Rick Tvedt doesn't want to be acting executive director of the four-year-old Madison Area Music Awards forever. In a year or two, the MAMAs founder hopes the nonprofit can hire a full-time staff member to do much of the day-to-day work, thus freeing time for the award show's primary mission: supporting music education in the schools. "What gets lost to people," says Tvedt, "is that we're a charity. Our mantra is 'Putting musical instruments into kids' hands.'"
Tvedt and other MAMAs board members plan to stress the charitable giving part of the equation at a public forum. The event takes place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 16, at the Brink Lounge, and is followed by a 9 p.m. kickoff party for the 2008 MAMAs.
Tvedt will also talk about the organization's plans to develop four main events during the year that will raise money and keep the community's attention focused on the erosion of music programs in the public schools.
"It could be a bike-around-the-lake event," says Tvedt. "Things that we can get the kids involved in, too, and try to put our main message in the forefront."
In the past, some musicians interested in being considered for awards have been critical of the MAMAs' registration process, which requires a fee. Others have complained that the award show is the culmination of an empty popularity contest that has little to do with recognizing the best musical work being done in the area. Some have even questioned whether the MAMAs couldn't do away with the more lavish production elements of the annual show, planned for the second weekend in May at the Barrymore Theatre.
Tvedt understands the criticism and wants to meet it head on. He says the MAMAs have reached out to a number of critics over the past year and tried to make clear exactly what the event is for and where the membership money goes. (Tvedt notes the MAMAs' website already indicates that it goes directly into a segregated fund that's earmarked for charity.) But he knows people still have questions about how the MAMAs is structured. To answer those concerns, attendees at the Brink Lounge event will be asked to submit written questions when they arrive.
"We're going to have a moderator who'll prioritize them," Tvedt says. "What we don't get to in the forum itself we hope we can answer on the website."
Public input may help to tweak some of the MAMAs' policies. But one thing it won't change is the organization's membership fee. Tvedt says the $5 membership is a significant part of the MAMAs' strategy for charitable giving, adding that over the past four years the funds have contributed to a total of $20,000 in cash and in-kind donations to music programs.
"Someday if the organization gets on its feet and we get enough sponsors, will we eliminate the fees? Definitely," he says. But he adds that securing sponsorship isn't easy, and that the likelihood of an entirely free registration process is remote.