The deadline for applying for admission the Leadership Bluegrass class of 2016 is fast approaching, but there's still time. You can read the description provided by IBMA here. But a phone call from a friend has prompted me to try to put the impact and process of Leadership Bluegrass into sharper and more alluring focus. During the call, our friend spoke about finding meaning in the range of activities involved in this three day intensive meeting. She commented, "I came away with exposure to many ideas I didn't see as having relevance to what I do." One morning, several months after the end of her class, she was riding along in her car listening to the radio, when suddenly, a session held at Leadership Bluegrass came into focus for her and she could see its relevance to her situation. A light went on and illuminated an idea! Who could ask for more?
The description discusses, in pretty high minded terms, the composition of the class, the quality of the resource people brought in, the intensity of the experiences, and the possible outcomes of attendance. Irene dropped me off at the palatial BMI headquarters in Nashville and I walked into the conference area reserved for us, feeling some anxiety about what the next three days would hold. As I looked around, a realized I knew a few people personally, others were people I'd heard about or knew by reputation. But others were complete strangers: performers, promoters, association heads, a music publisher, a couple of people with radio programs, a writer, a photographer, an agent, a publicist, an executive from a large instrument maker, the owner of a live music venue as well as one from a major performing and broadcast venue, a couple of graduate students, and a new employee of IBMA. To say the least, this group turned out to be varied, interesting and stimulating. Three years later, I still correspond with some of them, and am always happy to run into any of my classmates.
The three day event was designed by a committee of graduates and IBMA staff under the direction of Trisha Tubbs, an widely experiences corporate consultant specializing in leadership and group process, and, herself, a member of the leadership for the well-known Wintergrass festival in Washington State. Sessions involved lectures, panels, and group activities featuring a variety of prominent figures in bluegrass from a wide variety of roles. Consultants dealt with general principles, while specialists applied important concepts to their areas of expertise. For instance, after a session about the roles that people play in a committee meeting, small groups were formed to design a particular experience. After they presented their designs, a focused discussion dealt with the roles people played in their own groups. While focusing on opportunities for risk, situations were designed and carried out in such a way as to avoid embarrassment while focusing on interpersonal learning.
Another excellent session focused the role of social media in marketing and creating relationships across roles in bluegrass. Panelists were principals in two different firms which provided Internet services on social media for performers. In their presentation they emphasized the power of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. There was much on the cutting edge in this presentation, but it gave all of us something to look for and work toward.
During Leadership Bluegrass plenty of time is given over to informal interaction while many of the activities encourage making and developing relationships. Time was available for jamming, and many took advantage of that opportunity, too. Meals are designed to encourage classmates to eat with different groups of people at each meal, thus getting to know each other better. By the time the wrap-up day came around, we all were tired and satisfied that important content had been learned and relationships established. All this took place in a context where discussion was encouraged, differences aired, and issues like big tent/small tent and "what is bluegrass anyway" dropped into the background in favor of learning and appreciating what each person had to offer.
There are still two weeks to get your application in for Leadership Bluegrass. Thoroughly writing the application forces you to think about the music and your relationship with it. What is bluegrass? How do I contribute to it and what to I get from it? How can my participation in Leadership Bluegrass benefit me and others? These are all questions we should be asking ourselves about every endeavor in our lives. Remember, most applicants don't get accepted the first time they apply, so be ready for rejection and determined to apply again next year.
In the end, I think Leadership Bluegrass was an important experience to increase my knowledge of the bluegrass world as well as to develop and enhance relationship and skills within that world. I'd recommend that, regardless of your role in the bluegrass industry, you should consider applying. Here's a link to the application. The rest is up to you.