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True blue: Bluegrass music as cultural diplomacy at IWP

Dailey and Vincent 2Blue has been one of IWP’s chief colors ever since the school’s inception in 1990. Hence, it was fitting that IWP got in touch with its blue roots — via bluegrass music — on Tuesday, December 7, 2010, when Jamie Dailey and Darren Vincent came to IWP to discuss cultural diplomacy.

The duo was introduced to an audience of IWP friends, faculty and students by their friend Faith Whittlesey, former Chairman of IWP’s Board of Trustees and two-time U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland. Amb. Whittlesey explained how Dailey and Vincent’s international performances play a part in U.S. cultural diplomacy. She explained the importance of cultural diplomacy as a tool of statecraft, and, as such, why it is taught at IWP. Amb. Whittlesey also discussed the importance of bluegrass as an important American cultural export: along with jazz and the blues it is a form of music developed wholly by Americans; and it helps counter the perception that all of America lives in a morally questionable way, as sometimes portrayed by the mass media.

Messrs. Dailey and Vincent are excellent exemplars of the finest bluegrass being performed in the United States today, so much so that they have recently been nominated for a Grammy award. Their work has also led to numerous awards from the International Bluegrass Music Awards Show, including Entertainer of the Year and Album of the Year.

In addition to performing some of their music, the duo described several of their experiences in sharing their music abroad: Finns who danced all Saturday night and still made it to a gospel church service on Sunday morning; Irish fans who appreciated bluegrass music’s Irish ancestry; Japanese who were wildly enthusiastic about the genre and who knew all the lyrics in English; and Swiss, who were a little more reserved.

The pair remarked that music is a common language that truly creates goodwill abroad, and, in an effort to further this goodwill even more effectively, they also invite local bands to join them on stage. The band is currently trying to organize further international tours, including, they hope, a trip to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Dailey and Vincent 1

Above: Jamie Dailey, at left, and Darrin Vincent perform bluegrass at IWP, 7 December 2010.