The IBMA Foundation has awarded a total of $20,050 in Arnold Shultz Fund project grants to programs and individuals in Alaska, Arizona, California, India, Kentucky, Kenya, Louisiana, Virginia and Texas. The Arnold Shultz Fund was established in 2020 by the IBMA Foundation to encourage participation in bluegrass music by people of color.

“We’re proud to announce a continuing pattern of strong support for Arnold Shultz Fund grants in 2023,” said Dr. Richard Brown, co-chair of the Arnold Shultz Fund advisory committee along with Neil Rosenberg, Ph.D. “The Shultz Fund committee has awarded over $50,000 in grants since the program began in 2020, plus an additional $10,000 in each of the past two years for the Black Banjo Reclamation Project, which came from proceeds from the annual Pisgah Banjo Company fundraising raffle. We’re pleased to include two recipients this year from India and Kenya. The IBMA Foundation seeks to offer a proactive, helping hand to individuals who come from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in the bluegrass community. Bluegrass music belongs to everyone who wants to listen to it or play it. We are grateful to donors who continue to support the Arnold Shultz Fund and all the other Foundation initiatives. Their generosity has made it possible to award grants to these very deserving musicians and program organizers.”

2023 Arnold Shultz Fund grant recipients:

  • Dancing with the Spirit (Fairbanks, AK) – Assistant instructor training and travel for young native musicians who will eventually be taking over as future instructors for Dancing with the Spirit. Twenty-three Alaskan villages were reached in 2022, and instruction was offered on fiddle, guitar, mandolin, banjo, bass, and ukulele.
  • Decolonizing the Music Room (Ft. Worth, TX) – The Fort Worth African American Roots Music Festival, which highlights the central role of Blackness in early American music, features award-winning artists and scholars from across North America who gather for a day of music, jamming, learning, and dancing.
  • Elephant Grass Musical Chairs (bluegrass) band (Nairobi, Kenya) – A series of educational bluegrass concerts/programs at four high schools in the Nairobi area from April to November 2023. Elephant Grass is the only known bluegrass band in Africa, and two members are Kenyan fiddlers in their 20s (Oscar Chilumo Mbwana and Stephanie Mwaura), both of whom are currently benefiting from a 2022 Arnold Shultz Fund grant for (Zoom) fiddle lessons.
  • Grassy Strings (W. Bengal, India) – Travel grant to help bring the first bluegrass band from India as a part of an international bluegrass outreach program sponsored by the La Roche Bluegrass Festival in France, free to the public.  
  • Jam Pak Blues ‘N’ Grass Neighborhood Band (Chandler, AZ) – Scholarship for JamPak member Gieselle Tambe-Ebot to attend Leadership Bluegrass 2023 in Nashville, TN. 
  • Jam Pak Blues ‘N’ Grass Neighborhood Band (Chandler, AZ) – Summer Bluegrass Camp
  • Montgomery Museum of Art & History (Christianburg, VA) – The “Cultural Crossroads in Traditional Music” concert program explores interactions and intersections between bluegrass music and African American, Indigenous First People, Hispanic/Latino, and European cultures. Junior Appalachian Musician programs are included, with music, dance and storytelling. The grant will fund additional staff time, travel stipends for committee members representing various cultures, and a marketing plan to reach an inclusive audience with emphasis on children and young people.
  • Lamont Pearley (Bowling Green, KY) – Funding for five months of weekly lessons from Kentucky banjo teacher Jordan Reihm, culminating in a performance in tribute to Arnold Shultz. Pearley performs original acoustic music, shares stories, sings, and engages audiences through the oral history of African American traditional/tribal music called “the blues,” with authentic-style field hollers accompanied by Southern-influenced guitar playing.
  • Nelson Williams (New Orleans, LA) – Within a calendar year Williams will take a month’s worth of lessons from four different established acoustic bass players within the bluegrass community. Williams currently tours with Jake Blount.
  • Azere Wilson (Santa Margarita, CA)  – Funding assistance for her debut Roots/ Bluegrass/ Americana album, The Rock The Root The Lean On Me, a culmination of Azere’s research on traditional Black music, African American spirituals, bluegrass music, and the blues. Wilson’s unique voice and take on Black Americana are based on the discovery of a connection to her ancestors through music.
  • Individual Arnold Shultz Fund Grants – An additional $2,000 will be set aside to use for scholarship requests that come in throughout the year to assist people of color with funding for bluegrass music lessons, instrument repair, bluegrass camps and workshops, and other educational needs.

The IBMA Foundation is also proud to announce in conjunction with PineCone, the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music based in Raleigh, NC, the video release of a song written by Dom Flemons called “Shultz’s Dream,” in tribute to Arnold Shultz. Listen here. Sponsored in part by an Arnold Shultz Fund grant in 2022, the video features Flemons on lead vocals and guitar, Richard Brown on mandolin, Brian Farrow on bass, Dante Pope on percussion and tenor vocals, and Tray Wellington on banjo. For more info on the Shultz’s Dream project, read more.

Arnold Shultz (1886 – 1931) was an African American musician from western Kentucky. Best known as an extraordinary guitarist and fiddle player, Shultz often played with Bill Monroe’s fiddle-playing uncle, Pendleton (“Pen”) Vandiver. It was at these gigs that Monroe met Arnold Shultz and began to emulate his backup guitar style. Shultz was impressed enough with Monroe’s progress that he hired Monroe to play guitar with him at dances, thereby giving Monroe his first jobs as a professional musician. Monroe often credited Shultz with influencing his approach to playing music.

The deadline to apply for the next round of Arnold Shultz Fund grants is January 31, 2024. Qualified individual applicants may also inquire throughout the year about support on a case-by-case basis. For information on applying for an Arnold Shultz Fund grant, becoming a sponsor of an IBMA Foundation Arnold Shultz Fund project or individual grant, or making a donation to the Arnold Shultz Fund, please visit or email

Return to the March 2023 issue of The Cornerstone.