Letter to our supporters

Bluegrass Country Foundation

The Bluegrass Country Foundation was formed to support continued radio and Internet broadcasts of Bluegrass Country. The Foundation aims to create a sustainable business model for the station and, over time, strengthen its programming and operations so that it becomes an indispensable source for original programming of bluegrass and related genres of music.  Our objectives are to:

  • Assume the financial and legal responsibilities for operating Bluegrass Country from WAMU, including all necessary fundraising and management on 1/1/17.
  • Reduce operating costs while retaining high quality professional programming and listener access.
  • Ensure the financial security of Bluegrass Country, raising funds from listeners, subscribers and underwriters with focused appeals to the listening community that emphasize the quality and uniqueness of its Bluegrass Country programming.
  • Preserve the long-standing tribute to traditional bluegrass music while exploring opportunities to reach a broader listener base by:
    • Improving Internet streaming
    • Including contemporary bluegrass and related music styles
    • Teaming with community and music industry partners to leverage each other’s strengths in reaching audiences.

Background

Bluegrass Country and its predecessor programming on WAMU 88.5 FM will celebrate its 50th anniversary in metropolitan Washington in 2017.  Over the years, many were introduced to bluegrass music on WAMU and have been fans ever since.  Thousands of loyal listeners tune in early Sunday morning to listen to the soulful harmonies on Stained Glass Bluegrass, while the ringing of the banjo and playful fiddle can be heard during the weekday drive-time.

In the broader music industry, bluegrass music is a niche market, albeit a large niche. It has its roots in the traditional tunes of the Appalachian mountains, but it touches and continues to influence other musical genres, including country, folk, Celtic, blues and even zydeco.  Some believe that bluegrass caters to older fans, but one only has to see the hundreds of young musicians at bluegrass festivals to realize that bluegrass music will outlast us all. While WAMU’s Bluegrass Country emphasizes the bluegrass sound, it expands its niche by featuring “old-time”, American roots, and the fresh new and exhilarating sounds of new-grass, jam-grass, and other contemporary styles.

Financial support for bluegrass on public radio has always been difficult, despite the music’s popularity. WAMU has never been able to cover the full cost of round-the-clock bluegrass programming.  It is understandable that WAMU and its parent, American University, want to focus on their core news programming and need to make a change.  Fortunately, WAMU is kind enough to allow the bluegrass community to develop a more sustainable business model capable of continuing the 50-year tradition of on-air bluegrass in the Washington DC area.

 How can you help?

  • Provide financial Support – Your tax deductible gift to the Bluegrass Country Foundation is crucial to raising the working capital necessary to give Bluegrass Country a sound financial foundation.  While we believe we can reduce the operating costs substantially over time, station operations in 2017 will cost about $450,000.  Our goal is to have the funds to cover four months of operating expenses in hand before the end of the year.  By joining with us, you can help ensure that listeners, young and old, can continue to enjoy the great sounds of bluegrass music.
  • Get involved– Help the Bluegrass Country Foundation raise additional funds.  You can:
    • Identify underwriting partners who will sponsor radio programming
    • Organize or assist at a fund-raising event
    • Coordinate an activity with one of our community partners

 

Working together, we can keep WAMU’s great bluegrass tradition going for another 50 years!

 

Jeffrey Ludin

President

Bluegrass Country Foundation