NAMA'S TENTH YEAR ANNIVERSARY
NAMA 10: This year's awards show celebrated our Tenth Anniversary. Each year all of us leave our regular jobs, lives, and responsibilities and come together as a family to put together our Annual Awards show. Only those that actually work the show truly know what goes into it and the stamina, stress, and committment involved. Seeing all the participants and nominees brings a feeling of unity among us - like an annual family reunion. We had a slightly different show this year - one we thought would be easier going in, but turned out to be a highly complex event to put together. We were truly honored by the contributions of all the Native artists, presenters, dancers and mainstream artists that graced our stage, served as role models, and provided greater inspiration for our young and aspiring artists on the rez. We are extremely grateful and thankful for the wondrous hospitality and generosity of the Seneca Niagara Hotel & Casino, Karen Karsten, Dea Kuhl, Rob Armstrong and the Seneca Nation of Indians. They provided us all with first class accommodations.
The first half of the show had some technical and talent flaws. Our video switcher was slightly off on imaging the beginning of Robert Tree Cody's Honor Song which showed photos of those that had passed on to the spirit world including Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Tree's friend Ruben Romero, Sharon Burch, and Jim Boyd Jr. As for the sound problems, they were shared by us, the house and the artists themselves. It wasn't just a problem of turning on or off a microphone - it was much more complicated to the point that the house production had to call the manufacturer of the sound board during the show. The house sound system we were using was a $350,000 digital board that needed to be shut down and reset in order to fix the sound problem (like a computer when it freezes). We waited until intermission to do so - which unfortunately was 2 hours later. Other sound problems existed with the artists - Edmund Bull's guitar volume button needed to be turned up, Johnny Curtis' pick ups had a bad battery and his guitar cable wasn't fully plugged into his amp. He finally remedied it by the end of his performance.We did have a house monitor problem - that one's on the house. Thanks to the suggestion of Rob Robinson with Rickey Medlocke, we are currently discussing having a back up analogue sound board and hiring a Technical Stage Director since our technical needs are growing. Once the second part of the show commenced and our superstars took to the stage - all technical difficulties disappeared, the show became smooth sailing, and people got out of their seats to dance.
Some other talent glitches occurred such as the presenter of the Lifetime Achievement award not being in his seat when our escorts could bring him backstage. We even had the house ushers search with no avail. Thanks to Leon Thompson who ran on stage to read the teleprompter lines, Johnny Curtis was presented with his award. We learned, next time we skip the segment when we can't find the presenter and put it in later. Once we're done editing this show for the international broadcast - it will look perfect. We also heard some rumblings why certain categories weren't presented in the show. Here's why - each year we try to alternate which of the 30 categories will be presented as we just don't have enough time in one evening to do them all. Winners and nominees who are in attendance are all given equal stage time - meaning if you perform its likely we will not present the category you are in. We like to give everyone there some stage time. Regardless, by the end of the evening we presented only 12 categories (there was a total of 35 this year) and our show was still 4 hours!
A couple of years ago we began to present some of the awards in a pre-event evening before show to help distrubute the awards better. This year, many were still not in attendance by Friday and we're now considering doing these presentations during the day on Saturday after dress rehearsal and before the actual show. But we'd need a seperate crew to do this as we are all tied up with preparing for the show itself. We're also discussing bringing back a Red Carpet Entrance for all the artists next year.
Here are the highlights - opening Thanksgiving Address by Seneca tribal member Clayton Logan. Grand Entry style opening with the Tuxedo suited Young Gunz drum group joined by over 25 dancers. Thank you Jeanette Miller and Friends of Gonondagan for all your help and coordination. Iroquois Dancers with Solon Spruce singing this year. Robert Tree Cody's Honor song honoring those who have gone to the spirit world including most recently; Floyd Red Crow Westerman who was at our first show, participated in our NCAI show, received a Lifetime Achievement Award at our fifth show, and last year received his last honor with Best Country Recording. (He personally called us then to say how grateful he was and explained that he could not be there due to his ill health).
Buddy Big Mountain and Wendall Snobgrass are always a welcome addition. This year, two of Buddy's new friends made their NAMA debut; Forest Red Lightning and the Red-Haired Lion. For the second time in our history, we had some hip hop dancers take the stage during a Rap/Hip Hop performance - made us really look Grammy-like. NightShield did a great job of producing the segment - thank you! The Cherokee National Youth Choir last performed on our stage five years ago when they were the Cherokee National Children's Choir and were later joined by Star Nayea and her friends. The Choir were so happy backstage when they found out they won. One of the most poignant and genuine moments was with Jan Michael Looking Wolf who accepted his Flutist of the Year award on behalf of JJ Kent's late wife who tragically died this year and embraced Kent there.
Following the announcement of the unpresented categories (only 11 of which were remaining unannounced as we presented 11 others in a private event on Friday night), we started the second half of the show with Native Roots opening - Joanne Shenandoah in a beautiful rendition of "At Last" with traditional dancers dancing slow style, and then on to our Hall of Fame inductions and performances of Felipe Rose (Lakota/Taino), Janice Marie Johnson (Stockbridge Munsee) who cried almost the entire time of her recipient speech, Redbone (Yaqui, Shashone, Mexican) and Rickey Medlocke (Lakota/Creek) who was presented with his award by Houston Geronimo & Lance White Magpie (descendants of Geronimo & Crazy Horse). For all of us working backstage and side stage, we truly can't hear what's happening on the stage - we watch the monitors and keep on working to make sure everything is running as scripted. We finally get to see the results of our efforts when we look at these pictures (Thankyou Kim!) and watch the video tape (Thankyou Andy!) afterwards.
This year we had a live internet broadcast thanks to Mike Kickingbear Johnson and Andy Anderson (whose been with us since NAMA 1). We're just not so sure there was a place for a chat room during the broadcast. We know 3000 people watched directly from our site. The jury is out on the others who were making offensive and distracting comments during an otherwise professional broadcast.
As this was the 10th Anniversary, we wanted to do something BIG -so we had the four Hall of Fame inductions. We originally were aiming at five with Jesse Ed Davis (Kiowa) but John Trudell's band was already booked. In previous years we've only done one HOF induction per show. Sometimes none. Previous Hall of Fame inductees include: Buddy Red Bow whose parents attended our first show, Jim Pepper who was inducted at our Third show with a beautiful tribute performance, held by Mickey Hart, John Densmore, Rita Coolidge, BIll Miller, Joanne Shenandoah, Jim Boyd and many others. Crystal Gayle & Kitty Wells have both attended our shows and Richie Havens did an incredible tribute performance for Jimi Hendrix at our first show. Hendrix by the way inspired Redbone to put together their band. Full circle.
After it was all over, everyone's feet were throbbing but most of the staff went to the post show party including; our founder, Ellen Bello who stayed at the VIP party till closing - that was the first time she stayed out so late after a show. She said the VIP party was incredible and loved watching all the evening jams including Jimmy Wolf & Chris Wray Webb (Link Wrays Grandson) go right into RUMBLE and Tracy Bone, Digging Roots' Shoshana Keech and Cheryl Bear do a closing finale of PROUD MARY. WOW! Thanks to Jan Michael Looking Wolf for coordinating it all.
After a couple of hours of sleep - some of the NAMA team regrouped, went to Niagara Falls and on a boat ride on Maid of the Mist. PURELY AWESOME TO SEE. Later on Sunday evening, they saw the Village People perform at Seneca Casino (without Felipe with his swing Angel standing in, who turned out being a friend of Wayquay's) and all did the YMCA together. That night they shared jokes, exchanged stories, lived, loved and laughed and went home in all different directions the next morning.
Donald, Andy and Mike Kickingbear Johnson will soon start efforts about an edited version of the show to rebroadcast on the internet as well as Donald doing another edited version for national television and cable broadcast to resecure and expand our international audience, possible DVD and/or CD.
Now were all back to our day jobs and regular lifestyles, decompressing and hopefully resting until we start to regroup again next year.
More pictures to be posted shortly. More Volunteers Needed!
All photos copyright 2008 Native American Music Awards Inc., 2008 Kimberlie Acosta, 2008 David Miller.
No photos may be used without written permission from the copyright owners.