Women in Bluegrass

I just finished filling out my second ballot for the IBMA Awards.

Digression about IBMA: That would be the International Bluegrass Music Association for you newbies. The IBMA is a professional trade organization for bluegrass musicians and bluegrass business people (event producers, merchandisers, record labels, songwriters, etc.). Each year the IBMA recognizes those musicians who have done outstanding work in the bluegrass music field with awards in twelve categories.

Anyhow, in years past I have ranted about the lack of female presence on these ballots, especially in the Instrumental Performers category.

Digression about how you get on the first ballot: The first ballot is completely open; any member can nominate anyone they choose. So I had no one to blame about lack of female presence except the whole membership! The most I could do was to quote Abigail Adams and say, “Remember the women!” Which I did regularly in my Women in Bluegrass newsletter.

This year I am happy to say that things are much improved. So much improved that I am going to tell you the names of all the women who made this second-ballot, long-list of candidates for nomination on the various instruments. (You’re not a true nominee until the next ballot, on which the five final names will appear.) I am so proud of all of these wonderful, talented, hard-working women! There are EIGHTEEN in all!

IBMA Candidates for Nomination...

For Banjo Player of the Year

Kristin Scott Benson
Alison Brown
Cia Cherryholmes
Donica Christensen
Beth Stevens

For Bass Player of the Year

Beth Lawrence
Missy Raines

For Fiddle Player of the Year

Becky Buller
Molly Cherryholmes
Shelby Hope Gold
Alison Krauss

For Dobro Player of the Year

Sally Van Meter (what would we do without Sally Van?)

For Guitar Player of the Year

Dale Ann Bradley
Rebecca Frazier

For Mandolin Player of the Year

Analise Victoria Gold
Sierra Hull
Lorriane Jordan
Rhonda Vincent

For contrast, in 1999 there were only FIVE women, total, nominated for Instrumental Awards on the second ballot: Kristin Scott [Benson], Alison Krauss, Laurie Lewis, Missy Raines, and Sally Van Meter.

And I wish I’d kept my second ballots from earlier years, when I suspect there were even fewer women nominated, but, frankly, I never thought I’d need them. But now I find I’m wrong. I didn’t realize I’d turn out to be such a raging feminist! I thought I was making a enough of a statement simply by playing the banjo and writing songs like “I Ain’t Domesticated Yet.” Silly me!

So, again congratulations to all these women who are out there hitting the road hard. You go!

5 thoughts on “Women in Bluegrass

  1. Martin Bacon

    In defense of the less fair gender, it is important to note that no one, male or female, has won Bass player of the year more often than Missy Raines (9 times).
    Talent can overcome prejudice. Also, “newbies” should know how great fanfest is and that you even go and “hawk your wares”. Congratulations to all those great performers. I will be greatly interested in the outcome. Did Steve Martin get nominated for banjo. As much as I like all those banjo players above, I was hoping Earl and he could play Daddy Played the Banjo at IBMA.

  2. Tam

    Hi Murphy

    Seems to me that the IBMA is somewhat short sighted in not having the following category in their long list of awards. I’m sure if they did you would certainly win the award for your lifetime service to the bluegrass community.

    Banjo Instructor of the Year

    Best Regards


  3. admin

    Post author

    Thanks, Tam! But if they did banjo, then they’d have to do every other instrument and it would just get ridiculous, since these are really performance awards. And they are voted on by the professional membership (who don’t take lessons!), so how would they know who is the best? I think every student thinks their own teacher is the best, so the one who would win is the one with the most students. Of course, Murphy would be right up there!


  4. admin

    Post author


    We won’t know who is officially nominated until they announce it–late August or Early September, I think. I, too, hope Steve Martin gets nominated. I have heard rumors he’s going to play on the awards show, so we’ll see!


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    Women on the IBMA Ballot « The Murphy Method Blog

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