Czech Bluegrass Music Association

I’ve been struggling with a lack of time for things I’d like to do. After all, there are always things that “need more attention at the moment” and I’m one of those who likes to do things as well as possible and be as prepared as possible. So when a gig, tour or recording is coming up, I practice a lot. When I’m organizing an event, I think through every detail beforehand. If I’m mixing a record for someone, I hear it more times than anyone else. That keeps me busy with my family and the normal worries of the house and garden. It teaches me to say no to almost everything. It also allows me to say YES to one important thing every now and then. And so I nodded at the offer to dramatize the oldest bluegrass festival in Europe – Banjo Jamboree. But it was not a spur-of-the-moment decision, because…

With Radim Zenkl at the Banjo Jamboree in 2023. Photo: Zdeněk Koutný

The bluegrass community of musicians and fans in the Czech Republic and Slovakia has allowed me to live a fulfilling life as a musician for almost eight years now, supporting myself and my family with work that I enjoy every day. I feel the need to give back somehow. So I made the decision to become a member of the Czech Bluegrass Association‘s (BAČR) board this summer. My relationship with the BAČR has changed over the years. At first, I considered it a somewhat useless institution – after all, music can live without it. But now I know that when people come together and exert their strength in one direction, better things will come about. And when I listened to the current leadership at the BAČR AGM this year, I realized that more people with different backgrounds need to get involved. Moreover, I was under fresh impression from my visit to Barcelona,  where it is definitely not easy for bluegrass, but thanks to the people connected in the association they organize several successful events a year and it can be said that bluegrass and related music is flourishing there.

Banjo Jamboree 2023
Banjo Jamboree 2023. Photo: Liběchovský Nostalgik

The goals of the BAČR coincide with mine in many ways and I feel that my experience and energy could be of benefit to it. I would like to improve the online presence of the BAČR, bring some new projects to life, improve the membership system, and get more people involved in the association. Regarding the dramaturgy of the Banjo Jamboree (the current dramaturge Pavel Brandy Brandejs decided to give up this position and his seat on the Board in September 2023), I was warned that it is a demanding and thankless job. But I feel that I may be the right person for the job – thanks to my contacts in Czechia and abroad, my musical outlook, my experience as an active musician, and my desire to always find the best solution. I love the Banjo Jamboree, I’ve been volunteering there for 16 years running workshops, and I’ve played there many times. It’s a heart thing for me, as it is for most of our scene. I believe it should be a festival that is a showcase for Czech bluegrass while broadening the horizons of the regulars. Of course, most good ideas end up facing a conflict with a limited budget, but I take that as a challenge as well.

  • Does anyone have any ideas for good bluegrass association activities?
  • What works in your country?
  • How to attract young people to bluegrass?

Thanks in advance for your time and ideas!

Ondra Kozák


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