Congratulations to Heather Grimm, a PhD candidate in the interdisciplinary Theatre and Drama department at Northwestern University, who is the 2021 recipient of the IBMA Foundation’s Rosenberg Bluegrass Scholar Award. Grimm’s presentation, titled “Performing ‘Yes, And’ Modernity: John Hartford and the Performance of Self,” was delivered at the annual conference of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education in August 2019.

According to Grimm, her presentation “examines a selection of John Hartford’s televised performances over the four decades of his career to show how he systematically re-narrated his own identity in the wake of the hillbilly stereotype that dominated the mass media depictions of white Southerners in the 1960s. The paper argues that he attempted to mitigate viewers’ stereotypical understandings of bluegrass music and the mountain South as ‘primitive,’ and instead invited them to view him as both a bluegrass musician and a fellow participant in modern society.”

In addition to a cash honorarium of $500, Grimm will be invited to be the IBMA Foundation’s guest at the IBMA Business Conference September 28-30 and also the IBMA Bluegrass Music Awards presented by Yamaha, scheduled for September 30, both in Raleigh, North Carolina

The IBMA Foundation presents an annual award to the developing academic scholar who presents the best paper at a juried academic conference on an aspect of bluegrass music. The objective of this award is to grow the academic awareness of bluegrass music by encouraging developing academic scholars to present research of high quality to fellow scholars on any aspect of the genre. Developing academic scholars eligible for this award are defined as graduate students in MA or PhD programs and recent PhDs (within five years of degree completion). 

The committee tasked with overseeing the 2021 Rosenberg Bluegrass Scholarship Award was headed by Dr. Travis Stimeling (University of West Virginia), and also included Dr. Kristine McCusker (Middle Tennessee State University), and Tim Stafford (East Tennessee State University/Blue Highway). 

The award, originally known as the “IBMA Academic Prize,” was presented in 2011 to Benjamin Krakauer, who has joined the faculty of Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, North Carolina. The IBMA Foundation assumed responsibility for the award in 2019, re-naming it in honor of renowned bluegrass music historian, author, scholar and banjo player Neil Rosenberg, who was inducted into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2014. Dr. Jordan Laney, who currently teaches at Virginia Tech, was the Rosenberg Bluegrass Scholar Award recipient in 2019. There was no award in 2020.

The 2021 Rosenberg Bluegrass Scholar Award is sponsored by the family of John Hartford. Their goal is to carry on Hartford’s legacy through music releases, books, special projects, and the preservation of his personal archive (

The IBMA Foundation is the philanthropic organization that supports programs and initiatives fostering the growth of bluegrass music. The Foundation helps donors create a legacy to benefit future generations of musicians and fans by connecting resources to projects that focus on bluegrass music-related arts and culture, education, literary work, and historic preservation.

For more information, please email Nancy Cardwell at the IBMA Foundation ( or Travis Stimeling ( Entries for consideration next year may be emailed before August 1, 2022, to Dr. Stimeling directly, or mailed to him c/o West Virginia University School of Music, PO Box 6111, Morgantown, WV 26506-6111.

Return to the August 2021 issue of The Cornerstone.