Since its founding by Jazz Fest Director Frank Malfitano in 1992 and inaugural ceremony in 1993, the Syracuse Area Music Awards (Sammys) have served as a reminder to local musicians and fans that the music scene in Syracuse is one worth celebrating.
Bands and artists submit recorded material, which is evaluated by an independent panel of judges. Winners are chosen in categories spanning pop, country, jazz, hip-hop, rock, blues, rhythm 'n' blues, metal, Americana, alternative, modern rock and other. The Brian Bourke Award for best new artist and two people's choice awards, for favorite local venue and band, are voted on by the public.
The winners are honored at a ceremony that has been held at a variety of locations over the years, including the Landmark Theatre, the Taste of Syracuse and the Pirro Comvention Center. This year, the Sammy Awards ceremony will be held Friday, March 8, at the Palace Theatre, 2384 James St. The event begins with a cocktail reception at 6 p.m. and the ceremony to follow at 7 p.m. Awards are presented by celebrities, and five local bands will perform, including the Van Norstrand Brothers, Soul Risin', Out of the Blue, the Paul Case Band and Sophistafunk.
But there's an additional component to the Sammys that recognizes far more than a single recording. It's a group of awards that take years of dedication, work, determination, sacrifice, talent and success into account: the Hall of Fame awards.
Five recipients are chosen by the Sammys board for their exceptional contributions to the scene. A music educator is chosen, along with a lifetime achievement award winner. It is a true testament to the Syracuse scene that such an impressive list of past winners continues to grow each year. This year is no exception.
Skip Murphy, Scott Sterling, John Dancks, Willie "Taters" Mavins, The Seven, Jim Spadafore and Jimmy Van Heusen will be recognized at the Hall of Fame dinner on Thursday, March 7, 7 p.m., at Upstairs at the Dinosaur Bar-B- Que, as well as at the Sammys ceremony on March 8.
Liz Nowak, president of the Sammys, has been involved since the beginning and has watched it grow into what it is today: an event that honors the musicmakers of the community and welcomes all residents to get involved with the celebration.
"Sometimes people think the Sammys are a private event," Nowak says.
"But they're not. They're open to everyone and a chance for everyone to celebrate the community."
For those who want to be a part of the festivities Thursday and Friday, tickets to the Hall of Fame dinner are available by emailing Debbie Foley at firstname.lastname@example.org. For tickets to the Friday night ceremony, visit SyracuseAreaMusic.com.