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IBMA Foundation announces Arnold Shultz Fund to encourage participation by people of color in bluegrass music; fundraising concert planned for June 26

For immediate release: June 19, 2020
Contact: Nancy Cardwell, IBMA Foundation 615.260.4807,

Nashville, TN – The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Foundation has announced the establishment of an Arnold Shultz Fund to support activities increasing participation of people of color in bluegrass music. Arnold Shultz (1886–1931) was an African American musician from western Kentucky who had a profound influence on Bill Monroe’s music and the development of bluegrass.

The idea for the fund grew out of a recent online conversation among alumni of IBMA’s Leadership Bluegrass program. In just a week—before it had been formally announced—word of mouth spread awareness of the Arnold Shultz Fund internationally, generating considerable enthusiasm and $1,400 in donations. In 2017 Rhiannon Giddens, in a keynote address at World of Bluegrass in Raleigh, challenged the bluegrass music community to “tear down those artificial divisions and let bluegrass and string band music be the welcoming place that it has, and can be, and, in more and more places.”

The IBMA Foundation is in the process of appointing an advisory committee to make decisions about how funds donated to the Arnold Shultz Fund may best be used. Such uses might include scholarships, awards, or projects. Richard S. Brown, DMD, a nationally known mandolinist in the Bill Monroe style, a member of the IBMA Foundation’s board of directors, and an African American, will co-chair the advisory committee with noted bluegrass historian, author, banjoist, and Bluegrass Hall of Fame member, Neil V. Rosenberg.

“We have to see where bluegrass music can go, where it hasn’t gone before,” Dr. Rosenberg said, “by paying attention to people who are sometimes seen as on the fringe or outsiders. The Arnold Shultz Fund seeks to welcome people of color into bluegrass. As a musician I’ve always appreciated the progressive nature of this music. It’s never the same. Here’s an important opportunity for us to develop, to take new directions.”

“Of course I think the Arnold Shultz Fund is a great idea,” Dr. Brown said. “Arnold Shultz is long overdue for recognition because of his influence on bluegrass music. Arnold played with Bill Monroe’s fiddling uncle Pen Vandiver as a guitarist. Shultz was also a sought-after fiddler and later hired Bill to play guitar for him at dances. Bill Monroe told me about Arnold Shultz and their dance gigs more than 50 years ago, when I was in my twenties. The stories would always end with Bill saying, ‘Now, isn’t that something?’ Yes, it’s time to take Arnold Shultz, one of our hidden legends, out of obscurity and into the mainstream.”

Born near Cromwell in Kentucky’s Ohio County, Shultz was the son of a former slave. He died at the age of 45 of a mitral lesion in his heart, although legend persists that he died as a result of poisoned whiskey given to him by a white musician who was jealous of his talent. Born into a family of musicians, Shultz first learned guitar from an uncle. He also worked as a laborer in coal mines and as a deck hand on riverboats, traveling from the Ohio River in Kentucky down the Mississippi to New Orleans. In the early 1920s Shultz performed in hillbilly and Dixieland bands with both black and white musicians, including a group headed by Forest “Boots” Faught. Rhiannon Giddens concluded her 2017 keynote address, “As Boots Faught said when he was confronted about Arnold Shultz being a colored fiddler in his band, ‘You don’t hear color. You hear music.’

Bill Monroe said that his first paying gig as a musician came when Shultz hired him to play guitar for a square dance. Though Shultz never recorded, Bill Monroe credited him as a powerful influence on bluegrass music, saying that was where the lonesome, blues feeling in bluegrass came from.

To help build awareness and support for the Arnold Shultz Fund, a super group of some of Denver, Colorado’s best bluegrass musicians has organized a fundraising concert a week from today. The Denver Bluegrass Allstars, featuring Andy Hall and Chris Pandolfi (the Infamous Stringdusters), Paul Hoffman (Greensky Bluegrass), Greg Garrison (Leftover Salmon), and flatpicking champion Tyler Grant will make their debut on Friday, June 26 at 7 p.m. Mountain Time, with a free live stream from Denver’s Mighty Fine Productions.

Although the stream will be provided free of charge, viewers are encouraged to make contributions, with a portion of the proceeds to be donated to the Arnold Shultz Fund. The live stream will be available through, and will be made possible in part by Upslope Brewing Company. Those interested in viewing may also go to the IBMA Foundation Facebook page at 8 p.m. Central, on Friday, June 26 to enjoy the free concert.

Donations to The Arnold Shultz Fund may be made at the top of the IBMA Foundation website home page.

The IBMA Foundation supports the following vision statement of the International Bluegrass Music Association: Diversity and inclusion are essential to the well-being and continued growth of bluegrass music. We encourage, embrace and celebrate the participation and involvement in bluegrass by people of all abilities, genders, orientations, identities, faiths, culture and backgrounds.

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