Sunday, November 29, 2015

Just a Reminder

If you're doing your Christmas or Holiday shopping on the Internet, you can help support the efforts of this blog by entering the Amazon site each time you decide to go there through the Amazon portal on the left side of this page. Once you are onto the Amazon site, every purchase you make will be credited to me for a small commission. I will be able to see what you bought, but will have no idea who bought it. This will make it impossible for me to thank you, but preserve your privacy as an Amazon shopper. It will in no way raise the cost to you. And believe me, it will be greatly appreciated.


Monday, November 23, 2015

The Gibson Brothers at The Flying Monkey - Review

The Gibson Brothers delivered a terrific show at The Flying Monkey in Plymouth, NH on Friday evening, opened by local band NewFound Grass.  The venue is one of the better ones we've encountered for this sort of concert. Once merely a converted movie theater, it's now a dinner theater with the back several rows turned over to table seating with food provided by the quite good Common Man family of restaurants. For those seeking dinner & a show, The Flying Monkey has much to offer, including fine food and great sound. A delightful place to plan an evening of food and music or a film. The Flying Monkey theme refers to the creatures in Judy Garland's The Wizard of Oz, while the lobby is decorated with movie and music memorabilia. 

Before the Show

Snacks and Drinks

Dinner Tables

In the Green Rooms

NewFound Grass Rehearsing

Bill Nowlin (of Rounder Records) with Eric Gibson

Mike Barber

Jesse Brock 

The Show
NewFound Grass

NewFound Grass is a New Hampsire-based band whose members come from a variety of musical backgrounds including bluegrass, jazz, folk, soul, and country. Their eclectic mix is pleasant and their musicianship strong. Members Steve Abdu and Craig Engel are also the promoters of the Pemi Valley Bluegrass Festival, held annually nearby in August. NewFound Grass is quite versatile, having four good singers, who also pick well. They were well-received by the audience.

Craig Engel

Steve Abdu

Ron Swisher

Dave Shaw

NewFound Grass - Lord I Hope this Day Is Good - Video

NewFound Grass

The Gibson Brothers

The Gibson Brothers have had a very busy year. Their shows are well-received wherever they go. They've had increasing impact in all corners of the country. They've developed and refined the art of the unscripted show, relying on their feel for the audience and their interaction with each other to govern their pace. They are intense and demanding in their music while being relaxed and audience-centered in their presentation. Their music is as contemporary as today, while always including wonderful covers of Flatt & Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Jimmy Martin, and other first and second generation bluegrass pioneers. They write their own music, which reaches out to their audience because it authentically reflects their own experience. They love each other deeply and fully while their stage show reflects the sibling bickering their audience recognizes and loves. They function so well as a duo, because they've assembled a five piece band that works together as a cohesive unit. They're the complete package. 

Leigh Gibson

Eric Gibson

Jesse Brock

Jesse Brock was named Mandolin Player of the Year for the second time at the IBMA Award Show this year. His presence with the Gibson Brothers during the past three years has lifted the band instrumentally, and, surprisingly, vocally, as his voice has been added on several songs. While the Gibson Brothers are still a brother duo, Jesse's singing has added a welcome dimension. His creative and powerful mandolin play adds drive to an already driving band. 

Mike Barber

Mike Barber, often called the third Gibson Brother, is a thoughtful bass player whose pushing bass beat, always on Leigh's left shoulder, give a solid backing to everything the band does. The role of a band's bass player is often underestimated, but not in this band. Eric and Leigh are always certain to credit him for his play, as well as his insight and contributions in production, too. He's been with the band since the beginning, twenty-two years ago.

Clayton Campbell

Clayton Campbell's soaring fiddle solos and oh-so-solid back-up on every song, makes him one of the premier fiddlers around. A quiet performer, he's nevertheless always there. His subtle command of the most difficult of all instruments is beyond excellent. While his presence is unobtrusive, his fiddle is always there, always tasteful, always welcome. 

Eric & Clayton

In the instrumental below, pay particular attention to the interaction between Clayton and Jesse. Also, take a look at Eric's banjo play, Mike's driving beat, and Leigh's superb rhythm guitar. This band is mostly noted for its singing and its humor. Here, listen to them as one of the best instrumental bands in the business. 

The Gibson Brothers - Shuckin' the Corn - Video

Eric and Leigh Gibson

At the Merch Table

All told, it was a pretty good evening of bluegrass with The Gibson Brothers and our friends from Pemi Valley, NewFound Grass.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Dare Me by Megan Abbott - Book Review

In Dare Me (Back Bay Books, 2013, 320 pp, $1131/9.99), Megan Abbott took me into a world I had never imagined, introduced me to people I only have known peripherally, told a dark, and often frightening, story of love, hate, and betrayal. Finally, I left with less care for the people involved than they deserve and in a place I probably won't visit again. Nevertheless, Abbott's elusive, almost ambiguous prose and driving plot held me, as a reader, until the tumultuous end of this dark, throbbing, mysterious novel.

The story is set in middle America, that is, it could be anywhere there's a high school and a cheer squad. It's narrated by Addy Hanlon, an attractive, athletic high school junior on her school's cheer squad. Beth Cassidy, her best frenemy, for these girls are nothing if not bitter rivals as well as closest friends, is captain of this year's squad until their new coach, Collette French, is introduced and immediately fires her as captain. There ensues a season of training for the final game, to which a recruiter for the regional finals in cheer competition is rumored to be coming, as the team's fortunes rise and fall during practice, with its tough lessons and frequent injuries. French also opens her home to the team, where they gather to smoke and, at least some of them, to drink, too. To complicate matters, members of the team as well as the coach herself, are attracted to a military recruiting team stationed in the lobby of the high school. This over-heated mixture is a certain recipe for troubles to come.

As a former high school teacher, I'm well aware that high school students have always inhabited a world quite different from the one which their parents would like to imagine. Here the world of the cheer squad seems, at least to me, to be hyper-sexualized and intensely inner-directed. The outside world of high school students, things like classes, study, interests other than, in this instance, the cheer squad, drugs, dieting, and boys, disappear within the friendships, rivalries, diets, and loves of the squad members themselves, creating a totally exclusive group. Even, maybe especially, parents are almost completely absent. Large portions of the tensions in the plot are communicated in text messages, which, unless the plot demands it, are never seen by anyone but the recipient.

Abbot's language is direct, realistic, graphic, explicit, and, for some, may be shocking. I've been retired from teaching for nearly twenty years, and schools, by any measure, have changed since I last spent much time in them. But I suspect, even though there's been lots of change, that much went on there that I blissfully ignored. Teenagers, no matter how much we think we know and understand them, exist in a parallel world most of us can't, and probably don't want to, fully share. Abbott places herself within that world with a high degree of verisimilitude. I'm not certain who the audience for Dare Me might be. When I was an active English teacher, I read a good deal of what's now called “Young Adult” fiction, much of which dealt with the real problems of adolescence. Writers like Judy Blume and Chris Crutcher often nailed issues and character with startling effect. Writer and critic Gillian Flynn has said, that Megan Abbott “has created a mesmerizing, modern portrait of teenage life today: Brutal crushes, competing allegiances and first-bloom sensuality, all magnified by the rush and crush of technology." While this could be labeled at "Young Adult," it might just as well be called "Parent Education," or just plain, good writing. 

Megan Abbott

Megan Abbott is the Edgar®-winning author of the novels Queenpin, The Song Is You, Die a Little, and her latest, The Fever, which was chosen as one of the Best Books of the Summer by the New York Times, People Magazine and Entertainment Weekly and one of the Best Books of the Year by Amazon, National Public Radio, the Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Salon, the Guardian, Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, The Believer and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Born in the Detroit area, she graduated from the University of Michigan and received her Ph.D. in English and American literature from New York University. She has taught at NYU, the State University of New York and the New School University. In 2013-14, she served as the John Grisham Writer in Residence at Ole Miss. (lightly adapted from Megan Abbott's web site)

Dare Me by Megan Abbott (Back Bay Books, 2013, 320 pp, $1131/9.99) is a problem novel about adolescent girls on a cheer team in a contemporary American high school. It tells the story of the girls on the team, their coach, and the deeply conflicting behavior and motives of many of them. It features graphic behavior and deep psychological trauma, which may be characteristic of behavior at some level in today's schools. As with many of today's books exploring adolescent life, many parents might prefer that their children not read Dare Me. On the other hand, for both children and their parents, reading Dare Me may open the opportunities for further teaching and learning about how to function in the difficult and often confusing world we inhabit. Books like these are best approached in an environment of exploration and discovery. The book is distinguished by Abbott's fine writing and vivid use of language some might find offensive. Nevertheless reading it could provide insight to many adolescents and their parents. Additionally, the story features taut and gripping writing throughout. I borrowed the book from my local public library.

Monday, November 16, 2015

YeeHaw Bluegrass at Okeechobee Agri-Civic Fairgrounds - January 21 - 23, 2016

Ernie and Debbie Evans of Evans Media Source have announced that the YeeHaw Bluegrass Festival will be held from January 21 - 23, 2016, despite earlier false reports of its cancellation.  While this reinvigorated festival is still a work in progress, a contract has been signed with the Okeechobee Agri-Civic Fairgrounds and gates will open on Monday, January 18th. Tickets are currently on sale and can be ordered through Ernie's Web site.

Ernie Evans wrote, "Before we update you on the 2016 Bluegrass Festival at Yeehaw Junction, Debi and I want to let you know how much we appreciate all of the support. We are very motivated at the interest the bluegrass community has shown in continuing the tradition of bluegrass at Yeehaw. When the announcement was made of it going away in 2015 we were saddened to hear it. Shortly after that, we were hired by the property owner, Beverly Zicheck, to come in and continue its almost 30 year legacy. We accepted and went to work lining things up. We quickly became friends with Beverly and made several trips to visit her, and put in many hours cultivating the market to do all we could to keep Yeehaw alive. 

"Mid way through the year we received sad news that cancer had once again reared its nasty head and would soon take our new friend. Her death from pancreatic cancer was untimely and it really hurt to see her going through such a painful process. We spent many nights talking about beating cancer and doing all we could to stay positive. Unfortunately, she lost her battle in August. I want everyone to know that it was her wish to continue the festival. She even wanted to have the pasture transformed into an RV Park. 

"It's unknown if she ever got her vision completed with her attorney in time to be put in the will. The estate's attorney told me that Beverly's estate is tied up and many attorneys are involved, describing it as a mess. He then went on to say it could be years before things are resolved and until they are, he would not permit any liability on the property. 

"Since Beverly's passing we have been trying to find a solution, including relocation. We have visited four other facilities which could not meet our needs. Contrary to rumors of the cancellation, we never gave up! We always felt responsible, and still are responsible to our customers, whom we have developed trust with, to contact them all individually to explain what was going on and not notify them through social media, which would have been careless and unprofessional. We owe them more than that. It was only a few weeks ago that we had decided to give everyone their money back because we felt we were out of time for a solution. This has been a tedious process, but necessary to keep the trust that we value so deeply. We are proud to announce that the City of Okeechobee has embraced us and provided our new home. This is very exciting and we can't wait to fire up the sound system to kick off another season of YeeHaw Junction."

Details about purchasing tickets are on the new flyer, reproduced above. The site is the Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center located near enough to downtown Okeechobee to permit shopping and eating at local restaurants, and far enough away to provide a sense of being in the country. The site contains a number of full hookup sites, additional electric/water sites and almost unlimited space for rough camping along with flush toilets, hot showers and a covered building to provide plenty of space for performance and more. Send ticket requests to:  Ernie Evans, 6143 Sabre Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32244, or call Ernie & Debi for further information at (904) 886-8378.

Inside the Shed

The spacious grounds provide plenty of room for extensive camping, some nooks and crannies for places to jam, even if there's questionable weather, and more. The average high temperature in Okeechobee for mid-January is about 75 degrees, while average lows seldom dip below 50 at night. Probability of precipitation in January is about 10 percent.

The lineup for YeeHaw Junction is still in the process of being built. At this time confirmed bookings include Nothin Fancy (Thursday and Friday), Gary Waldrep (Friday and Saturday) as well as local bands Penny Creek, Blue Cypress Bluegrass, Swinging Bridge, and Hwy 41 South. More bands are still being booked. The gates open on Monday, January 18. Jo Odom will be the emcee. A welcome feature of Ernie and Deb Evans productions has become the provision of activities which, during the week of the festival, include jams, square dancing, evening performances, open microphone opportunities, bingo, FaceBook Face-to-Face meet and greets, and a covered dish get-together. As planning continues, look for all of these features. 

It's time now to show that the spirit that has animated YeeHaw Junction for nearly a generation still exists, whatever the actual physical location. We have looked forward to making this festival the first stop on our annual winter excursion to Florida to escape the cold and snow of New Hampshire. Join us to experience the joys of YeeHaw Junction in this exciting new venue where the festival spirit will once again assemble in Florida for the beginning of the 2016 season.

Deb Evans

Ernie Evans

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Benjamin Franklin and the Ends of Empire by Carla J. Mulford - Book Review

Benjamin Franklin and the Ends of Empire (Oxford University Press, 2015, 448 pages, $65.00/$34.45 is a literary biography, which, unlike traditional biography, places its emphasis on what a person thought and how those ideas were formed throughout a life of reading, and writing and conversation. Thus the impact of an individual is presented through his internal life rather than more conventionally through what happened and how it was accomplished. As such, the book that results is not usually filled with high drama. Carla Mulford's thorough and challenging assessment of Benjamin Franklin, as his ideas about being a Boston-born Briton developed during his long and eventful life in the colonies, as a diplomat in England and France during the eighteenth century, however, creates an internal drama in the reader as Franklin grows and changes, emerging as the intellectual center of the events surrounding the invention of America.

Mulford thoroughly traces Franklin's rich family background in England as they struggled to maintain their conscience and religious liberty in a time of revolutionary unrest that resulted in the beheading of a king and the long struggle between Catholic and Protestant elements. His family were dissenters enough to seek to move to Massachusetts and associate themselves with the Puritans in the late seventeenth century. Franklin (born in 1706) was apprenticed to his brother James, a printer, when he was twelve years old and soon emerged as a skilled writer, growing from his voracious reading. His vocation merged with his internal views of the world as he precociously began writing about the turmoil bubbling up in Boston. He moved to Philadelphia when he was merely seventeen, established his own print shop, which remained the base for publishing his writings. Mulford follows the outcome of his reading and thinking as he transits from a local political and social voice to world fame as a scientist, diplomat, ideologist, and political thinker.

Throughout his long life, he continued to develop his ideas about conscience, the root of wealth in the labor of the hands and fields, the importance of religious liberty, and the responsibility of the state to function for the good of the governed. The Ends of Empire in the title of Mulford's book refers not to the revolutionary period leading to the establishment of the United States, but to the purposes that empire should fulfill as it spreads and broadens its influences. Thus, as the British Empire became increasingly hierarchical it tended to function to enrich itself and those at the top of its lofty pyramid, viewing the inhabitants of its colonies in America, India, the Caribbean, and Ireland as the source of its income and wealth rather than as semi-independent entities which should be equally represented in the emerging parliamentary system of the home country. Rather than enriching the mother country through their abundance, they were seen as the source of raw material to be exploited as they subjugated themselves to the home country.

Throughout her detailed discussions of Franklin's efforts to continue to stress freedom of conscience, the primacy of agriculture over manufacturing, the importance of maintaining governance growing from close attention to the governed, and the rights of the governed to regulate their own governance through taxing themselves, Mulford charts his increasing frustration at trying to get people in England to understand and appreciate the colonies while having little or no experience of how they actually functioned. Without a clear and living experience of the threat of Indian forces to the West, the difficulties posed by the French, and the independent cast of ordinary Americans who had lived and thrived in an independent fashion, the British governing upper classes and royalty could not (or would not) respond with a world vision leading toward a cooperative empire. Franklin's emerging awareness and influence is presented through his voluminous writings (both public and private) as well as his ability to read and connect to the major thinkers of history and his own time to develop a comprehensive view of the role of liberty and conscience in nation building. Meanwhile, the events in Franklin's life form a framework for his emerging ideas and his struggles to awaken Britain to its own potential for greatness as well as to reconcile his original love of his homeland with his emerging vision of the necessity of independence, both personal and national.  

Carla J. Mulford

Carla J. Mulford is Associate Professor of English at Penn State University and founding President of the Society of Early Americanists. She has served on the editorial boards of numerous scholarly journals. She teaches and does research in early modern, American, Native American, early African American, and environmental studies. Across her career at Penn State, she has published ten books and over sixty articles and chapters in books on a variety of subjects. She has been a Franklin scholar since completing her doctoral studies at the University of Delaware under J. A. Leo LeMay. She has supervised the doctoral dissertations of a number of scholars who have gone on to careers at other universities. She is recognized as a top Franklin scholar. Carla is also my sister-in-law.

Benjamin Franklin and the Ends of Empire (Oxford University Press, 2015, 448 pages, $65.00/$34.45) is a fine and carefully focused consideration of the influences on Benjamin Franklin's thinking as he became one of the most important political and social theorists as well as a founder of the American idea. It is not a beginner's book about Franklin. Readers seeking to delve deeply into the life of his mind should become thoroughly familiar with his life, first. Franklin biographies by H.V. Brands and Walter Isaacson have been useful to me. Mulford's book, however, will lead you deeper into the world of the mind inhabited by Benjamin Franklin. Her book opened for me a vast and important understanding of some of the factors brought together to create the nation we now have. Some of Mulford's sections are, at least for me, more slow moving than others, as charting the development of thought takes greater time and attention than the events those ideas move. While at times requiring greater concentration and attention, the effort proves worthwhile, as Franklin's complex mind emerges, demonstrating his passion for freedom of conscience, personal liberty, and political self-determination develop from his humble beginnings and flower in his old age with the former being the parents of the latter. This is a scholarly volume, but the eighty pages of notes, footnotes, and bibliography do not intrude on an enjoyable and thorough reading of the content in the text. I highly recommend this book for serious readers seeking to extend their knowledge of Franklin specifically or the important roots of the American experiment in self-government. I own the book, which was a gift to me.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Some Thoughts on Publicity: Facebook & Radio - Essay

A week or so ago I posted a video on my YouTube channel of the Lonesome River Band singing a song called Bonnie Brown at the Dumplin Valley Bluegrass Festival in Tennessee back in early October. Two days later I posted an instrumental video by another very popular performer. A week later I noticed that the LRB song had been viewed over 550 times while the succeeding video only had 114 hits. I asked myself, “What could have happened to boost the LRB song so high, so fast?” As I dug around, I found that my video had been posted on LRB's Facebook page as well as in their Twitter feed and their publicist's Twitter page. This incident has encouraged me to try to put some elements together about how musicians use the potential of publicity to build and develop their careers, and the effect of social and electronic media on them.

The era of social media has evolved such that it requires a new set of skills for people functioning in the public to learn and master. Entertainers, at every level of the music industry find themselves competing for attention with a bewildering range and number of possibilities for the public's scarce entertainment dollar. Meanwhile, these new technologies have derailed traditional means of gaining the attention of fans and encouraging them to allocate resources in the desired direction. Changes in the recording and music distribution industry are huge. Techniques for garnering and effectively exploiting attention are bewildering and continuing to change. The balance of traditional streams of income (sales of recordings, performance, merchandise, film, television, and so-on) has been upset by streaming audio and now video, changes in how royalties are distributed, and a continually changing entertainment environment. One thing is certain for bluegrass's not all about the music.

Several years ago, when Facebook was roughly half the size it is now, and those of us who are of “a certain age” were still new to the world it opened to us, I noticed that the Gibson Brothers had little or no presence on that platform, which was becoming important to me. I wrote to Eric about it, and he virtually told me to mind my own business. However, characteristically, he thought about what had been said, apologized, and then, based on his own analysis of the possibilities, started to become active as a personality on Facebook. Eric Gibson is, generally speaking, a private person functioning in a very public setting. He also thinks deeply about what affects the fortunes of the Gibson Brothers band and helps them progress. He proceeded to become a master at using Facebook to make himself available to the band's fans.

Eric, on his Facebook page, observes the world around him and writes about his interests: family, music, baseball, and nature, among other things. He soon noticed that he needed to strike a balance between posts about the progress of the Gibson Brothers, the pleasure he finds in sports, his love of hard work and the outdoors, and the need to provide privacy for his family, and himself, as well disclosing those elements that would be of genuine interest to others. In so doing, he helped build the band through the authenticity of his posts, without being unnecessarily self-disclosing where to do so might compromise the privacy he so values. Eventually, the struggle his son Kelley has been having with autism emerged, because Kelley wished to share it. That part of the story is ongoing.

What Eric has accomplished is a neat trick. I see many bands who post about where their next performance will be or that they've added a musician, or that so-and-so has left (always for personal reasons) but that all is fine and everyone is happy. Such materials almost always either bore people, or is so patently false it fools no one. Perhaps part of the problem lies in allowing publicists or record labels to manage Facebook pages, because the artists don't like the task or think it's not central to their effort. Facebook is a uniquely personal platform requiring the individual to manage how he or she is presented. It's important to learn to be a character in your own story while still getting out the crucial information at the right time. Although I haven't studied her Facebook page, or her music, I gather that Taylor Swift is the very best entertainer using Facebook to help herself. Facebook itself just announced its monthly user-ship as exceeding1.5 billion. Even your own little corner has enormous potential for effective publicity, and it takes only a little time each day to cultivate. Remember Eric Gibson's post about seeing an albino squirrel.

I don't know how many people broadcast bluegrass music on terrestrial, Internet, or satellite radio or how many people listen to their bluegrass music in this way. The range is huge, though. Small college radio stations often have several hours a week devoted to bluegrass broadcasts hosted mostly by volunteer broadcasters. Small market AM and FM stations still exist, and their reach has been widened by the ease of access to Internet streaming and its relatively low cost. (For an interesting overview of this area check out the Prometheus Radio Project) Sirius/Xm radio holds its data and ratings very close to the vest, but its importance, at least in bluegrass, appears to be huge. The future and strength of the platform, however, may ride on whether Howard Stern renews his contract next month. Here's a recently published article exploring sirius/xm in the new Internet environment that includes Spotify, Pandora, Apple radio, and other streaming services.

Musicians can only benefit by appearing as guests on these radio programs. But merely appearing isn't enough. They need to do several things to increase the effectiveness of their appearances. Particularly in the case of terrestrial radio, they need to inform themselves about bluegrass broadcasters who can be heard within a reasonable travel range of local radio stations near where they're appearing. Having done this, musicians must reach out in timely fashion to these people to arrange appearances on their radio shows. They must then inform their fans that they will be making a radio appearance. Finally, they need to publicly thank the deejay or emcee who gave them broadcast space. In others words, radio appearances don't represent a one way street to greater recognition.

Musicians, like all of us, appreciate receiving positive publicity that helps forward their efforts. In order to do so, their presence on various media, social, broadcast, print and more, are essential for bolstering their careers and, ultimately, their incomes. However, getting and keeping such publicity is never a one way street. It requires a perspective that includes recognizing, publicly and privately, the giver of that publicity. To do so effectively requires some effort, which can be assisted, but not completely carried, by a professional publicist. Nothing substitutes for personal effort or direct contact. The important concept here is to emphasize the need for a win/win perspective in which attention received yields attention given. Even recognizing individual plays as seen on playlists counts. In this world of vigorous competition for attention in the media world, nothing substitutes for personal effort and attention. No, it's not “all about the music.”

Monday, November 2, 2015

IBMA's Leadership Bluegrass 2016 - Still Time to Apply

BMI Offices

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?

Class of 2014 at Work

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.

Jim Lauderdale - Up Close & Personal

Other sessions focused on particular skill areas. For me, two sessions stood out. The first was a session on publishing, recording and copyright. The panel included two high powered Nashville entertainment lawyers, a major song-writer/IBMA leader, and a former ASCAP executive/college teacher. Here was an area where I had particular questions because of my YouTube channel, but almost everyone in the room had some skin in the game. The session was lively and informative, with lots of good questions and straight answers.

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.

Facilitator - Trisha Tubbs

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.

Class of 2014

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.