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What I Learned from the International Bluegrass Music Association's "World of Bluegrass"

In 2021, my band, the Rock Hearts, played at the International Bluegrass Music Associations World Of Bluegrass event in Raleigh, NC. We were 1 of 20 bands selected from around the world to perform as Official Showcase artist. I journaled my experience to share with you all!


Day 1 in Raleigh:

-Met and got to hang with some really awesome people in the bluegrass world at the "Leadership Bluegrass" Reception. Attendees were all alumni from the Leadership Bluegrass Program, which is a once a year event where 25 people are selected to work on solving real world problems in the Bluegrass world- including things like maintaining the "bluegrass" category in the Grammys and running 501c bluegrass associations.


Special thanks to Bill Thibodeau for taking me on as his guest.


It was real neat to meet Joe Newbury in person, of whom I took some classes with during the pandemic- I remember his kind, thoughtful, and generous answers to a sort of virtual interview that I had with teachers at the Ashokan Bluegrass camp. He also wrote the song "Singing as we Rise" - which I've been singing for years. Also was introduced to Dan Boner, director of the East Tennessee State University Bluegrass ensemble and ran into Belmont students from my visit in 2020!


Day Two at IBMA's "World of Bluegrass"


-Met Ned Luberecki in person after hearing about him for years! Ned is the radio personality of Serius XM satellite radio's Bluegrass Junction, Plays with Becky Buller and Stephen Mougin, and taught my good friend Chet Duke how to play banjo!


-Stephen Mougin was a chorus teacher and ran the musicals in Massachusetts before moving to Nashville and creating "Dark shadow Studios"- they recorded the Rock Hearts Debut album!


-Attended a "gig fair" which is like speed dating for bands- 6 minutes with each agent/booking organization from all over. Hopefully our 2022-2023 season will be filled with new adventures! Crossing fingers for a West Coast trip.


-Ran into Hilary Klug, internet superstar and reason for my getting back into clogging/flatfooting - and my purchase of a dance board! She was super encouraging and loved hearing that someone picked it up because of her.


-Heard the keynote address from Dudley Connell about keeping Music alive in the Pandemic.


-Performed at the Convention Center and Lincoln Theater in our Showcase performance. Walking into Lincoln Center, we ran into another band in the green room. I said "has anyone ever told you that you look like Maddie Denton?"

(Actual Maddie Denton, fiddle player with Dan Tyminski and East Nash Grass, jokingly "Yea, that no good fiddle player" (UPDATE: She just won the 2021 momentum instrumentalist of the year award!)

Me: (drops case) "Wait, you're actually Maddie Denton?!?" I told her what an inspiration she was throughout CoVID when she was the standing fiddle player every week at the station inn with Dan Tyminski (who sang "I am a man of Constant Sorrow"

-Then got to hear my friends Twisted Pine kill it afterwards!

-Finally, finished the night off with jamming until 4am!


Day 3

-Attended the Momentum Awards Luncheon where up and coming industry artists/professionals were honored, including Maddie Denton who I ran into the day before and told her how much her playing with Dan Tyminski inspired me. I got a picture with her after she won "Momentum instrumentalist of the year"


-Met up with Stephen Mougin, the one who recorded or first album on Dark Shadow Studios. He complimented our set and encouraged us that we are on the right path


-Spent the afternoon at the Exhibitor Expo where bands and organizations throughout the country set up booths. We had a "Rock Hearts" booth and had a ton of fun jamming around it and talking to folks. Got a picture with Danny Paisley who's killing it in the bluegrass world today.


-Spoke with the folks at "Leadership Bluegrass". They select 25 people each year to attend a three day retreat in Nashville where you learn how to preserve and promote bluegrass music worldwide.


-Spoke with Pete Wernick, banjo player of Hot Rize and creator of the "Wernick Method", which teaches folks all around the world how to jam on bluegrass music. He also gave some great encouragement for the band and told me he would write a recommendation for leadership bluegrass!


-Got interviewed by Bluegrass TV and North Country Public Radio. Sammy from bluegrass TV encouraged us to create more video content. He also posted a live video of us jamming back at the Hotel


-Ended the day in "Bluegrass School" learning from my amazing bandmates about classic country (Keith Whitley, Conway Twitty, Don Williams, Buck Owens, and Dan Fogelberg) and some amazing second gen bluegrass I hadn't heard before (Red Allen and Lou Reid)


Day 4 at the International Bluegrass Music "World of Bluegrass" Festival.


-Met John Lawless, editor of Bluegrass Today. He's done some amazing work for bluegrass music and helps encourage new artists like the Rock Hearts and young folks like me!


-Attended the International Bluegrass Music Town Hall meeting and spoke about/participated in conversation around a vision for the future of roots and bluegrass music education and the possibility of partnering with the National Association for Music Education.


-Backed up an artist in the Songwriters showcase and made some new friends in the creative community


-Got some portraits done with the fiddle!


-Was gifted two THIRD ROW tickets to the Awards Ceremony (Red Carpet of Bluegrass!) from Laura Orshaw to the band. Billy and Joe generously surprised me by encouraging me to go in their place- know what a joy it would be! And boy was it amazing. Alex and I were seated right up next to the "big wigs"!!


-Saw my friend Bronwyn Keith-Hynes take home the fiddle player of the year award!! My heart was happy for her. She played some triple fiddling with Jason Carter and Laura Orshaw on Jerry Reed's "East Bound and Down'


Wrapping up the week feeling grateful and inspired for all that's next for Bluegrass Music and my own musical journey with the Rock Hearts.


Po Ramblin' Boys Perform Jerry Reed's "East Bound and Down" at the Awards Ceremony








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