Check this out.
It's a twist on the famous Edvard Munch painting The Scream showing why, exactly, the screamer in question is so bent out of shape. It's because there's a guy a few feet behind playing a banjo. Who wouldn't scream?
The painting underscores the obvious reality that many people don't like the banjo. That much is obvious. But it also suggests that certain types of American music aren't held in the same regard as others. It's almost as if there's a kind of music appreciation hierarchy at play.
For example, no one disputes the fact that jazz is an art form. And it's treated as such (although some would argue to a fault, as the tendency to hyper-intellectualize the genre can create an air of exclusivity that can turn off your average listener).
Other genres have a steeper hill to climb. And so foundations work to build legitimacy, accessibility, and awareness around their respective genres. One such outfit is the Foundation for Bluegrass Music, a Nashville-based non-profit (501c3) organization supporting educational, literary, artistic, and historic preservation efforts in bluegrass.
The foundation announced four grants, at $2,000 each, for the upcoming year. Winners include:
- Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM Inc.) in Independence, VA that seeks to provide small group instruction for young students in the various musical forms native to the Appalachian region.
- Toe River Arts Council in Burnsville, NC, has a "Bringing Bluegrass Back Home" program that funds volunteer musicians who rehearse weekly and perform for community events and concerts in the area.
- West Virginia University, whose Bluegrass and Old-Time Instruction in Morgantown, WV includes a student bluegrass band which meets weekly on campus, directed by Travis Stimeling, assistant professor of music history.
- Wheeling Park High School Bluegrass Bands in Wheeling, WV. The school offers a school bluegrass band as an alternative to marching and concert bands.
Now don't let our aforementioned commentary fool you. No one here is suggesting that bluegrass isn't an art form in its own right. Of course it is. If anything, it's precisely because of the rich legacy of bluegrass and the need to expose it to a wider audience that organizations like the Foundation for Bluegrass Music are so important.