Posted tagged ‘IBMA’

Grace and Dignity – IBMA 2010

October 3, 2010

        It’ll take me a month to write up all I saw at IBMA. We met so many people and had so much fun.

        It was 24/7 coffee and music and good folks. Half the time I didn’t know if I was in New England or New York, but it was International hospitality at every turn. Everyone was so good to me. It was humbling.

         We are headed back home. God bless every one of you in bluegrass. My life was so much richer for knowing you. I want you all to know y’all are just as Harvey County at heart as I am. Regardless of our geographic locale, we all seek a life of grace and dignity through our music and art, and no one can stop us.

        God bless and see you down the bluegrass road.

Dr. B


IBMA week and “The Bluegrass Blog”

September 28, 2010

        ‘Y’all my posts are at the Bluegrass Blog this week. I’m one of a team of roving reporters assigned to cover the IBMA World of Bluegrass in Nashville, Tn. Come visit. I’m a pig in mud. It’s music and books and seminars and old friends and a quick meal a day. I might even sleep a couple of hours tomorrow. 

        You’ll have to scroll back a page or two to see mine, but read all the other entries too. The motto at the Bluegrass Blog is “news at the speed of bluegrass,” and they mean it; a lot of good material goes up fast there. Here’s the link:

Dr. B

Sound HealthCare For Musicians

October 12, 2009


        First of all, the disclaimer.  One reason I like my blog is it is mine.  It has zero commercial influence other than I want to tell people about bands and artists I like, and I hope someday I will be able to advertise my book.  I accept no advertisement money.  That way I can write whatever I think and don’t have to answer to anyone but my readers, myself, and the Good Lord.  

        So with that intro, I want to tell you about a project I got interested in at an IBMA conference.  It is called Sound HeathCare.  They are not an insurance company, but they are in the heath insurance business.  

        For some time now I have worried about the lack of affordable health insurance for my musician friends.  I recall years ago when the Nashville Bluegrass Band was involved in an accident.  My first reaction was fear for their well being, but it was followed up with concern for their medical bills.  That was a while back and things are even more expensive now.

        I believe it was one of the Renos who said you don’t know about overhead until your diesel fuel bill runs in the tens of thousands of dollars.  Many working bands can’t add on the expense of independent health insurance and stay out on the road.

        An additional problem is the lack of portability.  One musician at the conference told us about the day he had a heart attack.  He was first seen in the state where he had insurance, but they flew him out to a Medical Center across the state line.  His inital bills were paid by his insurance, but the expensive work at the second facility was not covered on his policy.  His out of pocket expense was thousands of dollars.

        I realized the plight of the uninsured musician years ago, and began to write the IBMA of my concerns.  I suspect they heard from a lot of folks, because they listened.  They found a group called Sound HeathCare who now brokers insurance for their members.  Sound HeathCare made a presentation at the IBMA business convention. In my humble opinion as a country doc who loves bluegrass music and the folks who play it, they are a group we need to listen to.

        They are not an insurance company.  They are a broker for health insurance and specialize in musicians.  In fact, the CEO and founding partner, Mr. R.J. Stillwell, is a former touring musician himself.

        The fact they are a broker is very important.  In this role we are given some leverage.  There is very little we as individuals can do to negotiate with a big insurance company.  Private health insurance without a broker is a take it or leave it proposition, and on their terms only.

        The equation changes with a broker.  Sound HeathCare has the power to bring large groups of people to the table.  (They were selected by the CMA first and then the IBMA followed suit)  They broker health insurance for these and other music organizations.  The very important point is this:  Because they represent a large number of people, they can hold the insurance company’s feet to the fire.  If one company gets too high-handed they can ditch them.  They can’t bring these giant companies to their knees, but they can at least make them listen to our collective voice or lose the business of a very large number of customers.        

        Believe me, the insurance companies will listen if the people are empowered.  Malpractice insurance is very expensive, but because of a co-op we formed as docs, we have been able to command significant discounts.  We deal with a good company, but they can not afford to become too expensive or unresponsive.  If they did so, our broker might shop around.  Sound Health Care can take advantage of this same dynamic when they deal with the insurance companies who provide your health insurance.

        They also have tackled the other major significant obstacle for a touring musician.  Their coverage is portable.  In other words, they only broker with companies who offer insurance that is accepted on a national basis.  I have often worried my friends who have good insurance that serves them well at home in the Carolinas could have a stroke way out west and be out of luck.  The gentleman in the audience who had a heart attack is a great example, and he only crossed one state line.  Heck, many of the musicians I know travel that far before lunch!  Because the executives of SoundHeath Care are musicians themselves they not only understand this problem, but have dealt with it for their own families.

       As I said, this is not a paid advertisement.  I only know what I learned in a one hour seminar at the IBMA, but I like what I heard.  The company is relatively new (three of four years I think) but I believe they are here to stay because they address fundamental concepts that speak to the specific needs of working musicians. 

        My advice is this.  If you have good health insurance that is portable and affordable, hold onto it.  If you don’t have that kind of coverage, check out Sound HealthCare.  One thing is certain.  I know you remember the old saying, “Don’t leave home without it.”  I hope you guys will do what you can to not go out on the road without health insurance.  One catastrophe could sink you for life. 

        If you are in my neck of the woods, I’d give you the bluegrass discount, but there aren’t enough bluegrass docs out there, and I want to see my favorite people be taken care of fairly.  No one is going to conquer the heath insurance quagmire overnight, but I believe Sound HeathCare is at least headed in the right direction.

Their website is:

Dr. B

Darin and Brooke Aldridge, Progressive Traditionalists

September 29, 2009

        IBMA showcase; Monday night.  We made our way to some empty seats up front. My advice to the kids was they were prepared and had no reason to be nervous.  In spite of that my heart pounded and my eyes were moist.  They were here.  Barring power failure or some such catastrophe, they were gonna stand and deliver.

          It was quiet for a moment.  Glasses clinked around the room as folks finished dinner.  Darin came out first.  He wore his Sunday best.  He took just a moment to check the mic.  Brooke was in a pastel evening dress.  Even an old bluegrass doc could see was she was elegant.  The boys were in dark pants and light shirts with ties.  The band carried a class professional persona before they struck the first note.

        Right out the gate it was perfection.  Brooke’s vocals filled the room, and Darin’s harmony matched her with every phrase and trill.  The instrument fills augmented the words with just the right touch.  

       They broke into their wonderful country duet, ‘The Sweetest Waste of Time.’  Someone dashed out of the room.  I later learned they had gone to alert Eddie Stubbs, the voice of WSM radio.  I have no way to know what they said, but I expect it was something like, “Eddie, you gotta hear these kids.”

         Not only did Mr. Stubbs hear them, but so did radio listeners everywhere.  Eddie Stubbs is the voice of WSM, the original country music radio brand, and I understand he put them on a live feed for the WSM listening audience.  He interviewed them after the show.

           The crowd packed in tight.  I noticed several moved up as close to the stage as possible.  My new friend from France, Henri Deschamps, tapped me on the shoulder.  “Hey Doc, they are good.”  It was a proud moment for North Carolina.  The Darin and Brooke Aldridge Quintet now belong to the world.

        The keynote speaker for the night had been Mr. Pete Fisher, the General Manger of the Grand Ole Opry.  I thought of his words as they sang.  Mr. Fisher said we need to respect tradition, and yet not have it be an anchor that weighs us down.  The man had already made good on his word when he inducted the Stanley Brothers into the Opry.  There are few groups more traditional than the Stanleys.

          At the same time Mr. Fisher is correct that to maintain and develop a commercial presence in a music world that changes faster than old Doc can type, we must push forward. We have to balance the old and the new to stay alive.

        As Darin and Brooke played, it struck me this is exactly what they do.  Darin has studied the Stanleys, and every bluegrass and country artist he can get his hands on.  He and Brooke made that heritage the foundation of their sound, and yet knew their destiny was to create their own.

        And they are unique.  From the first line the music jumps off the stage as something you’ve never heard.  Somehow though it still strikes a nostalgic chord deep inside.  You know you must have been there before, but you can’t quite recall where.  

         The closest analogy I can make it they sing in a Louvin Brothers duet style, except one voice is female and one is male.  I asked Nashville veteran Jerry Salley and he said he thought that was about right.  He went on to say in that style he felt Darin and Brooke were unrivaled in today’s country music.  Don’t take it from Doc, I’m just a music lover.  Ask Jerry; he knows the business.

        Mr. Fisher also talked about the importance of brand.  He was right again.  What brand can ever symbolize country music more than the Grand Old Opry?  When I interviewed for med school, some old Professor asked me what I knew about opra.  I pondered that a minute and said, “Sir, I don’t know too much about opra, but I can tell you all about the Grand Ole Opry.”  I got in, and I hope I’ve done okay for a country boy.  I’ve sure done my best.

        So do Darin and Brooke.  When Mr. Fisher talked about brands, I was reminded of the words of Charles Revson, the founder of Revlon.  Someone asked what he sold, and he said, “We don’t sell cosmetics, we sell hope in a bottle.”  Mr. Revson understood the importance of brand.  The rewards of brand can only come from the responsibility of quality and consistency.  As Mr. Fisher said, (paraphrased)  “You must not just meet, but exceed expectation without fail.”  

          Darin and Brooke do that.  Like Charles Revson, their brand is also hope.  They respect their elders and tradition but still push their music to new boundaries every time out.  They sell hope too.  Old guys like me who love music and rely on it to see them through the hard times know young people like Darin and Brooke are gonna keep the tradition alive.  As groups like this emerge, we can know our music will never die on the vine from failure to move forward.  At least for this music lover, that is what I look for in a brand. 

        As Mr. Fisher said, we all must strive to exceed expectations in whatever we are called to do.  Darin and Brooke do just that, and North Carolina sure is proud of them for it.

Dr. B

IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association)

September 28, 2009

            We got into Nashville late.  It’s a pretty good drive from Harvey County, and I got a bit of car lag from the drive.  I might take a train next time.  I wonder if it stops at Union Station.

        The Holiday Inn Express is fancy for a country boy.  Six floors up is quite a view.  The night-light twinkled and inspired my ‘Song of the Day,’ ‘Nashville Skyline Rag.’  

       We are here for the IBMA convention.  I have played all my life, but this is my first venture into organized bluegrass.  Hm.  I wonder if ‘organized bluegrass’ is anything like ‘organized medicine.’  They say organizing doctors is like herding stray cats.  I know a bunch of musicians and I am one myself.  Bluegrass musicians are even more independent than docs.  I don’t know exactly how headstrong that might make me, ’cause I am both.

        Though a neophye to the organization as a professional, (I have been a grassroots member for years)  I am sure they will welcome me in.  The only requirement is to love the music and respect it’s traditions.  We still respect our elders in bluegrass, so I have an advantage there.  Gray hair makes patients think you are wiser than what you are.  

        I’ll find my niche.  I am now a professional member in print media.  As far I know I am the world’s only physician bluegrass fiction writer.  I have been blessed with more than my share of drive and energy over the years.  Many people from all walks of life have asked where it comes from.  I tell them I give the credit to the Good Lord, my wife and family, and the bluegrass community.  They are what sustains me. 

        Then I reach in my cabinet and hand them a CD.  I try to choose one that fits their personality, and I seldom miss.  They come back later a say, “Wow, I didn’t know you folks played like that.  This is great!”

        These days I am a part-time doc, and closing in on an old man.  The music has been good to me and sustained me in hard times.  It still tears me down to lose a patient, and the music gets me through.  With ‘The Mandolin Case,’ I hope to show the outside world all about it.  So many folks have asked me about it, I felt compelled to show my story.  I hate for anyone to got through life and miss out on this wonderful music and all the fine people involved in it.

        If you don’t know of bluegrass music and our extended family come to FanFest at the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville and check it out.  It’ll change your life.

Dr. B