Lehigh Valley Music Awards

Lehigh Valley Music  Awards

photos by Lisa Boehm Photography

The Lehigh Valley Music Awards, the annual showcase for our region’s outstanding music-related talent, turns 21 this year—and it’s traveled a long path since the founding of the Greater Lehigh Valley Music Association in 1999.

Early versions of the program were held in little clubs throughout the Valley; as few as 100 people watched the presentation of just 10 awards. But it wasn’t long before the show outgrew the bar scene. It sequentially moved into the Meadows in Hellertown, Allentown’s Miller Symphony Hall, and Scottish Rite Cathedral.

But it found its current home—the Musikfest Café—about 10 years ago. “Patrick Brogan, who is now chief programming officer and manager of the ArtsQuest Center, had been on our board for a couple of years before suggesting a partnership with ArtsQuest,” said GLVMA director Gloria Domina (a 2012 Grammy winner herself, for the children’s album “All About Bullies”).

And the arrangement has been fruitful. “We meet regularly with ArtsQuest throughout the year,” Domina said, “discussing staging, lights, sound, and other matters. They help us put on the best show we possibly can.” LVMA winners also perform during the opening of the Levitt Pavilion season and during Musikfest. “It really helps present our local musicians in a positive light,” she added.

Other corporate support includes sponsorship by C. F. Martin and Co., the show itself is presented by Tri Outdoor, Inc., the only locally owned and operated outdoor advertising company in the Valley.

This year’s event will be hosted by local favorites Daniel Roebuck and Freddie Frederick, Jr. Bethlehem native and Bethlehem Catholic High School graduate Roebuck has worked in Hollywood for 35 years, appearing in The Man in the High Castle, Glee, Lost, Agents of S. H. I. E. L. D., Criminal Minds, and numerous film roles.

“Every year, the winner of the DJ category acts as co-host the next year. This will be Freddie’s third trip to the stage in as many years,” Domina said. Frederick has been a Lehigh Valley fixture for decades, whether on radio or at private events.

The roster of presenters includes many Valley notables (including the State Theatre’s senior vice-president of marketing, Jamie Balliet, who received a Special Recognition award from GLVMA in 2018) as well as representatives of the Philadelphia chapter of The Recording Academy, which administer the Grammys program.

There are now about 75 LVMA prize categories, spread across pop, rock, punk, folk, Latin, hip-hop, jazz, blues, gospel and other genres—even high-school marching bands! They recognize the very best in the typical slots (best album, best song, various singers, and instrumentalists) as well as the numerous “supporting players” whose understated roles are nevertheless essential to the music biz—such as performance venue, music reviewer, educator, photographer, and recording studio.

Nominees are chosen by the public—whether fans or industry workers, with separate ballots for each voter category. And there was an absolute flood of response this time. “We use a third-party service to supervise and tabulate the entire voting process,” she added, “so I don’t know exactly how many ballots were cast. But there was so much participation that we extended our usual two-week voting window by an additional week.”

The ceremonies will feature many live performances between presentations. “It’s really a diverse mix,” Domina said. “Our tentative lineup includes This Way to the Egress, the Billy Bauer Band, the Luis Rosario Band, the Aardvarks, Big Valley Bluegrass, Seth Witcher, Freddy Award winner Brookel Sabella, and a hip-hop collaboration produced by M. B. Pro Showcase.”

In addition, the LVMA annually singles out a young person that has worked to improve the general community. This year’s recipient is Coco Lazaridis, whose mother Ali started the non-profit Coco Foundation following the child’s diagnosis of a rare form of leukemia.

While recognizing the present, LVMA looks to the future as well. Each year, the association provides scholarships to four graduating high school students who will continue their music-related education. “Their teachers or directors nominate them,” Domina explained. “And ‘music-related’ includes voice, instruments, theater work, directing, sound engineering, and other fields. It’s good to see talented and enthusiastic youth coming onto the scene; it means the future of the music industry in the Lehigh Valley is in good hands.”

The awards ceremony is an ambitious undertaking, and it’s organized by an unpaid group that includes president Rick Flores and marketing director Erin Monie, in addition to Domina herself.

“But I must also recognize the contributions of the many other volunteers that tirelessly work behind the scenes to get our program on stage,” she said. “Many people seem to think that our awards program is put together quickly; it isn’t. It’s actually a year-long process—and we’ve already started planning the 2021 program!”

Lehigh Valley Music Awards
March 1, 2020
Musikfest Café presented by Yuengling
Admission: $20
Doors open: 3 p.m.
Show: 4 p.m.
Tickets: www.steelstacks.org/event/9611/lehigh-valley-music-awards-21

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