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The University of Hartford

State of the Bluegrass
by Kevin Lynch, Host of UH Bluegrass Saturday
 9am to 1pm

There have been some major behind-the-scenes movements in the Bluegrass world during the past year or so. Two organizations have committed themselves to preserving the history of, and future of, Bluegrass music: The International Bluegrass Music Museum (IBMM) in Owensboro, KY and The Bill Monroe Foundation (BMF) in Bill Monroe's hometown of Rosine, KY. Both organizations have been hard at work and are looking forward to a successful year in 2002. Many of us who are actively involved in the genre believe the IBMM and BMF, along with the continued successes of the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA), will collectively bring Bluegrass music to the awareness of countless numbers of people still not familiar with the genre. Not to mention securing the future of Bluegrass music history. We, as Bluegrass fans, have all witnessed the appeal of this music to the masses since the outstanding success of the soundtrack and the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? for the past two years. At this writing the soundtrack is nearing 5 million in sales! The entire music business world has never, ever seen such a success with little or no advertising...and certainly no support from the commercial radio world, "country" radio in particular in this case. There are some very good lessons to be learned from this "phenomenon" (which commercial radio likes to call it). One such lesson is that there are huge numbers of people out there willing to listen to something new; buy the CDs, concert and festival tickets, and perhaps even join Bluegrass organizations. Potential fans and supporters just need to be enlightened and given some hard evidence of the existence of solid Bluegrass foundations such as the IBMA, IBMM and BMF.

The International Bluegrass Music Museum has been in a state of total reconstruction since it closed for renovations in 2000. This included the actual structure of the building itself in addition to installing state-of-the-art interactive exhibits. According to museum chairman Steve Brechter (former WWUH staff member now living in Ohio), "...the 'grand reopening' ceremony for the newly renovated International Bluegrass Music Museum will be held on April 11, 2002 in conjunction with the Executive Inn's Bluegrass Weekend in Owensboro, KY. Events are planned in RiverPark Center and at the Museum itself. Several national artists will be on hand to perform as part of the festivities. The Museum recently completed a $3 million renovation and has been completely redesigned. Covering two floors, museum visitors will enter and begin tracing the footsteps of Bluegrass history as they walk through galleries highlighting all aspects of bluegrass while music is projected locally in each gallery through sound domes that confine it to the specific area being viewed. One gallery brings the visitor through a bluegrass festival campsite. The Museum houses the IBMA Hall of Honor and features an experiential hands-on gallery where visitors can mix their own bluegrass band and hear how the music is played instrument by instrument. For information contact IBMM executive director Chuck Hayes at the Owensboro-Daviess County Tourist Commission at 1-800-489-1131.

The city of Owensboro, KY will hold its first 3-day indoor festival following the grand re-opening of the IBMM just a block away at the newly renovated Executive Inn on the Ohio River:
April12-14, 2002
First Annual Bluegrass Weekend
Executive Inn in Owensboro, Ky

The following acts will perform: J.D. Crowe & The New South, Ronnie Reno & The Reno Tradition, Larry Cordle and Lonesome Standard Time, Mountain Heart, Blue Highway, Mike Snider Band, Del McCoury Band, Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, The Village Singers, The Isaacs and more. (800) 626-1936 or (270) 926-8000.
While the IBMA and IBMM are well established and impressive organizations having been in the public eye for years, The Bill Monroe Foundation has found itself to be every bit as prestigious as its Kentucky neighbors. The BMF is preserving Bluegrass history in a big way! Thanks to BMF founder / president and longtime friend of Bill Monroe, Dr. Campbell Mercer, the BMF has already realized what were just dreams not that long ago. The complete restoration and landscaping of Bill Monroe's childhood home, a down-payment on 1.125 million dollars for Bill Monroe's famous 1923 Gibson F-5 "Lloyd Loar" Mandolin, and much more. The following is a statement released by Dr. Mercer re: the proposals and actions of the Bill Monroe Foundation [please note that some of these proposals may have been realized since this writing of Jan. 27th].

The Bill Monroe Foundation
Non-Profit / Founded in 2001

The Bill Monroe Foundation is made up of people just like you who love the music of Bill Monroe and other traditional Bluegrass artists. Our members also appreciate the culture and want to preserve the way of life that this true American music reflects for us and for our countless future generations. We are going to succeed in this mission, but we need to start here, in the heart of it all, in Rosine, Kentucky, where it [Bluegrass Music] all began.

Phase 1 -- Purchased 20 acres in Rosine to construct Museum to honor Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys, rest of Monroe Family, and the people and music that influenced Bill: $Paid in Full.

Phase 2 -- Purchase memorabilia and right to use Bill Monroe's name as pertains to this project: $250,000 $Paid in Full

Phase 3 -- Already purchased (with a down payment) America's and Kentucky's most valuable musical instrument, Bill Monroe's Lloyd Loar Gibson Mandolin F-5 for $1,125,000.00 Balance owed by Oct. 2002

Phase 4a -- Completely Restored Monroe Home Place and purchased 5 acres that it sits on: $390,000 $Paid in Full and Project is complete.

Phase 4b -- Restore Charlie Monroe's Home for visitor center: $100,000

Phase 5 -- Finish blueprints and plans for Museum: $150,000 $Paid in Full.

Phase 6 -- Purchase Uncle Pen's Cabin and surrounding land: $30,000

Phase 7 -- Pay off balance on 'The Mandolin' before October 2002.

Phase 8 -- Begin construction of Museum: $2 million

Phase 9 -- Purchase and preserve entire 1000-acre farm. Create living history experience: $5 million

Note: $16 million needed for phases 1-9;
$800,000 was made available...
$500,000 spent...
$300,000 held back by State of KY and legislation in Jan. 2002 may freeze all funding!

Phase 10 -- Restore Rosine, KY to an authentic 1920's appearance, preserving its
rich character and way of life, complete with a music hall dedicated to traditional music, and train rides to the park entrance: $ 3 million.

I would urge anyone who would like to be a part of this historic plan to become a charter member of The Bill Monroe Foundation. You might also donate any personal items you may have received from Bill Monroe; i.e., autographed photos, concert posters, letters, etc. All memberships and donations are tax deductible. The next few months will be a crucial period for the BMF since it must pay the balance on Bill Monroe's famous mandolin before October 1st. This is the major focus at the moment. Other proposed ideas will always be possible - even if delayed - but once the mandolin is gone, it is most likely gone for good. It is quite possible Bill Monroe's mandolin could be bought and shipped out of the country if the BMF does not pay the balance by October. In the May/June Program Guide I will give detailed information on how you can buy stock in the Bill Monroe mandolin while supporting the efforts of the BMF at the same time. Contact the BMF by writing or calling:

The Bill Monroe Foundation Membership info:
P.O. Box 429
Call Sherry toll-free at
Rosine, KY 42370
1-888-987-6444, M-F / 8-4 EST

The future of the IBMA, IBMM and BMF should be of the utmost concern to any person who cares about Bluegrass music or American music history in general. There have been a lot of major events in Bluegrass history in our lifetime. We are certainly living in another of those historic periods and as time moves on, and bits & pieces of Bluegrass history could possibly be lost forever, it will take all of us to help preserve and protect the Bluegrass past, present, and future.

Copyright©WWUH: March/April Program Guide, 2002

 

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