Recently someone asked why I played bluegrass music. I remember an old story that circulated in college. Reportedly, the philosophy professor asked a single exam question, “Why?”
One student answered, “Because,” and got an “F.”
Another wrote, “Why Not?” They got an “A,” so I’ll stick with “Why Not?”
Bluegrass is an equal opportunity music. If you love the music and respect its traditions your demographic data is immaterial. We have people of all walks of life- witness a Galax jam session where a NASA rocket scientist plays Scruggs style banjo with a mandolin player who is employed stirring the vat at the chewing tobacco factory. (By the way, he is one heck of a mandolin player.) Folks with disabilities are a part of the scene, and women are not only equal but often at the top of the bluegrass order- note Alison Krauss and Rhonda Vincent. It is one of the few communities that respects, if not honors, its elders. As Lester Flatt told Marty Stuart regarding an elderly couple who visited the record table after a show, (paraphrased) “Son, in this music people are fans for life.”
Our music consistently respects the spiritual. There is no picker who can be respected as knowledgeable of the genre if they do not have familiarity with gospel repertoire.
Bluegrass music even helped me raise my children. In an era when it can be difficult to hold your people close, mine always were, thanks in part to the countless festivals and shows I drug them to over the years. When they were in middle school, our little Neuse River CD got some public radio airplay, I was the coolest Dad at the the Middle School for a few years there despite my decidedly non-youthful persona. Now my kids play too, and are carrying on the tradition. Sometimes I wonder if they would have listened to anything I had to say if not for the music.
So, bluegrass music. “Why Not?!”