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America's International Bluegrass Music Association

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IBMA LogoIt's called the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) but the association is about as International as the World Series is a global baseball game. Sure, the association has members who reside outside of our borders just as the World Series has ball players from other countries. But, it takes more than putting the word "International" into your name to actually be International. Nobody considers the World Series to be a global game and, for the most part, the people I know don't seriously consider the IBMA as an "International" association.

The association is focused on an American music genre - Bluegrass. Bluegrass was born from the Father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe from Rosine, Kentucky. That's about as Red, White and Blue as it gets. While today, the style of music is enjoyed globally, the association still focuses primarily on American artists and other American professionals involved with Bluegrass music. The association frequently showcases artists from other countries but, those artists do so at their own expense and even have to pay for the priviledge.

Certainly, the IBMA has no chapters or offices outside of America's borders. They have never held their convention, trade show, awards show or festival in another country. They have no one on the staff who resides in another country. Their publication, International Bluegrass isn't published in an language other than American English. So what makes them an International association?

Yes, they have members from other nations but what does the association do Internationally. The key word is "do" in this context. For nearly a decade, I was an active member of the IBMA and I don't really recall them doing anything Internationally other than solicit memberships. To this day, I haven't seen much change in that regard.

There are a few members that have been vocal about past indifference by the association to their needs and wants. The late Erio Meili from Brazil frequently commented about the failure of the association to do more for South American bluegrass music. Mike Kear in Australia echoed many of those same sentiments. A large number of active Jappanese bluegrass names have drifted away from the IBMA as have many from the Czech Republic.

Many regions and countries have started their own bluegrass associations. The European Bluegrass Music Association being a major one that emulates the activities of our IBMA but, they created their own association because they needed what the International association wasn't providing. The São Paolo Bluegrass Association services more than just Brazil and they try and involved more of their continent's bluegrass.

Being an international association requires more than just putting the term International in your name and having a few international members or attendees to your events. It requires that the association actively do things internationally. It requires that the association get into the game on a global scale and level. It requires more than is currently being done.

Every year, we hear the same old mantra that they are going to do more internationally and every year, we see the the same repeat of past years involvement -- none. The IBMA is now 27 years old (established in 1985) and a quarter century is probably enough time that they start becoming an International organization. The IBMA is as international as the World Series baseball games. After all, the International Bluegrass Music Association is as American as Apple Pie.

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