The Elephant in the Bluegrass Living Room

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If you want to know the latest news on the economic problems, and how Americans are struggling to keep their head above water, don’t look to the CBA website or the Bluegrass Breakdown for answers. As prices for everything from fuel to milk have continued to skyrocket, the news and views in our bluegrass world continue to be business as usual; bluegrass. So am I complaining? Do we need to add a financial column to the CBA web Site? Oh heck no. I have enough resources to let me know how bad things are getting, and plenty of ideas about how to manage my life and my money as a result. Just give me my bluegrass escape please!

Ah, but then, on August 5th, Rick Cornish, all in jest, teased that economic elephant in the bluegrass living room with his column “Weathering the financial malaise.” It is a must read if you have not read it. While his suggestions for bringing in more revenue at our Fathers Day Festival were only intended as fun and entertainment, I could not help but wonder if subconsciously, he knew that down the road, there may be a need for some real creative thinking, and some sacrifice in order to sustain “bluegrass as usual.” So, I decided to take the subject a little further…….

Actually, I think that a number of steps have already been taken that have the appearance of some really darn good forward thinking by our leaders. For example, the cost of travel has people looking more and more for entertainment and picking opportunities closer to home. Not to mention there are lots of pickers out there that have yet to come out of the woodwork. The solution….. Creation of CBA Vice Presidents spread out geographically throughout the State……..

Then, the cost to attend festivals, particularly when you must travel many miles to get there, continue to rise. Solution…. Expand on the “things to do” at the Fathers Day Festival, including Vern’s, more workshops, and an increasing focus on activities for our youth. With enhancements such as these, hopefully people will keep Fathers Day, and other bluegrass festivals as a high priority when the family is deciding where to spend that ever shrinking fun money fund.

In reality, I doubt the creation of area VP’s and enhancements to the Fathers Day Festival were conceived with a future financial tsunami in mind. But nonetheless, the timing could not have been better for doing these things. But we shouldn’t stop there…

While passing the hat at jams with the requirement to pay up or move along may not be realistic (an idea from Rick’s very entertaining list), I have a similar idea that perhaps might just work. We have all witnessed, or worse yet, been part of one of those jams from he&%. Well, create one of those jams, and don’t allow observers to LEAVE unless they put a dollar in the hat!! Yes, the tricky part will be keeping them there. Getting them hand cuffed to a tree before they realize what is happening to them could be very challenging, require some creative thinking, and perhaps some alcohol.

Ok, so seriously …….. What can we as individuals do to help keep the CBA and the activities we cherish so much going strong? Well, I certainly don’t claim to have all of the answers. I would however like to suggest something we can all do that won’t cost a penny…..

Late last year I met a musician not far from where I live. Extraordinary picker. He had never played bluegrass, heard very little of it, and knew little to nothing about the mountain of bluegrass activities in the region. We played folk and blues, which were his style. I have always enjoyed those styles of music as well as bluegrass, and it was a lot of fun learning songs I had listened to, but never played before. As time went on, we ventured into some bluegrass tunes, and then he expressed an interest in learning to play bluegrass. I told him about all the great opportunities to jam, and how welcoming and supportive people in the bluegrass community are to beginning pickers. In no time, he had his tickets for Fathers Day. When I saw him at Fathers Day, he informed me he had just become a CBA Member, and was already planning to attend Plymouth…….

Now I don’t mean to paint myself as some great recruiter. You can’t really persuade people to like a particular kind of music; you can only expose them to it. The messenger doesn’t have the magic; the music does. And there is room for spreading a little more magic….The last time I looked at total CBA membership it was …. 3,122. Population of California is over 36 million. I would say the CBA membership might have the potential for a little growth… Of course, short of joining the CBA, just new listeners and pickers can help attendance at festivals and the many local venues around the State.

So my suggestion for you today…… Promote bluegrass and try to pass on that infectious bluegrass bug whenever and where ever you can. It won’t cost you anything, but could reap many benefits. Not to mention the wonderful life changing event for that person who just got “Hooked on bluegrass!!”

So in the end, do I think we will be able to maintain bluegrass as usual? Absolutely. Historically, when times get tough, music is always in the picture. Whether it’s uplifting music for listening or dancing, or melodies and lyrics used as an outlet for expressing the hardships, music lifts our spirits. During the Great Depression, swing music and jazz were “The Great Escape.” Though the population was struggling just to keep food on the table, the dance halls were full every night, and people did what ever they could to keep it that way.

For the bluegrass fan, there is no better uplifting and refreshing music, or means of escape, than bluegrass. Plenty of fantastic festivals, jams, and local entertainment …and I know we’ll do what ever is needed….. to keep it that way.

Now back to your regularly scheduled bluegrass state of mind, which is in progress…..

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