Monday, October 3, 2011

The 22nd Annual International Bluegrass Music Awards

IBMA World of Bluegrass is actually three different events rolled into one week in a single event.  The Business Conference opens the week, closing on Thursday as the Awards events provide a transition day.  IBMA Fan Fest then kicks in on Friday and runs through Sunday morning.  This year, access to all events was made easier and ala carte pricing made the entire week less pricey for those who wanted to enjoy specific portions of the schedule. The music pass, now in its second year, proved to be a boon for people who wanted to hear bands in a variety of settings. Making Wednesday a free day for attending the Trade Show increased traffic there and was popular.  By bringing all official events into the Convention Center, IBMA made jamming sites more visible and jammers took advantage of this long into the evening.  While we hardly got over to the hotel, I understand there was plenty of jamming there, although much of it was in suites and hotel rooms, not necessarily open or widely advertised.  Enthusiasm for all elements of the week was high, and I'll have more to say as I roll out comments during the coming days. Now...on to the Awards presentations.

The day opened with the annual Town Meeting, in which members can appear before the Board of Directors to air issues and ask questions.  This is the fourth of these events I've attended and by far the most productive. Questions and comments were generally positive and supportive. Board responses were open and welcoming. Attendance was the largest I've seen for this early morning meeting that many people would have difficulty getting to if they jammed all night or wished to get in line for a good table at the Special Awards Luncheon.  While the entire Board was not present, a representative sample and all the leadership were there.

Stan Zdonik - IBMA Board Chair
Dan Keene

Mike Bub
Dwight Worden
Craig Havighurst
Jim Roe
Town Meeting Participants

The annual awards show actually happens in two segments. The large extravaganza at the Ryman Auditorium garners all the national attention among bluegrass fans and the general public. It also creates plenty of buzz, recognizes the accomplishments of performers, and creates just a little bit of controversy as people get to second guess the choices.  A smaller, more intimate, and, for many IBMA members more interesting, event takes place earlier on Thursday.  The Special Awards Luncheon presents a series of awards as well as announcing and presenting Distinguished Achievement Awards to IBMA members whose contributions to bluegrass music cover an entire career and represent the deepest of commitments to our music.  This year, the five recipients of Distinguished Achievement Awards were Greg Cahill, Bill Knowlton, Lilly Pavlak, Geoff Stelling, and Roland White. Each was presented by a close and noted friend in some detail.  There are always a few tears shed during these presentations as well a sense that having people like these in our midst ennobles our entire enterprise.  Pictures will be presented in the order they appear in my camera, and I'll comment along the way.

Special Awards Luncheon

Kyle Cantrell Introduces 2011
Leadership Bluegrass Class

Leigh Gibson Introduces Bill Knowlton

Bill Knowlton

Bill Knowlton is a radio broadcaster in Syracuse, NY, host of the annual Bluegrass Ramble Picnic, and frequent emcee at bluegrass festivals and other events in New York and New England as well as around the country. He is noted for his colorful trousers, the cowbells he rings, as well as the with and humor he brings to his work.  His career of over forty years promoting and boosting bluegrass well deserves his Distinguished Avhievement Award.

Alison Brown announces winner
Best Graphic Design for a Recorded Project
Ricardo Alession (Designer)
"City of Refuge" by Abigail Washburn (Rounder Records)
also Erica Harris
Alison Brown with Geof Stelling
Distinguished Achievement Award

Geof Stelling, owner and designer of Stelling Banjos, has spent a lifetime producing great American-made banjos seeking to re-create the sound and feel of famous pre-war banjos with his own distinctive look and sound.
Craig Havighurst Presenting Print Media Award

Julie Thanki - Recipient
Bluegrass Print Media Personality of the Year

Julie Thanki is a freelance writer and editor of the web site Engine

Jon Weisberger Introducing Roland White
Roland White
Distinguished Achievement Award

Roland White has led a distinguished career as a mandolinist, band leader, and bluegrass teacher with roots going back to the beginning.
Katy Daley
Bluegrass Broadcaster of the Year

Lilly Pavlak
Distinguished Achievement Award
 Lilly Pavlak is a Czech woman who was instrumental in bringing bluegrass music to the former Czechoslovakia until the Soviet occupation in 1968. Out of the country at the time, she settled in Switzerland from which she continued to bootleg bluegrass records into her homeland and reach out for opportunities for bands from behind the Iron Curtain to perform in the West.  Since the fall of the Soviet Union, she has continued to be active in building bridges from the U.S. to Europe. Perhaps little known to most American bluegrass fans, she is an important figure in International bluegrass circles and richly deserves her Distinguished Achievement Award.
Bluegrass Event of the Year
D.A. Calloway
Silver Dollar City's Bluegrass and BBQ Festival

Chris Jones Introducing Greg Cahill
Distinguished Achievement Award
Greg Cahill

As a thirty year bandleader of Special Consensus, Greg Cahill has been a ceaseless advocate for bluegrass music, serving as Chairman of the Board of IBMA and working hard to develop the Bluegrass in the Schools programs.  His band has also been a schooling organization for people who have gone on to other bands. 

Bluegrass Music Awards

Emcee Sam Bush with Del McCoury

Sonny Osborne Presenting Banjo Player of the Year
Banjo Player of the Year
Ron Stewart
Banjo Player of the Year
Kristin Scott Benson
Claire Lynch & Cody Kilby
Instrumental Band of the Year
Michael Cleveland
Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year
Fiddle Player of the Year
Performance - Prayer Bells in Heaven
Paul Williams, J.D. Crowe, Doyle Lawson
Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year 

Laurie Lewis & Sammy Shelor
Presenting Male Vocalist of the Year
Russell Moore
Male Vocalist of the Year
Sierra Hull & Hiway 111
Dale Ann Bradley 
Female Vocalist of the Year
Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers
Alison Brown & Tony Trischka Present
Emerging Artist of the Year
The Boxcars
Emerging Artist of the Year

George Shuffler
Hall of Fame Inductee 

The Grascals 
 Louisa Branscomb & Carl Jackson

The Gibson Brothers
Album of the Year
Vocal Group of the Year
Marshall Wilborn
Bass Player of the Year
Del McCoury
Hall of Fame Inductee
The McCoury Family
The Gibson Brothers
Performance - Help My Brother
Balsam Range - Nicole Witt
Song of the Year
Trains I Missed

Lonesome River Band
"Pretty Little Girl"
Adam Steffey
Mandolin Player of the Year
Tim Stafford & Dan Tyminski

Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Raiders
Entertainer of the Year
Steve Martin
Grand Finale
Bryon Sutton was named Guitar Player of the Year and Rob Ickes Dobro Player of the Year. Neither was able to attend.

The awards ceremony was satisfying on so many levels that it would be carping to complain about places where it might have fallen short. The awards went to some of the most highly regarded and well-loved people in the bluegrass world.  Two performers who have enriched our lives, each in their own way, were inducted into the Hall of Fame at the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, KY. It was a fine evening.