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Anne Frances Jarrell
Anne Frances Jarrell, banjo (Photo courtesy of AFJ)

The IBMA Foundation announced the winners of the first-ever Sally Ann Forrester Scholarships this week and senior banjo player Anne Frances Jarrell was one of five recipients from across the country. Sally Ann Forrester is widely considered the first female professional bluegrass musician, and this new scholarship celebrates her legacy with awards solely for women bluegrass musicians in college.

Bluegrass Today explained on their website, “These young students and musicians are the first class of scholars to receive these awards to further their study of bluegrass and traditional music forms in higher education. The Sally Ann Forrester College Scholarship is expressly directed to women in bluegrass, and is permanently endowed at the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, through a major founding gift from Murphy Henry, prominent bluegrass educator and author of the first biography of female bluegrass artists, Pretty Good for a Girl: Women in Bluegrass (University of Illinois Press).”

This recognition of women in bluegrass resonates with Jarrell personally. “This award is very meaningful to me because it can be difficult for young women to find their place in a field of music that historically lacks women onstage. I know personally when I first got into the bluegrass scene back home, I would find myself at a jam as the only woman there and the only person under the age of 50,” Jarrell noted. “It’s great to see the IBMA honoring Sally Ann Forrester’s legacy in a way that provides opportunity to those less represented in bluegrass.”

Since her first semester on campus, Jarrell has taken banjo with lecturer Hank Smith. She told us, “[he] has taught me just about everything I know and couldn’t be more thankful for his wisdom.”

Smith spoke just as highly of Jarrell, as she did of him. “Anne Frances has a very musical mind and her abilities on the banjo increase exponentially,” Smith said. “She’s one of the most talented students I’ve encountered bar none at UNC or otherwise. She deserves it and I’m glad she’s a recipient.”

Jarrell’s scholarship also speaks to the successful and quick growth of Carolina Bluegrass Band, founded just four years ago in 2016 and directed by Russell Johnson. “The Carolina Bluegrass Band has been a fantastic place to be able to explore the full range of the genre, as we play a mix of traditional bluegrass and newer songs,” Jarrell said.

The band has amassed an enthusiastic local following and garnered consistent enrollment from students, hosting two bands (Upstairs/Downstairs) with the larger band each semester. Johnson said, “Anne Frances is a talented musician that immediately made an impact in the Carolina Bluegrass Band with her tasteful banjo playing and singing.”

You can hear Jarrell’s talent first-hand in this Facebook video of “These Old Blues” recorded by members of the Carolina Bluegrass Band this spring. This remote recording was created as part of the band’s COVID-19 Remote Recording Sessions, in lieu of their spring concert originally scheduled for April 26.

To view the full announcement and list of winners, please visit Bluegrass Today’s article, here.

Collage of the Scholarship Winners (from
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