International Bluegrass Music Museum

Chris Joslin

The incoming executive director of the International Bluegrass Music Museum brings a background in music and business to the job.

The Owensboro-based group today announced that Chris Joslin will lead the museum starting September 1. Joslin toured nationally with the bluegrass group Crucial Smith, playing banjo and resonator guitar, before working with a healthcare company and an executive search firm in Nashville.

Joslin received his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Belmont University in Nashville, as well as a Masters of Business Administration from Belmont's Massey School of Business.

Joslin says he’s looking forward to being a part of the annual River of Music Party, held every summer in Owensboro.

“The work at the museum, combined with the energy and success of ROMP—it’s just a dream job.”

Another aspect of the job that attracted Joslin is a planned International Bluegrass Music Center, to be built in downtown Owensboro. Construction will start this fall, with the facility scheduled to open in 2017.

Joslin currently calls Franklin, Tennessee, home. He and his wife will soon make the move to Daviess County.

Gabrielle Gray, the longtime leader of the IBMM, stepped down in December.

International Bluegrass Music Museum

A Bowling Green businessman is taking over as chairman of the board of trustees at the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro.

Mike Simpson is a lifelong bluegrass music fan who spent childhood summers in the Ohio County town of Rosine, which was home to the man considered the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe. He takes over the museum’s board chairmanship from Dr. Peter Salovey, President of Yale University.

Simpson says the new International Bluegrass Music Center scheduled to open in 2017 will strengthen Owensboro’s appeal to tourists.

“And it will join other cities such as Cleveland, with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Nashville, with the Country Music Hall of Fame, as having one of the few centers dedicated to one genre of music.”

He also predicts the center will rival other major attractions in the commonwealth.

“Much in the same way that the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, and the Quilt Museum in Paducah drives economic tourism to those regions.”

Construction on the new music center is set to begin this fall. The International Bluegrass Music Museum recently completed a $15 million campaign to get the project underway.

Kevin Willis

The executive director of Owensboro’s International Bluegrass Music Museum is stepping down after a 12 year run.

However, Gabrielle Gray will maintain her presence in the region’s bluegrass community.

Gray will keep her position as the Executive Producer of ROMP, the annual bluegrass music festival in Daviess County, and she will also remain the museum’s primary grant writer.

Assistant Director Carly Smith, who has been at the museum since 2011, will serve as interim director while the search for a permanent replacement gets underway. That search will be led by Yale University President Peter Salovey.

A news release issued by the museum quotes Gray as saying that nothing gives her greater pleasure than helping to present ROMP at Yellow Creek Park each summer.

The Museum recently announced that legendary singer-songwriter John Prine will be one of the headliners during next year’s festival.

International Bluegrass Music Center

Ground is expected to be broken later this month on the International Bluegrass Music Center in downtown Owensboro.  The city has already pledged $3 million to the project and now Daviess County says it’s contributing $500,000 dollars to the project over the next five years. 

County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly says the music center will be the next step in the development of downtown that already includes the new convention center and two new hotels.

“This area, this block – an entire block – sits right at the end of that corridor,” said Mattingly.  “It certainly will be an attraction to people who come into the community for conventions and in and of itself will be an attractor for visitors.”

Mattingly says the county’s money for the project comes from excess from a hotel-motel tax. He says in the past, similar money has been used to pay a million dollars on a bonded indebtedness of the Riverpark Center.

“We thought that since this [money] comes from visitors who come into this community, it’s specifically tasked to be spent on arts organizations in the downtown area and tourism,” said Mattingly.

The Bluegrass Music Center could open as soon as next year. The $12 million project has also received $5 million dollars in private donations. It's scheduled to include a 1,000-seat indoor theater and a 2,000-seat outdoor stage.

Kevin Willis

On an unseasonably cool Friday afternoon in Owensboro recently, the sounds of an unusual summer camp were being heard in the city's downtown.

About 50 campers from across the country--and some from other countries--were in Daviess County to learn the finer points of one of the great instruments of bluegrass music during the eighth annual Bill Monroe Style Mandolin Camp.

Held at the International Bluegrass Music Museum, the camp is a three-day affair focusing exclusively on the instrument Bill Monroe played as he gained the reputation of being the "Father of Bluegrass Music."

"This is the only camp that I know of that specializes specifically on mandolin style. And it's no other instruments--it's all mandolin players, all Bill Monroe, all the time," says Mike Compton, the camp's director.

Compton is a Mississippi native who now lives in Nashville. He says it's an honor to be a part of a camp that pays tribute to an American musical genius.

Even those who don't consider themselves bluegrass fans are likely familiar with the name Bill Monroe. The Rosine, Kentucky, native gained acclaim for his technical wizardry on the mandolin, inspiring legions of fans throughout the U.S. and beyond.

International Bluegrass Music Museum

Country music legend Merle Haggard will headline this year's Romp Festival near Owensboro. The three-day bluegrass festival is held as a fundraiser for the International Bluegrass Music Museum.  Marketing Director Danny Clark says Haggard is sure to please with a mix of country and bluegrass.

"I'm really glad he's coming because he has such a tie-in with bluegrass music. A lot of people know he actually recorded a bluegrass albumn a couple of years ago and had a lot of great performers on there with him,” says Clark.

The 76-year-old Haggard will be joined at ROMP by other legends like The Del McCoury Band and Sam Bush. This year's festival will be June 27th through 29th at Yellow Creek Park. The full lineup of performers and ticket information is available online at

Kevin Willis

Officials say private fundraising for a planned Bluegrass Music Center in Daviess County is going well.

International Bluegrass Music Museum Terry Woodward says the drive has received pledges from large donors for $2.6 million and expects to reach a $7 million goal.

The proposal calls for turning an old state office building in Owensboro into a center that will include a museum, an indoor theater and outdoor festival seating. Woodward has said organizers want to offer fans a Bluegrass Opry, something akin to the Grand Old Opry in Nashville, Tenn.

A major fundraising drive kicked off in August, and four months later Woodward updated officials in Owensboro  on the progress.

"I'm happy to report that of the $3 million goal from large donors, right now we have $2.6 million," Woodward told commissioners last month. "We're off to a good start."