Like some other 8-year-olds, the Madison Area Music Awards are getting precocious. The show and its parent organization, the Madison Area Music Association, expand their reach each year, donating instruments and awarding grants to bolster Dane County schools' music programs.
The 2011 awards ceremony, taking place Saturday, June 4, at Overture Center's Capitol Theater, is similar in format to previous ones, but its ambitions seem grander. With big-name sponsors such as Broadjam and Wisconsin Public Radio, the event is raising its profile throughout the state.
The performer list is also evolving, including more genres of music than before. Celebrating its 100th anniversary, the renowned Pro Arte Quartet will present a classical selection and receive the lifetime achievement award, and the All-Star Guitar Showcase - a popular act from last year's show featuring members of Aaron Williams & the Hoodoo and the John Masino Band - will up the ante with a Hendrix medley and jam session. Meanwhile, electro-rap-pop six-piece Star Persons will take the stage at the awards and wrap up the MAMAs' after party at the High Noon Saloon.
MAMAs cofounder and executive director Rick Tvedt is particularly excited about one of the evening's youngest performers, Ariela Bohrod. This year, the 15-year-old pianist won the Madison Symphony Orchestra's Bolz Young Artist Competition. "She's going to play a solo, and she's just exceptional," says Tvedt.
Voters helped select MAMA winners in more than 65 categories, from New Artist of the Year to Cover Band. With a slew of past wins, Lucas Cates Band and Aaron Williams & the Hoodoo are favorites in the Artist of the Year category, but Sexy Ester & the Pretty Mama Sisters may be the dark horse thanks to their single "Love Bubble," which is also nominated for Alternative Song of the Year.
Harmonious Wail's Maggie Delaney-Pothoff squares off against indie singers Anna Vogelzang and Ida Jo in the female vocalist category, while roots-rocker Frank Busch, the 2011 winner of Triple M's Project M songwriting contest, hopes to take home the male-vocalist crown.
The most exciting battle might be Video of the Year. Introduced three years ago, this category saw an exponential increase in entries this year. "I think we had more than 20, which is pretty amazing for a local video category," Tvedt says. Zooniversity Music's "Teach Me How to Bucky" is the frontrunner after becoming a viral sensation throughout the state and beyond. The other nominees, MC Starr, Anthony Lamarr and the consistently zany Man Mantis, are hoping their visual creativity wins them enough points to take the title.
Meanwhile, the MAMAs board decided to eliminate one of the competition's most disputed features: a $10 fee for nominees. Voters were still required to donate $5 to participate.
Tvedt says he's happy to see the fee go, but it helped the MAMAs stay afloat during their early years - and when the recession paralyzed many other charities. The MAMAs are squarely in the black thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor. The organization recently received $28,000 worth of gifts to help local kids develop their musical talents.
"We have a huge inventory of stuff - all kinds of software and recording gear and instruments that are almost brand new," says Tvedt. "We're excited to get it out to where it's needed - once we're done with the show, of course."