They talk about a Bluegrass Opry — a bluegrass version of Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry — on Saturday nights during the fall, winter and spring.
They talk about a three-night-a-week bluegrass musical production every summer.
They’re working on plans for a national bluegrass disc jockey convention, expanding the local “Bluegrass in the Schools” program statewide, creating a music film festival and promoting concerts by the roots and branches of bluegrass including blues, gospel, Cajun, jazz and Americana.
And they talk about more than 100,000 bluegrass fans visiting Owensboro each year and an economic impact of more than $25 million from bluegrass by 2016.
But all that hinges on a campaign to raise $7 million — to be added to $3 million already pledged by the city — that kicks off this month.
Terry Woodward, board chairman, expects the money to be raised by March.
And he wants construction to begin in April to turn the old State Office Building at Second and Frederica streets into a 64,000-square-foot International Bluegrass Music Center.
The key to the center’s success, he said, is the Bluegrass Opry, an idea that’s been kicked around since March 1989.
“This could be the strongest thing we do,” Woodward said. “Everybody would know that if they came to Owensboro on a Saturday night during the school year, they could see a bluegrass show.”
“The key (to the success of the Bluegrass Opry) is radio and TV,” Woodward said. “You need that exposure. I’d like our Opry to have members like the Grand Ole Opry has. A lot of the bands we had at ROMP would love to play for the exposure if we have radio and TV.”
Gabrielle Gray, the museum’s executive director, said several NPR stations are interested in the idea. “And we could work with WNIN (in Evansville) to try to get on PBS,” she said.
NPR stations saw the value of bluegrass programming during ROMP, Gray said, when WNIN radio’s “listenership went from 230 on a typical Saturday night to 1,927 when they were broadcasting the performance of Old Crow Medicine Show.”
On Saturday, she said, WAMU radio in Washington, D.C., “the mothership of NPR,” will begin airing performances recorded at ROMP on its “Open Mic” program.
“This is terrific news,” Gray said.
“We’ll know we’ve arrived when people start calling wanting to be on the Bluegrass Opry,” Ross Leazenby, one of the board members, said recently.
Woodward said the center will likely do even more than the board now expects.
“When we put plans together for the RiverPark Center (in the late 1980s), we tried to imagine all the things it could be used for,” he said. “We didn’t come close to envisioning what it became.”
Excerpted from Keith Lawrence’s Bluegrass Notes by permission. To read the full article, click on the link Here
Keith Lawrence has written for the Messenger-Inquirer in Owensboro, KY since 1972.