On the Beat

IBMA's new leader takes over, as World of Bluegrass looms

Bluegrass greats Sam Bush, left, and Del McCoury perform at Wide Open Bluegrass in Raleigh in 2016.
Bluegrass greats Sam Bush, left, and Del McCoury perform at Wide Open Bluegrass in Raleigh in 2016. ssharpe@newsobserver.com

The International Bluegrass Music Association – the organization that brought World of Bluegrass to Raleigh in 2013, establishing it as a signature event for the city – has been in rough shape since last fall, grappling with turmoil and leadership resignations.

But it is getting a new executive director, Paul J. Schiminger, who has extensive background in the financial services industry and plays banjo to boot.

“I feel like Coach (Krzyzewski) probably felt when Brandon Ingram signed with Duke,” said Pinecone director and IBMA board member William Lewis. “Paul stood out right away and became a favorite. After all the assessments and interviews, everything we hoped for from him was indeed true.”

Currently, Schiminger is head of not-for-profit business development at Wilmington Trust in his native city of Baltimore. He’ll move to Nashville and take up his new IBMA role by June 1.

Schiminger has a history with IBMA, as a longtime member. He went to every IBMA convention when it happened in Nashville, and also came to Raleigh for both years of World of Bluegrass.

“I was just there as a fan the last two years, running from one act to another and enjoying the music,” Schiminger said. “I was bowled over at how Raleigh embraced IBMA. They really rolled out the red carpet and took the event to a new level. You can see by the success that it worked. A job like this, pulling together my professional expertise and passion for the music, is an amazing opportunity.”

Schiminger takes over IBMA at a potentially difficult time. Last fall’s World of Bluegrass was a huge success, with a total estimated attendance of 180,000 people.

But soon after the 2014 World of Bluegrass wrapped up, controversy roiled the IBMA’s board when five of 16 members resigned over disagreements on the organization’s future direction. Executive director Nancy Cardwell also resigned, creating the vacancy that Schiminger is filling.

“Obviously it’s been difficult trying to move forward with something this important while dealing with staffing concerns and other issues being raised,” said board chairman Jon Weisberger. “That was certainly challenging. But I don’t think we would have been interested in anyone who was afraid of that. Someone overly concerned with the changes we’ve gone through would not have been the right person for us.”

With the leadership question finally settled, the next World of Bluegrass isn’t that far off. A partial “Bluegrass Ramble” lineup has already been announced, and the 2015 edition kicks off in five months – on Sept. 29.

“The health of our partners is of massive concern not just to Raleigh, but the entire genre of bluegrass,” said Laurie Okun, director of sales and marketing for the Raleigh Convention Center. “It’s important to remember that IBMA breathed a lot of life into bluegrass in the mid-1980s, and Raleigh wants to bring that same type of revival. So I’m excited. It means a lot to this here city.”