Music nourishes our souls. It relaxes our minds and warms our hearts. It brings us together, bridging our differences. It consoles us when we are sad and lifts our spirits when times are good. No genre of music is better at these things than acoustic, especially bluegrass music. Let’s look a bit closer at why this is so.
First, bluegrass music is authentic. Our music is home grown in America at a time when Americans are hungry for authenticity. Bluegrass music is honest. Its lyrics are written and its melodies presented unpretentiously with great skill telling us stories of love, life on the farm, featuring stories of loss and tragedy, covering universal themes.
Second, it comes from a culture of accessibility. It’s part of the bluegrass tradition for even the biggest stars to do a “meet and greet” after their shows, shaking hands, chatting, and signing autographs. You can look a long time for that kind of connection at other music events. Third, it’s participatory and welcoming. Jam sessions are—for many people—the most prominent and important part of the bluegrass music scene. Attend any festival and you will see many, many attendees bringing their own instruments and playing informally in the nooks and crannies. For every concert or festival there are many times that number of informal jam sessions. Often these jammers don’t know each other but connect through the common language of bluegrass music.
Fourth, bluegrass music cuts across age and politics. At bluegrass music events jammers and bands tend to sort by ability not by age, politics, or other criteria. It’s common to see a tween playing with folks in their 70s, a lawyer playing with a plumber, and a city slicker playing with a farmer. As for politics, at least in San Diego, there is an unwritten rule that bluegrass folks check their politics at the door. We share the music and life experiences we have in common, not the politics that can separate us. This may not always be true on social media, but it is, with rare exceptions, true at bluegrass music gatherings. I know from personal experience that I have many bluegrass musician friends I have known for decades who likely don’t share my politics.
Fifth, and most important, bluegrass and all forms of acoustic music make us feel good. Whether listening, jamming, recording, or performing, our music brings out the best in us and in how we treat others. That is supremely important for us personally and also for the larger society that faces so much that focuses on our divisions.
If you agree, here’s what you can do to help. Join a local bluegrass or acoustic music nonprofit. The dues are reasonable and these volunteer run organizations make it all go in San Diego. Here are some suggestions:
San Diego Nonprofits Supporting Bluegrass Music
- San Diego Bluegrass Society (SDBS) http://sandiegobluegrass.org/
- North San Diego County Bluegrass and Folk Club (NCBFC) http://www.northcountybluegrass.org/
- San Diego Folk Heritage https://sdfolkheritage.org/
Nonprofits Supporting Bluegrass Music with a Broader Reach
- California Bluegrass Association (CBA) https://californiabluegrass.org/
- Southwest Bluegrass Association (SWBA) https://www.southwestbluegrass.org/
- International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) https://ibma.org/
In addition, you can support local bluegrass and acoustic music by attending concerts, buying music directly from the artists, and by reading the San Diego Troubadour! Let’s hope we are all able to get back to something closer to normal as Covid and Omicron run their course and perhaps consider hiring a bluegrass band for our coming out party. Until then, your support is important and appreciated.