Beyond Appalachian Music

Sometimes we lovers of Americana string music and its associated entertaining pleasures do not take the listening, watching, feeling, tasting leap very far beyond our Appalachian roots. However, there are some more great Americana experiences waiting for us out there. Information about two such experiences recently found their way to our desk. Let me tell you about them.

The Academy of
Western Artists (AWA)
This organization has as its mission statement: Preserving the only World Hero—the Cowboy; and Keeping the Cowboy Heritage Alive Forever! The discussion on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, tells us that The AWA is based in Gene Autry, OK. It is an organization that honors individuals who have preserved and perpetuated the heritage of the American cowboy through music and poetry; rodeo expertise; campfire and chuck-wagon cooking; and through western and ranch clothing and gear. In the face of the consolidation in the cattle industry and the changes in contemporary society, the AWA works to bring more visibility to contemporary western artists whose efforts preserve the traditional values associated with the cowboy image. To that end, the group hosts an annual awards show. Its director is the western publisher Bobby Newton.

In 1996, the academy began making annual awards at a gathering in Fort Worth, TX. Since that time, the awards have been received by more than 500 individuals in a variety of categories.

The award is known as the Will Rogers Awards. The awards are often referred to as Willies and are named for the cowboy humorist Will Rogers, famous lecturer and film star of the 1930s. Nominees to be considered to win the awards are submitted by individuals, groups, and anyone who feels that recognition is deserved. After a nomination deadline, all nominees are passed on to blind juries of their peers who make the final selections. Using the blind jury of 3 to 5 qualified people in each area, eliminates the personality of the award. The 23rd Annual AWA Awards will be held March 14, 2019 in Fort Worth, TX on the campus of Texas Christian University. The event is open to the public.

Since that initial 1996 gathering, the academy’s award has progressed to be one of the highest awards in the world that recognizes western arts. There have been almost 500 winners in the many categories recognized by the AWA. Each year, some categories are added and some are deleted to meet the ever changing scene of the western contemporary arts. The AWA along with other similar motivated groups have had a positive impact on the state of western arts and moved them to a much higher level of recognition. This fact can be measured by noting the price of current makers’ products, and through the increased numbers of individuals involved in the field. There is no doubt that western arts are a growth industry and will continue to be so for future generations. The American cowboy image has become a world hero, and is the product of the USA. The cowboy both male and female is known worldwide and the AWA plans to use that image to insure that the cowboy image lives forever.

There is much more to know about the AWA and its effort. Point your computer’s browser to; send an email to; or telephone (580) 221-8793.

The International Western Music Association
According to the web site, The International Western Music Association is an organization that encourages and supports the preservation, performance, and composition of historic traditional and contemporary music and poetry of the US west. Members are from the United States, Australia, Canada, England, Spain and Switzerland.

What is western music you might ask? Western music is the folk music of the western life style and vista. (Not to be condescending in any way, but it is easy to think of it as another branch off the Americana music tree). A good bit of western music traces its roots to English, Scottish, Irish, and Welsh ballads much as one can trace old-time and bluegrass music. Other western music influences stem from the influx of other European immigrants who went west and carried jazz and blues music with them. Certainly the so called cowboy music is an important part of the history of western music. Lastly, western music surly shows the influence of the Latin American and Spanish influences of the southwest.

In August 1988, a group of folks who were performers and fans of this western music genre met in Las Vegas, NV. Their purpose was to organize an association and present a festival. They incorporated the Western Music Association as an Arizona non-profit corporation in 1989. In 2018, directors renamed WMA to be the International Western Music Association (IWMA). They did this to reflect the growing popularity of this genre of music and poetry in other nations of the world. Since its inception, the organization has held an annual gathering every November. The 2019 edition will be held November 13-17, 2019 in Albuquerque, NM.

At the annual convention, IWMA educates the public about western music and helps people understand and appreciate the contribution of western music to national culture. The association does this through performances, workshops and seminars. During the convention, the IWMA members present Awards of Excellence to recognize those individuals and groups who have shown the greatest competency in taking western music and poetry to the highest levels.

Over the years, the IWMA has expanded to include twelve state and regional chapters. It has been among the forces that are responsible for the current popularity of western music around the world.

The IWMA and its chapters foster the professional growth of individual performing members. Its open membership policy encourages western music performers and fans to join and participate in the organization.

The IWMA publishes a quarterly magazine, Western Way. This is the only professional magazine dedicated to the promotion of western music. Plus, the IWMA maintains a website that provides a central focus for western music performers and links to their individual websites. Inclusion on the website is one of the membership benefits for performing members. The IWMA maintains a youth chapter to acquaint students with the musical heritage of the American west. Exposure is music from traditional trail songs through the era of the movie cowboy, and exposure to contemporary western songwriting.

Interested folk can join the IWMA. As a member of IWMA, one can also join and support a local chapter or donate time and talent as a member of one of the many committees that work tirelessly to support the mission and goals of the IWMA. If folks are music and/or entertainment business persons and performers, they can obtain a professional membership that includes a chance to vote on the awards plus other valuable professional perks. If folks are not music or media professionals but still want to take part, they can become a supporting member. As such, they are granted one vote on all matters of business brought before the membership and receive some desirable perks as well.

If you should wish to know more about the IWMA or maybe become a member, form a local chapter or subscribe to the magazine, visit the organization’s web site at:

You can also contact the IWMA Executive Director by telephone, snail mail, or email at:
Marsha Short, Executive Director
P. O. Box 648
Coppell, TX 75019
Phone: 505-563-0673

By Edward Tutwiler