First, do no harm

“First, do no harm”

Since the 30’s and 40’s Bluegrass has grown from seemingly ones man’s idea about how to present the old time mountain music in Appalachia to today where it’s an international music loved and performed by folks from around the globe, most of which couldn’t point out Rosine, KY on a map. There are massive festivals across the world celebrating weeks in each instance dedicated to the love of the Bluegrass sound. In America, there are hundreds of Bluegrass Music associations dedicated to the music’s survival and heritage spanning every state of the union.

While the music is prospering in many places around the world, there are some areas where the music is drying up. The festivals are shuttering their doors, associations are folding, bands are disappearing, and the culture in those areas is drying up like a puddle in a drought. While this is not un-common in any music (ebb and flows are the nature of music) there are plenty of causations you can point to. Cultures in general change, popular culture changes what people place value on, geographical population changes effect audiences, age demographics change for an area (are you seeing a pattern yet?)….plus about a hundred other things effect the health of the music in any given area….but the thing that controls it the most, and is the most helpful/harmful is…..its current care-takers. Associations, Promoters, Bands, and fans have such a huge impact on Bluegrass music and that can be a positive at times….and at others it can be a HUGE negative.

Change is inevitable

Nothing is constant but change, and in the business world (like the music world) you adapt or you die. The music has changed, it has been woven into American culture and like most items of this nature it has been adjusted somewhat depending on who is consuming this culture.  They have made it their own and in most cases it isn’t “Bill Monroe 1-4-5 Only” now. Bands like The Infamous Stringdusters, New Grass Revival, Billy Strings and so many more bands over the years have pushed the envelope of Bluegrass and grown the music while simultaneously fueling a war…..

The Battle for “Bluegrass”

Some of the care takers of Bluegrass (mentioned above as Associations, Promoters, Bands and Fans) have been waging a constant war with their own music since the music began. “That’s Not Bluegrass” has become their rallying cry, and it has been heard from the hills of Tennessee all the way to Japan. While in places of Bluegrass influence, this faction of caretakers have been alienating moderate and progressive opinions and holding so tightly to the “Standards of Bluegrass” that they don’t realize what they are doing is choking the life out of the music they love. They push away the next generations of Bluegrass people (caretakers) in an futile attempt to take a time machine back to The Bluegrass Boys stepping on stage at the Opry. This alienation, and segregation is causing the Bluegrass gene pool in their respective areas to dry up…which is why so many “Strictly Bluegrass” events, associations and more are gone.

How do we end the war?

We have to realize that change is inevitable and if we would like our musical legacy to carry on realize one thing….IT IS! There are still way more traditional Bluegrass bands across the genre than there are “The Sierra Hull’s” of our music (fyi I LOVE Sierra) and that traditional Monroe, Stanley, Martin sound is still being carried on the backs of so many young musicians. The only way to “Carry the Tradition” (Like LRB so eloquently put it) is to make sure there are still young people to Carry that tradition with them in and around the music. We need to start making more young people feel welcome at Bluegrass events. Encourage youths to play whatever Bluegrass song/style feel right for them. Heap the Bluegrass traditions onto them while they are learning and let them meld that into their sound.  We need to support youth programs and ANY Bluegrass event brining in Young People. Also, don’t be scared to have non-Bluegrass acts at your events….Its a fact that most people love Bluegrass after seeing it live and the people who come out to see that non-Bluegrass fan might be the difference between Bluegrass living on into the future and all of our musical for-fathers effort being for not.

If you “LOVE BLUEGRASS” please do not be one of the people not letting it breathe.

What can you “DO” for Bluegrass?

‘I Just love bluegrass, and want it to carry on”

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard how much people love Bluegrass and wants what’s best for it…but yet what actions have you taken? What have you offered this music that you love other than opinions? What have you “DONE”?…..I cannot help with that question but I can help with another question:

What can you do?

Here is a list of things you can do to support Bluegrass on a mico and macro levels.

Support Bluegrass Associations

Bluegrass 501c3’s are on the front lines supporting Bluegrass and bringing the music to new generations. There are many ways to support them:

  • Pay for a membership
  • Attend their events
  • Bring friends with you to the events
  • Buy t-shirts and other items from them
  • Donate money
  • Donate instruments
  • Volunteer you time
  • Spread the word of the associations existence and events to your people and social media

Support Festivals

Festivals are such a mainstay in the history and development of the music and is a place where many people come together to bring their flavors of Bluegrass into the mix. These are the summits of our culture that helps fortify the following. Here are some things you can do to help Festivals:

  • Buy tickets (even if you are not going)
  • Volunteer at the Festival
  • Share the event on your social media
  • Bring people to the festivals
  • Buy festival shirts & merch
  • Buy items from bands at Festival directly
  • Buy 50/50 tickets
  • Reserve your tickets/camping for the next year

Support Jams

Bluegrass Jams not only strengthen the musician community but also bring in new fans. Here are a few ways to support jams:

  • Attend Jams
  • Support other jammers
  • Share jams on your social media
  • Share pictures and videos from jams
  • Support Youth Jammers
  • Support the venue where the jam is being held

Support Local Bluegrass Venues

Anyplace that supports live Bluegrass music should be themselves supported. The more local support that happens, the more other venues will want to try Bluegrass out. Here are the ways you can help:

  • Attend the Bluegrass events
  • Share the venue and events on your social media
  • Buy food/drinks
  • Talk to the manager about the event in a positive manner
  • Bring friends with you to the events
  • Leave positive YELP feedback for the venue and mention Bluegrass

Support Local Bluegrass Bands

Local live Bluegrass is the foundation for a healthy Bluegrass community around the state/country. There are a ton of things you can do to help local Bluegrass bands:

  • Attend their events
  • Share their events on your social media
  • Buy their merch directly from them (not from Amazon or iTunes)
  • Take videos and pictures at their events and share that media
  • Talk to local venues about having local Bluegrass Bands
  • Buy tickets to events, even if you cannot attend

Support Youth in Bluegrass

This should be the most obvious one, but oddly its the one people neglect the most. Supporting young folks in Bluegrass anyway you can not only assists them but sets Bluegrass up for a new generation. Here are some things you can do:

  • Bring youths to Bluegrass events
  • Support Youth programs at local Bluegrass events
  • Give youth musicians positive reinforcement
  • Donate unused instruments to youth musicians
  • Be inclusive in jams to youth musicians
  • Pay a student’s Camp fees

Support IBMA, SPIGMA and similar organizations

National organizations already have multiple programs and events that are focused on targeting new Bluegrass fans and fostering young musicians. Here is how you can help:

  • Become a member of each
  • Attend organizational events
  • Donate to the organizations and their funds
  • Volunteer at events
  • Pay for youth musicians to attend these events

There are just a few of the things you can “DO” to support the music. If more people just did a few of these things instead of complaining about what other people are “Doing” we would have a more prosperous music around the world and beyond. If you LOVE Bluegrass music, I beg that you do as many of these things as possible.

Ask yourself, have I given back to Bluegrass in a positive way? What have you done? Are you proud?

When I leave the world, I hope I can say I have done all I can to leave it in better shape then I found it.

The 42nd Annual Everglades Bluegrass Festival

In its 42 year existence, The Everglades Bluegrass Festival has played host to some of the most amazing bands in the Bluegrass world. Jimmy Martin, Bill Monroe, Chubby Wise, LRB, 3TO, The Osborne Brothers, The Grascals, Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, Special Consensus and so any more. This legendary festival has been taking place since the late 70’s in South Florida thanks to the country’s oldest music non-profit, The South Florida Bluegrass Association.

This year’s festival was another huge bill headlined by mutli-IMBA award winning artists Kenny & Amanda Smith. Although this festival may not be as large as its 80’s and 90’s years, it is one of the Florida Festivals on the upswing back to prominence thanks to the help of an all-volunteer group of passionate Bluegrass fans.

This past weekend at Greynolds Park in North Miami Beach was filled with great music from a diverse band roster, multiple killer jams, and a master class workshop done by 2-Time IBMA Guitar player of the year Kenny Smith. Sound was provided by Evans Media Source, and the staff was as friendly as they were helpful. Campers started showing up on Tuesday for the festivities and the party didn’t stop until Sunday evening.

The 42nd Annual Everglades Festival kept this Florida Bluegrass Festival season driving on! We aren’t even done with January and already this season has been fantastic.

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