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Sam Bush to Deliver IBMA Keynote Address

By Nancy Cardwell - IBMA
July 14, 2010 - 4:00 pm

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Sam Bush

Sam Bush

Nashville, Tenn. — Legendary mandolinist and band leader Sam Bush will deliver the keynote address at the International Bluegrass Music Association Business Conference on Monday, September 27, 2010. The 100th birthday of Bill Monroe, widely recognized as "the father of bluegrass music," is just around the corner on September 13, 2011. Bush will talk about what that milestone means to the bluegrass music community and industry, and how we might best celebrate a century of Monroe's influence in the world of music, among other things.

Grammy Award winning multi-instrumentalist Sam Bush doesn't seem old enough to be a musical legend, but he is. Known as "the King of Newgrass," he has been honored by the IBMA and the Americana Music Association numerous times. "It's overwhelming and humbling," Bush says of the Lifetime Achievement Award he received in 2009 from the AMA. "It goes along with the title cut of my new album, Circles Around Me, which basically says... how did we get this far? In my brain I'm still 17, but I look in the mirror and I'm 57."

But honors are not what drive him. "I didn't get into music to win awards," Bush says. "I'm just now starting to get somewhere. I love to play and the older I get, the more I love it. And I love new things."

Bush is one of the key mandolinists of his generation to influence others learning to play—the same way he idolized Bill Monroe and Jethro Burns when he was growing up. "If I've been cited as an influence, then I'm really flattered because I still have my influences that I look up to," Bush says. "I'm glad that I'm in there somewhere."

He's being humble, of course. Bush has helped to expand the horizons of bluegrass music, fusing it with jazz, rock, blues, funk and other styles. He's the co-founder of the genre-bending New Grass Revival and an in-demand musician who has played with everyone from Emmylou Harris and Bela Fleck to Charlie Haden, Lyle Lovett and Garth Brooks.

Although Bush is best known for jaw-dropping skills on the mandolin, he is also a three-time national junior fiddle champion and Grammy Award-winning vocalist. "In the acoustic world, I've been pretty lucky to play with almost every one of my heroes. I've gotten to play with Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs... I've been to the mountain," says Bush with a smile.

But his greatest contribution may be his impact on the future. "I'm secure with what I can do and I know what I can't do," he says. "You just have to stand there and applaud the great young talent. Chris Thile, Wayne Benson, Shawn Lane, Matt Flinner, Ronnie McCoury, Mike Marshall—they play in ways that I can't play," he says of today's younger generation of mandolin players. "I'm hoping to be around for the next generation that comes along after that group. That's going to be something. The music keeps evolving."

Circles Around Me, Bush's seventh solo album and his sixth with Sugar Hill, is an inspiring mix of bluegrass favorites and new songs. "It felt right at this moment in my life to go back and revisit some things that I've loved all my life, which are bluegrass and, unapologetically, newgrass," says Bush. "After all these years of experimenting—and there's experimentation on this record, too—I've come full circle. It's crazy to think about," Bush says of his influence on today's crop of mandolin players. "I'm proud to be part of a natural progression in music, and I hope to still be playing 30 years from now."

That said, it's not surprising that Bush still has goals. "I want to grow as a songwriter, as a song collaborator," he says. "There are still a lot of things I haven't discovered about playing mandolin. I want to be able to be secure in the styles that I know how to play well, but I also want to explore other styles that I haven't learned yet. I want to improve as a singer," he adds. "I have to work harder on singing than I do on playing."

"As long as I'm alive, I hope I have the ability to play," says Bush, a two-time cancer treatment survivor. "When the ability to play is taken away, it's humbling. It teaches you a lesson: don't take it for granted."

Tickets to all World of Bluegrass events are available at, or by calling 1-888-GET-IBMA. For discount rates on accommodations, call the event housing bureau at 1-877-259-4716.


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Reader Comments

re simmers
July 14, 2010 04:46 PM
Sam's the man! Nobody better.

Buttonwood Bob
July 16, 2010 11:09 AM
Sam keeps me smiling. His nice guy personality shines through his music and interviews.
Yet another Bob
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