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Daytime Class: What is Bluegrass Anyway? Tradition, Change, and How We Got to Today’s Music

Note: This course is part of an ongoing series of Daytime Enrichment Classes this spring. To see a full list of class offerings, click here.

What is Bluegrass Anyway? Tradition, Change, and How We Got to Today’s Music


Instructor: Jocelyn Neal

Fans of bluegrass love to debate what should and should not be included in the genre. The inevitability of these conversations has spawned an acronym for “What is bluegrass, anyway?” WIBA, a short-hand acknowledgement that listeners have always been invested in the politics of authenticity. In this session, we will look at the ways in which bluegrass became a genre, how tradition is trumpeted as a defining value in the music, and the ability of some artists to thwart convention without undercutting their reputations. The session will be framed by an investigation of contemporary bluegrass artists and their relationship to the music’s past.

Jocelyn Neal, PhD, is Bowman and Gordon Gray Distinguished Term Professor of Music and Adjunct Professor of American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Neal teaches music theory, analysis, and popular music courses; her research addresses commercial country music, rhythm and meter, and dance/music interactions in popular music. Dr. Neal regularly presents her research at national conferences on American music, popular music, music theory, and cultural studies. She served as Director of the Center for the Study of the American South at UNC from 2012-2013. She is also a series co-editor for Tracking Pop, a popular music book series from the University of Michigan Press, and serves on the College Board’s AP Music Theory Development Committee.

Fee: $10. UNC Retired Faculty Association Members: $5.

There are four ways to register:

  1. Online: Register online
  2. Mail: Print out the registration form and mail it to
    What’s the Big Idea? Spring 2018
    Campus Box 1020, The Friday Center
    UNC-Chapel Hill
    Chapel Hill NC 27599-1020
  3. Fax: Print out the registration form and fax it to 919-962-5549.
  4. Phone: Call 919-962-2643.

For questions, contact:

Jill Conrad (conradj@email.unc.edu), Registration Manager
Professional Development and Enrichment Programs
The Friday Center

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