IBMA to Partner with The Banjo Gathering and Elderly Instruments on ROOTS REVIVAL: A BLACK STRINGBAND SYMPOSIUM at 2024 IBMA World of Bluegrass® Business Conference

JULY 9, 2024 – IBMA World of Bluegrass® announced today that they will be hosting Roots Revival: A Black Stringband Symposium at their business conference in collaboration with The Banjo Gathering and Elderly Instruments. Held during the business conference and street festival in Raleigh, North Carolina on Thursday, September 26, and Friday, September 27, 2024, this two-day symposium will celebrate the Black stringband traditions of the Piedmont region and beyond in recognition of the last World of Bluegrass taking place in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“In a spirit of celebration and to increase emphasis on inclusion in our roots music community, IBMA is proud to partner with The Banjo Gathering to present Roots Revival: A Black Stringband Symposium,” says Anna Kline, Business Development Director of International Bluegrass Music Association®. This will be the first in a series of annual legacy preservation sessions at IBMA World of Bluegrass®. “The Black Stringband Symposium honors a foundational story of our bluegrass music roots beginning with the black stringband traditions and the ways in which our musical communities are historically intertwined. Black stringband music continues to shape how we listen, play and write music.”

The six sessions across two days explore Black contributions to Bluegrass and other traditional music; contemporary conversations about diversity and inclusion in traditional music; and the ways in which Black musicians, builders, and researchers navigate bluegrass and traditional music spaces. This symposium works to tell a more complete story about the origins and influences that shaped the bluegrass genre as we know it today.

“Lillian Werbin and Kristina Gaddy generously shared their vision and expertise to curate a thoughtful series of sessions that will educate, enlighten, and further explore voices of color, both past and present, that fundamentally shape the structure and sound of bluegrass music,” adds Kline.

“It is important for organizations like IBMA and The Banjo Gathering not only to promote better representation of the contributions of Black stringband music at events like World of Bluegrass, but to work together to make it happen,” says Lillian Werbin, owner of Elderly Instruments and co-planner of The Banjo Gathering.

“We’ve seen a huge increase in awareness of the centrality of Black American contributions to genres including bluegrass and old time in recent years,” adds Kristina Gaddy, co-planner of The Banjo Gathering and author of Well of Souls: Uncovering the Banjo’s Hidden History. “We want to continue increasing that awareness by bringing Black musicians and scholars to events like IBMA.”

These sessions are presented by Elderly Instruments, The Banjo Gathering, IBMA, and the Arnold Shultz Fund of the IBMA Foundation and financially sponsored by Pisgah Banjo Co., Bluegrass Pride, Folk Alliance, DC Bluegrass Union, Ear Trumpet Labs, and Berkeley Old Time Music Convention.

Navigating Narratives: Being a Black Woman in Folk Music. Building on the “Avoiding Tokenism in Trad Music” panel from 2023, this panel of Black women in the traditional music industry explores how they each build upon their experiences and the expectations placed upon them to create authentic representation in the industry. Lillian Werbin, the owner of Elderly Instruments, will be in conversation with educator and organizer of the Fort Worth African American Roots Music Festival Brandi Waller-Pace; musician Kaia Kater; and scholar Maya Brown-Boateng.

Making Instruments: Construction as History: Within the history of American traditional music, Black instrument builders have often been overlooked, from the creators of gourd banjos in Early America to contemporary makers today. Patrick Sawyer of Pisgah Banjos will lead a discussion with banjo builder Dena Ross Jennings, violin maker Amanda Ewing, and instrument repairer Moriah Robeson about how building instruments honors the history of the music while making it more accessible to broader audiences.

Journey of a Song: This panel and showcase will explore how songs from the Black tradition became Bluegrass standards. Cultural historians Valerie Díaz Leroy and Jen Larson will lead a discussion with musicians about how we can accurately and appropriately bring music history into our performances and recorded work.

Black Music in Appalachia Showcase: In this showcase, Black Appalachian musicians Dena Ross Jennings, Kelle Jolly, and Tray Wellington will be performing and discussing the influences the region has had on their music with Lee Bidgood, professor and director of the Institute for Appalachian Music and Culture at East Tennessee State University.

Beyond Bluegrass: In recent years, Arnold Shultz has been acknowledged as a core figure in Bluegrass history. This showcase features musicians Darcy Ford-James, Art Bouman, and Nelson Williams and how they build a diversity of styles and bring in other traditional music into their repertoire.

Alive in the Archives: This panel will explore how Black bluegrass and folk musicians use source and archival recordings to bridge the gap in person-to-person transmission of music between Black musicians who were recorded in the 20th century and musicians today. Musicians and scholars Jake Blount, Joe Johnson, and Justin Golden will play some tunes and discuss their research methods and limitations with Maya Brown-Boateng, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pittsburgh and Andrew W. Mellon Fellow of Musical Instruments at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

About The Banjo Gathering
The Banjo Gathering is the only forum focused entirely on the banjo as a historical, cultural, and design object, in contrast to the many banjo camps, festivals and gatherings that are focused principally on playing the banjo. Since 1998, the Gathering has been the platform for sharing between banjo collectors, researchers, instrument builders, and musicians. The Gathering’s signature event is an annual weekend-long conference of presentations, display, and a performance.

About Elderly Instruments
Elderly Instruments is a world-renowned retailer of new and used fretted and stringed instruments. Founded in 1972 by Stan Werbin, the business is now run by his daughter, CEO Lillian Werbin and President Michael Erlewine. In 2023, Elderly was named the Best Small Business in America by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

About the IBMA Business Conference
The IBMA Business Conference features career development sessions with industry experts guiding the conversation and sharing insights as part of IBMA World of Bluegrass®. IBMA World of Bluegrass® facilitates the growth and development of the bluegrass music community, from professional to fan. This goal is accomplished through four main components: business conference, showcases, awards show, and music festival.


Anna Kline
Business Development Director, IBMA
(p) 615-673-4812
[email protected]

Kristina Gaddy
The Banjo Gathering
[email protected]

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