Wednesday, April 13, 2011

IBMA, Bluegrass Nation, and Craig Havighurst

Videographer Craig Havighurst has posted an announcement of the latest and most ambitious project of IBMA to reach out to a broader public on his web site.  You can and should read it here. As a member of the IBMA Board of Directors, Craig is undertaking the design of a project growing from an idea of IBMA Executive Director Dan Hays and developed through the cooperative efforts of the Board of Directors as well as the results of this winter's IBMA poll. Scheduled for a summer roll-out this mammoth project is designed to provide an on-line platform for the entire length and breadth of the bluegrass world, which has been named Bluegrass Nation.  Ambitious in its conception and stunning in its effort to include the entire world of bluegrass from the most traditional elements to the far edges of bluegrass influenced music, Bluegrass Nation, in Craig's gentle, thoughtful, and engaging fashion will seek to provide a voice for everyone. He conceives of Bluegrass Nation as a year round on-line manifestation of what IBMA's World of Bluegrass does in the last week of September in Nashville each year.

Craig envisions Bluegrass Nation like this: "Bluegrass Nation will be a social network for bluegrass fans and professionals, a super-community that hopes to stitch together a variety of on-line and off-line bluegrass-related groups and fans worldwide. A resource center, a conversation point, a news feed and a platform for sharing, Bluegrass Nation will blur the lines between bluegrass-specific web sites and Facebook groups, and it will be a place for bluegrass-related content creators of all kinds to become better known and more widely seen. Its details and design are being worked on now, but our working document and vision statement is available HERE."  It's worth your while to click on the previous link to read the pdf file describing Bluegrass Nation's mission statement.

Bluegrass Nation seeks to expand the mission of IBMA, which has previously been focused primarily on performers and the bluegrass industry.  Now it seeks, through Bluegrass Nation to reach out to and embrace the wider bluegrass community, to encourage all people interested and involved in bluegrass music to use its comprehensive services as a means to reach out to and contact each other's interests, constituencies, and enthusiasms.  Bluegrass Nation will be free and open to all, providing a range of approaches to connect all people seeing themselves as involved in bluegrass. To receive notices concerning the progress of Bluegrass Nation, go here and sign up.

As a part of this effort, Bluegrass Nation will both involve itself in the ongoing discussion of "What Is Bluegrass Anyway (WIBA)"  take a big tent approach to welcome all who self identify as being involved in it.  "But I hope most of all that will be a place that celebrates and supports and unites all of the roots and branches of bluegrass music. Because you see bluegrass, as wonderful as it is, is afflicted with a never-ending anxiety. The conundrum I mentioned before. Every discussion about the music’s present and future (including last week’s meeting) circles back to the same debate: What is bluegrass anyway? And how far out of its stylistic and sonic and historical boundaries should the IBMA reach as it seeks to make common cause with bluegrass-influenced artists and potential bluegrass audiences around the world?" Bluegrass Nation hopes to build the biggest data base of bluegrass fans in the world. That's a big goal, but, if the site maintains the interest and liveliness Craig suggests, then the goal is achievable.  By encouraging performers, jammers, listeners, attenders, content providers, manufacturers, promoters, media, and everyone else involved in bluegrass to interact in a lively interchange and discussion, bluegrass music should be able to widen its outreach while maintaining its integrity.

If you're not familiar with Craig Havighurst, here's a thumbnail description of his efforts and background.  Craig comes from Durham, NC and currently lives in Nashville. He attended Northwestern University in Illinois where he earned a degree in English and then earned his Master's degree at Duke in Public Policy Studies.  He worked as a music writer for Nashville's newspaper, The Tennessean, leaving after three years to start his own company, String Theory Media.  His company produces films about music and musicians. His film reporting on the Singer/Songwriter Workshop held by Dan Tyminski and Ronnie Bowman at the Mast Farm Inn last August has been chosen for showing at the Nashville Film Festival later this month. He's the author of Air Castle of the South: WSM and the Making of Music City.  Craig has become a busy and influential force in bluegrass music. His latest project promises to provide enormous value for all of us involved in it.