THE 2010 OMAs Applaud LGBT Artists

Melissa Etheridge, Sylvester and Chely Wright among the honorees
at the star-studded “Gay Grammys”

Stars will descend on New York City’s legendary Town Hall in the heart of Times Square December 1 to celebrate 20 years of LGBT music history. The OUTmusic Awards (OMAs), a glitzy, celeb-studded event presented by the LGBT Academy of Recording Arts (LARA) commemorates the year in LGBT music and honors to trailblazers in the recording arts. A multitude of artists, from emerging performers to established rock ‘n’ roll, pop, hip-hop, folk and jazz stars, will flood Town Hall’s stage with electrifying performances and well-deserved tributes throughout the evening.

A host of LGBT faves are scheduled to appear, including Melissa Etheridge, this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. Christine Martucci, Rachael Sage, Lori Michaels and other lesbian chanteuses will pay musical homage to Etheridge. Hunter Valentine, which GO readers voted Best Local Band this year, will also perform.

The OUTmusic Awards prove great music doesn’t just emanate from mainstream record labels. Considered the LGBT equivalent of the Grammys, this year’s honorees include country singer Chely Wright, who will receive the Vanguard Award, presented by Dolly Parton via video. Other awards go to actress and singer Sheryl Lee Ralph (Pillar Award), and to influential disco superstar Sylvester, who garners a posthumous Icon Award.

Comedians Julie Goldman, Jonny McGovern and Tammy Peay will emcee the event, and legendary Broadway siren Carol Channing will make a special appearance.

This year, OUTmusic enjoys its 20th year of promoting out musicians and members of the recording industry—a birthday made more meaningful by the fact that it shares this date with World AIDS Day. OUTmusic organizers promise to shine a spotlight on this annual day of remembrance.

For the second consecutive year, Logo will broadcast the awards show—which, if history serves, will be jam-packed with amazing performances, inspiring awards and moving tributes. Behind-the-scenes footage and photos will be posted online.

OUTmusic bestows awards in the following categories: Rock Song, Pop Song, Hip-Hop/Rap Song, R&B/Soul Song, Electro/Dance Song, Folk/Country Song, Jazz Song, Instrumental, Soundtrack, Choral Performance, Contemporary Spiritual Song, Theatre/Cabaret/Comedy Song, International Song, Classical Song, Video, Producer, Songwriter, Single of the Year and Album of the Year.

In addition, an Out Musician of the Year (Music + Activism) is honored for his or her contributions to the LGBT community and
the arts, while the Humanitarian Songwriter of the Year Award goes to a song and its author who demonstrate the pride and humanity of LGBT people.

Changing Direction, Standing Together, Continuing to Thrive

Partners Daniel Martin and Michael Biello founded OUTmusic in their East Village living room in 1990 with the goal of providing a safe and supportive environment for LGBT recording artists and performers. The two men dedicated themselves to the organization for 17 years. In 2007, Diedra Meredith, a.k.a. recording artist Deepa Soul, came on as executive director. Martin and Biello’s ground-breaking adventure in New York musical history two decades ago has evolved into an international movement and the only organization of its kind in the world.

Meredith and a new Board of Directors helped establish LARA, and in 2009 the Board revived the OUTmusic Awards, after a two-year hiatus, to highlight the achievements of LGBT artists in the previous year. “We may rightly celebrate all accomplishments in our LGBT equality movement, but if we don’t stop now and pay attention to the needs of our next generation, all progress will have been made in vain,” Meredith says about doling out the annual honors.

The academy encourages openly gay artists, friends and allies to work together for LGBT equal rights and to help erase homophobia throughout the world. LARA currently boasts a membership base of more than 1,000 recording artists and performers worldwide and continues to grow.

Yet another wing of OUTmusic is the OUTmusic Foundation, the advocacy arm of the academy, which Meredith co-founded. One initiative of the OUTmusic Foundation is the Freedom of Expression Advocacy Campaign, a public education intiative, created to bring openly LGBT recording artists and performers one step closer to mainstream success. The campaign features national print ads and PSAs starring LGBT icons like Kevin Aviance, Ari Gold, Richie Rich, Lori Michaels, Amanda Lepore, DJ She-Rock, Deli and Colton Ford. Proceeds from a CD compilation, to be released next July, will benefit the campaign.

By creating advocacy campaigns for openly LGBT recording artists, Meredith says she wants out performers (and audiences) to “put their money where their mouth is” and support each other. “I’m here to empower independent artists, but at the end of the day individual artists must answer not only to themselves, but also to their community.”

Meredith recently saw an opportunity for just that: she asked Lady Gaga to join LARA as a show of allied support. Meredith hasn’t yet heard back from Gaga, “but I know I will,” she says. “The LGBT community and LGBT individuals can do the unthinkable, the unbelievable, as long as we allow ourselves to have vision.”

Shining a Light on the Next Generation

When recording artist Christine Martucci decided to appear in a new OUTmusic public service announcment raising awareness about homeless youth, she found it to have a profoundly personal meaning.

The New Jersey native’s father kicked her out of her childhood home after he found out she was a lesbian. “I was scared and confused. There were no gay or lesbian role models then, no Ellen, no one. I was all by myself.”

“I was from a traditional Italian family with only brothers, and I was expected to grow up and get married,” Martucci says. “And when I realized I didn’t fit into that scenario, I seriously contemplated suicide.”

Eventually, Martucci joined the Army for “three hots and a cot,” where she finally found a sense of purpose and belonging.

Martucci’s song, “Child Inside,” explores the life of a lesbian “throwaway.” She explains that homeless youth today are just as vulnerable as she was years ago. “These kids today exist on survival instinct and the one thing they have to sell is themselves. They get pulled into prostitution.”

Other musicians like Martucci have joined with OUTmusic for the launch of its “Sponsor A Young Person” Initiative. This project consists of a series of PSAs that feature both mainstream and LGBT celebrities, entertainers, musicians and “real life” people who work tirelessly to support homeless youth abandoned by their families.

With the OUTmusic Awards falling this year  on World AIDS Day, LARA plans to bring attention the increasing number of homeless youth affected with HIV/AIDS. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force recently reported U.S. Census data, which reveals that there are nearly 2.5 million homeless people—40 percent of whom identify as LGBT—between the ages of 13 and 25
in America.

Tapped by Meredith and LARA to direct the tribute to Melissa Etheridge, Martucci—who is often compared to Etheridge—jumped at the opportunity. The Christine Martucci Band, known locally as CMB, will be backing up all the performers in the tribute.

Martucci’s success today is testament not only to personal perseverance, but also to the host of people who she acknowledges helped her along the way. In return, she says she is ready to help anyone else in need: “That’s what we were put on this earth for,” she says.

To further support young and emerging artists and to celebrate the 20th anniversary of OUTmusic, the organization is launching the OUTmusic Next Generation Talent Search Contest. Aspiring performers, singers, musicians and entertainers who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are encouraged to upload their amateur auditions to YouTube in categories including OUTstanding Original Song (a capella or to original music), Spoken Word, Dance and Lip Sync Performance.

Entrants must send in an email submission with a link to their YouTube audition. The chosen finalists will have their video put to an online vote, and the winners will be announced at the OUTmusic Awards show.

“With the launch of the OUTmusic Foundation’s various youth initiatives, we can ensure there are resources in every city so all LGBT young people can feel safe,” says Meredith.

“OUTmusic will continue to not only thrive, but grow and mature, and I look forward to the next 20 years of emerging LBGT talent recognized on the world stage.”

Events in support of OUTmusic are scheduled throughout the month of November in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia. GO Magazine is the national media sponsor of the 2010 awards.

OUTmusic Living Legend 2010: Paula “Stix” Hampton

With 40-plus years of performing under her belt, drummer/vocalist Paula “Stix” Hampton hasn’t forgotten how hard it was for her—and all women in the music industry—to be taken seriously when she first started out. “It was an uphill battle just to get recognized let alone be booked for gigs,” says Hampton, a member of the world-famous Hampton family of musicians. “Female drummers just were not part of the male-dominated music world.”

Balancing artistic ambition with the demands of the real world is a struggle many musicians experience, and Hampton—a 2005 Kennedy Center Women In Music Honoree—faced her share. Hampton says she learned a lot as an employee of Bell System (now Verizon) for 22 years, since her day job offered regular “bread” during the breaks between musical gigs.

Hampton currently plays with the all-female ensemble Jazzberry Jam. The group often appears at senior centers where “the old people dance with their walkers.”

“These young folks coming up today are just learning what we have been through for decades,” Hampton says. “But, it’s all made me tough, given me strength and staying power, and I wouldn’t change a thing if I had to do it all over again.”

About her OUTmusic award, she adds modestly, “It’s always just nice just to be considered.”

Who’s Who at the 2010 OUTmusic Awards

Honorees

Melissa Etheridge
Lifetime Achievement Award

Sheryl Lee Ralph
Pillar Award

Wayne Besen
Visionary Award

Chely Wright
Vanguard Award

Sylvester
OUTmusic Icon Award

Cyndi Lauper
Person of the Year Award

Randy Jones
Heritage Award

Paula “Stix” Hampton
The OUTmusic Living Legend Award

Melissa Etheridge Tribute:
Christine Martucci (“Fearless Love”)
Lori Michaels (“Bring Me Some Water”)
Rachael Sage (“Come to my Window”)
Deepa Soul (“I’m the Only One”)
Jill Knight (“Like The Way I Do”)
Nedra Johnson (“Skin Deep”)

Additional selected performers:
Athena Reich
Terese Genecco
Jen Urban and the Box
Tona Brown
and more