact Cliff had on so many lives, including his own. Hearing of Nancy Caldwell Webster’s, Stan Zdonik’s, and Lee Michael Demsey’s many achievements, and the people who influenced them and the lives they, in turn, affected, it becomes apparent just how important and special one person and their impact can be on those around them. And even on an entire genre of music, an industry, and a culture.

If anyone out there was wondering how much difference one person can make out there in the world, this answered the question. Some people might think of the annual IBMA conference for the music one hears, information one can learn, and networking opportunities. But I have to say that I am sure many people also find inspiration. After a year in which COVID shut so many things down, and put so many lives and careers in a holding pattern, hearing such stories of the great effect that one person has made was a real message of positivity and hope.

The lunchtime awards ceremony could have made a full eventful day in itself, but of course that was just a part of the day’s events. I think many attendees were inspired creatively at IBMA after hearing some of their fellow artists on and off stage covering standards and hearing many new songs as well. There was a powerful songwriters showcase with writers from all around the country performing original songs in a wide variety of styles. I can share a wee little sample here with these ones from Abbie Gardner from New Jersey, and then one from Brian Oberlin from Michigan. 

Abbie Gardner

Brian Oberlin

And, as always at IBMA, one never knows what interesting opportunities may lie in wait around the next corner, or in the next hour… Hillary Klug came into the Bluegrass Today room and offered us a special treat with our very own personal performance of song and dance. She was joined by Cristina Vance and Evan Winsor.