The Greater Lehigh Valley Music Association’s 15th awards ceremony celebrated the region’s musical talent Sunday with appearances by two Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, numerous members of the Grammy Recording Academy and dozens of local musicians.
Presenters included Vinny Lopez, a founding member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, and J.T. Carter, whose band The Crests not only reached critical success with their hit “Sixteen Candles” but also helped to break color barriers by becoming one of the first interracial acts around.
“That’s a first for us,” said event co-director Gloria Domina of having the two Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees on stage at the same time for the Lehigh Valley Music Awards, held at the Musikfest Cafe at the Artsquest Center in Bethlehem.
Among the night’s top honorees were Sharon Elizabeth, who took top honors in the Outstanding New Artist and Outstanding Singer/Songwriter categories; Sarah Ayers, who carried numerous honors including Outstanding Female Vocals and Outstanding All Around Performance; and James Supra, who was named Outstanding All Around Performer.
Other award recipients included Craig Thatcher, Jonathan Padilla, Carl Snyder, Scott Marshall, Rick Moyer, Brian Berlanda, A.J. Fritz, The Large Flowerheads, The Philadelphia Funk Authority, WODE, WLVR and the Liberty High School Marching Band.
Former boxing world champion and anticipated guest Larry Holmes was unable to attend due to illness.
Even so Holmes’ representatives left a mark on the evening by presenting the Community Youth Recognition award and a pair of signed boxing gloves to Nicholas Marzigliano, a young Lehigh Valley boy who has used violin playing to help cope with autism.
“He found a lot of comforts when he was non-verbal, one of which was music,” said his mother. “His music is so beautiful to me.”
The ceremony morphed into a night of tributes, with several honorees expressing their support of blues musician Rick “Mad Dog” Moyer who is currently battling liver complications. His family called on fans to help contribute to his medical bills with “any support you can show.”
Another special tribute to 15 service members and other veterans in attendance helped to kick off the evening, as Scott Marshall and the Hill Billy Soul performed their military inspired hit “Letters and Prayers.”
“It’s really just a song about one of our guys who told me a story, he’s a kid in the military, [and] I put it to song,” said Marshal in an interview. “Honoring our troops was that it was all about.”
Both Marshall and his song were given outstanding honor marks.
This year the number of categories at the Lehigh Valley Music Awards was greatly reduced from 84 to 65 in an attempt to shorten and improve the experience for audience members.
“The goal here was to remove categories that we felt were confusing for the fans or that the fans weren’t well versed enough in the small intricacies of the scene to vote properly on,” said LVMA co-director Ricardo Flores.
Of the 65 categories 20 were designated fan categories and received over 2,000 votes online. The rest were decided by around 200 industry professionals.
The evening featured a wide range of genres and ensemble combinations, from an acoustic cover of the Jackson Five to a jazz-rock fusion session that shook up the room.
“The theme of this year’s awards is collaboration,” said Flores. “Combined [our performers] have hundreds of years of experience.”
The awards themselves were as diverse and eclectic as the recipients, with honors being given to spoken word artists, karaoke lounges, community volunteers and radio personalities.
The ceremony was recorded for rebroadcasting by co-sponsor Service Electric, which Flores hopes will help pave the way to live viewing.
“We’re looking at two years in this format and then hopefully moving to a live format,” he said. “It’s very much new ground for everybody here today.”
The staff that planned and organized the event was also decorated by the Pennsylvania Senate, who saluted them for their continued service in advancing music and the arts in the Lehigh Valley Community.
“I want to thank the senators for this great honor,” said event co-director and GLVMA board member Gloria Domina. “We are privileged and it’s because of all of you that we’re able to do what we love.”
“We look forward to things to come,” said Flores.