No one walking the International Bluegrass Music Awards red carpet Thursday got there without taking a few risks along the way.
Earlier this week, banjo innovator Béla Fleck gave a keynote speech about taking risks as a bluegrass musician.
Most of those walking into the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts listed a first jam session or that first time on stage as their biggest moment in sticking their necks out.
For Greg Readling, bass player for Raleigh-based Chatham County Line, the big moment came a little later.
“It was the day I decided to quit my job and follow this,” he said. “I think for everybody that’s probably a big moment; it’s a leap of faith. You decide you’re going to try to make it work.”
Thursday’s list of award nominees contained plenty of musicians who are making it work, both bluegrass icons and younger players who are making a splash.
“If you just look at the people nominated this year, then it’s clear that the music is evolving, but not at the sake of the traditions and the lions of bluegrass,” said Noam Pikelny, a member of progressive bluegrassers The Punch Brothers and last year’s IBMA keynote speaker.
For songwriter and fiddle player Becky Buller, who until recently played with North Carolinians Darin and Brooke Aldridge, the biggest risk so far was “jumping off the ledge and starting my own band.”
Hanging around in Raleigh during World of Bluegrass week is a great way for aspiring musicians to get a kick-start, she said.
She attended her first IBMA conference in 1995, when she was a junior in high school.
“That week changed my life,” she said. “That’s really why I’m here now and pursuing this as a career, because professionals took the time to jam with me during that week. It was just so inspiring to me.”