Last week we sat down with Chris Joslin, Executive Director of the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum, to talk all things Owensboro and bluegrass music. Joslin, a self-proclaimed “banjo nerd”, has always had a love for bluegrass music, playing various instruments at a young age and studying both music and business in college. Joslin began working for the museum in 2015, and his passion for bluegrass coupled with corporate expertise has propelled the cultural center to new heights. Since the opening of the new facility in 2018, the museum has gained visitors from around the globe, record attendances at ROMP, and a monthly bluegrass magazine reaching subscribers in all fifty states.
Owensboro is building its name as the “Bluegrass Music Capital of the World”, something that was a longtime coming according to Joslin. “I think the museum is what makes Owensboro unique,” says Joslin, “bluegrass is uniquely Kentucky.” With the birthplace of Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass, around the corner and the only cultural center dedicated solely to bluegrass music in the world right in the city, Owensboro is uniquely bluegrass.
“We’re not located here for convenience,” says Joslin, “We’re here because this is where bluegrass is from. Its authentic so it’s fun to share with the community and host people from all around the world.”
Joslin says Owensboro and bluegrass are inherently similar, sharing a thriving, connected community that stays true to its roots. Bar-b-q, bourbon, and bluegrass – it’s what we love and what we do best. When you visit, take a deep-dive tour of the museum, catch a live concert, explore the restaurants and world-class riverfront – all within walking distance of your hotel. Then, you can venture out to try some of the best bar-b-q in the world, tour Green River Distilling Co on the bourbon trail, and visit Bill Monroe’s birthplace. “There’s so much to do in Owensboro,” says Joslin, “I think we’re building quite a destination… it’s fun to walk visitors through that.”
2021 looks exciting for the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum, despite Covid-19’s best attempts to hold everyone back. Joslin says the pandemic required some creativity, but it became a silver lining that’s opened new opportunities. Developing virtual programming and live streaming, creating their monthly magazine, Bluegrass Unlimited, and developing events that naturally complimented social distancing was all a part of the challenge. That innovation will only help reach an even broader audience in 2021 and beyond.
Joslin hopes to see a wave within the community that not only embraces bluegrass as Owensboro’s brand, but makes the two synonymous. With the new innovation in cultural tourism, “we can serve our community well and attract people from far and wide through this unique form of American music,” says Joslin.
Bluegrass’s roots reside within Owensboro, but it’s branches will continue to grow to new heights. Check out the our full interview here!