Pat Morris: IBMA


Pat Morris

by Susan Marquez

Love What You Do

Pat Morris found himself in the right place at the right time for a wonderful introduction to bluegrass music. A native of the Tidewater area of Southern Virginia, he worked at nearby Busch Gardens throughout high school and college. “They had a bluegrass show next to where I was working,” he says. ‘I spent my free time watching the shows. I was exposed to wonderfully talented artists like the late Gene Wooten, Steve Smith, Jim Lauderdale, and Bill Evans, and we quickly became friends.”

Before working at the theme park, Pat says he wasn’t a big bluegrass fan. “Back then, I was starting to play guitar and liked singer-songwriters like Harry Chapin, Dan Fogelberg, and Jim Croce. But I learned to love bluegrass and the bluegrass community.”

Pat spent twenty years running non-profits, but when he had the opportunity to combine his passion for non-profit work with his love of bluegrass music to serve as executive director of the International Bluegrass Music Association, he couldn’t resist. “They say to do what you love and love what you do, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.” He has been at the helm of the IBMA for a year now, and Pat is excited about bringing back the World of Bluegrass in Raleigh at full speed. “We had a virtual event in 2019, and part live, part virtual in 2021 with Covid restrictions. But this year, we are planning to be back at full speed. There is a huge demand for live music, especially bluegrass music.”


First held in Owensboro, Kentucky, the World of Bluegrass moved to Louisville, then to Nashville, and finally to Raleigh ten years ago. We have a great partnership with Raleigh,” says Pat. “It is a perfect match for such a large number of music fans. The IBMA World of Bluegrass is truly the world’s biggest week of bluegrass music.” The event is scheduled for September 27 through October 1, with a full schedule including the 33rd Annual IBMA Music Awards on September 29 at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. The September 27-29 conference will feature workshops and panels on career development presented by veteran musicians with decades of industry knowledge and those with a fresh approach to the bluegrass music model.

The IBMA 2022 Bluegrass Live! Festival

From September 30 through October 1 at the Red Hat Amphitheatre and downtown, over 200,000 fans will enjoy IBMA and GRAMMY award-winning legends and up-and-coming artists on Friday and Saturday.

This year’s main stage will feature the Infamous Stringdusters, The Jerry Douglas Band with special guests, Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band, Sierra Hull, Balsam Range, The Dan Tyminski Band, Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, Dom Flemons, and Shultz’s Dream, Della Mae, and Twisted Pine. The downtown stage and street stages on several blocks will feature more acts. Street vendors will present a wide array of arts and crafts, food and beverage, and family fun to downtown Raleigh.

The exhibition hall is the week’s central gathering place, where 12,000 visitors will network and browse vendor booths featuring gear, services, products, festivals, and more. “We are expanding the exhibit hall this year to provide more places for bands to play and get exposure, adding more stages and an International Pavilion,” says Pat.

The IBMA, a non-profit music organization, aims to connect, educate and empower bluegrass professionals and enthusiasts, honoring tradition and encouraging innovation in the bluegrass community worldwide. Pat’s vision for the organization is to be available to support the artists.

“That is really important to them. We are putting that into action by inviting artists visiting Nashville to stop at our office and pick. We record it and post it on social media. So many artists have said that it has been so productive for them. We are also doing innovative things, like having an international band that received our first international assistance grant at the World of Bluegrass. We will also work to grow our international music and fanbase to encompass the international aspect of IBMA.”

Bluegrass youth events will be in the youth room and on the youth stage, including workshops and special guests jamming with young musicians. There is no charge for youth events.

While Pat has presented many live non-profit events over the years on this scale, he says the IBMA World of Bluegrass event is special to him. The 2021 IBMA awards show saw 29-year-old Billy Strings take home the Entertainer of the Year award, while 83-year-old Del McCoury tied for Vocalist of the Year with Danny Paisley. It’s a sign that bluegrass music is timeless, and the future is bright for the genre. 

“We feel we are getting back to normal as much as possible,” Pat says. The fans are ready for this, and the IMBA members are ready. There has been a great buzz so far. It will be exciting to see so many people live instead of being two inches tall on a Zoom screen. This will be an exciting year for bluegrass music.”