San Diego Music Awards highlight area’s diverse musical talent
by BART MENDOZA
Published - 03/13/17 - 06:42 AM | 0 0 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Danny Green Trio won Best Jazz Album at the last San Diego Music Awards.
The Danny Green Trio won Best Jazz Album at the last San Diego Music Awards.
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The local music community’s biggest night, The San Diego Music Awards, takes place at the House of Blues on March 21. The 26th annual edition is open to the public and will feature performances from indie rockers Verigold, reggae chart toppers Hirie, costumed garage rockers The Creepy Creeps and manic rock ’n’ rollers Schizophonics. Also performing will be two ensembles, trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos and the Young Lion All Stars, featuring students from local schools, and jazz guitarist Steph Johnson and the Voices of Our City Choir, which is comprised of singers from San Diego’s homeless population. Meanwhile, this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award will go to guitarist and author Wayne Riker.

It’s all the capper of a week’s worth of events around the city that celebrate the area’s music as well as raise funds for the San Diego Music Foundation, which helps keep music education in area schools. This includes the Taylor Guitars for Schools program, which has now been a part of more than 80 schools.

“Simply put, it really doesn't matter who wins or loses,” said event founder Kevin Hellman. “Everyone wins just by being a part of the scene here in town. But the San Diego Music Awards gets press, it sheds light on artists who may or may not otherwise get press. We promote San Diego music … be it rock, jazz, blues … we try and promote and support everyone, so when the scene grows, everyone wins.”

The SDMA’s are a lot of hard work to put together, but Hellman is happy to put in time and effort for the cause. “Well, I had actually retired after the 25th annual SDMAs in October 2015,” he said. “The reason that I'm back is pretty simple. When I was young growing up in New Orleans, school music programs were and still are part of the curriculum. Music is everywhere there. But here in San Diego, music in public schools has all but disappeared,” he continued.

“Because of our affiliation with Taylor Guitars, thousands of kids have had the opportunity to learn how to play guitar. And I very much want to keep that program alive. When the SDMAs almost disappeared, that really bothered me. I just couldn't let the show go away. If doing this event can help even one student in San Diego, then we've made a difference in someone’s life. That's why we do it. It's one way to help make our community better, simply by helping kids learn music, which by the way, also keeps them in school.”

For Riker, currently an instructor at the annual Guitar Workshop Plus music camp held in San Marcos, the SDMA’s Lifetime Achievement Award is the culmination of a life spent performing and teaching. “It's a great honor considering all the many equally deserving musicians from the diverse musical community here in San Diego,” he said. “What I’m most looking forward to is having my son and daughter in attendance and per usual, seeing many fellow musicians all under the same roof.”

Jazz pianist Danny Green is nominated in the category of Best Jazz Album, for “Altered Narratives.” He agrees with Riker. “For me, the best part of the SDMA’s has always been the hang. It’s so nice to have a night where we’re all together celebrating our scene, and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

Drew Andrews of indie band, Bit Maps, up for a Best Pop/ Rock Album trophy for his disc, “You, Me and Dystopia,” considers the nomination to be a validation of his hard work. “As a hometown San Diegan, it's incredible to have your city recognize the effort put into your art,” he said. “We all in Bit Maps feel honored to be in our category.

“A goal of ours is to create heavily melodic songs that incorporate more esoteric and strange sounds and textures, which is an approach often kept away from pop music these days,” he continued. “It feels good to be understood in what we are trying to do, going a little against the grain.”

As much as the event celebrates art, Andrews especially appreciates the party aspect of the ceremony. “The SDMA's are a radical night to reconnect with all of the friends and fellow musicians that you run into haphazardly throughout the year, all in one evening,” he said. “It's like prom but you don't have rent the crummy tux or get busted for drinking by school security!”

For more information, visit www.sandiegomusicawards.com.
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