Calaveras Arts and Music Awards celebrates region’s talent despite setbacks | Sierra Lodestar Magazine

The second annual Calaveras Arts and Music Awards (CAMMIES) took place at the Copperopolis Armory on Saturday, January 15, hosted by Copperopolis-based producer Richard Varrasso, Valley Springs-based co-producer Event City Network, Murphys-based publicist and Murphys Witch Walk co-producer Christopher Buttner, along with a team of sponsors and volunteers.

Sponsors included Varrasso’s own 501c3 non-profit organization, Creative Copperopolis, which hosts the Copperopolis Internet radio station Dot Rocks, Calaveras Telephone Company (CalTel), Foodie Village, Moke Hill Nuts and Candies, Cal.netCopperopolis Lions Club, Barron Law, The Murphys School of Music, Hawaiian Spring Water, Rough Boys Movie and several local musicians and business owners who contributed to the event, including the Copperopolis Area Business Association (CABA).

A statement from Varrasso on Monday read, “We wish we had had more time to plan more effectively and efficiently, so we could put on a bigger show to honor even more talent than we anticipated. . …We especially want to thank the all-volunteer team that came together to execute the Calaveras Arts and Music Awards, which consisted of approximately 12 people who contributed all of the event production services from sound, lights , video, webcast technologies, catering, advertising, and digital marketing.

The event was originally intended to be a multi-hour red carpet gala, in the vein of similar star-studded music awards shows, but several thread changes resulted in a more low-key and safer event. , given the recent ascend in cases of COVID-19 due to the Omicron variant.

Instead of a public awards ceremony with live entertainment and a seated dinner, the CAMMIES ceremony has been changed to invitation-only, making it a private party for nominated local musicians and performers, venue owners , the producers and their guests. According to January 6 announcement on Facebook, those who had already purchased tickets should be refunded. Live video was also made available to the general public via Facebook and the Event City website, as well as a live broadcast on Varrasso’s internet radio station.

Instead of dinner, cups of trail mix were placed on tables, and guests could help themselves to slow cookers of homemade minestrone soup (a favorite of Italian organizer Varrasso). A full-service bar also offered drinks for purchase, and a taco truck outside offered larger supplies for a cost.

Other changes included the removal of a pre-awards segment and an after-hours dance party, a red carpet photoshoot, and a day-of-show announcement that going forward, the event would be known as CAMS, not CAMMIES, which Varrasso explained. was to receive a cease and desist letter from the GRAMMYs the day before.

This turn of events was completely unexpected for the small local event in only its second year, which currently has less than 250 people on Facebook.

The event producers have posted disclaimers online stating that they are in no way affiliated with the much better-known awards show, which was supposed to take place on January 31 this year, but is now ” postponed indefinitely” due to concerns over the Omicron variant, according to an article in the New York Post.

Although CAMMIES may sound somewhat similar to the GRAMMYs, Varrasso said he was actually inspired by the name of the now-defunct Bay Area Music Awards (BAMMIES) he attended for years while working in the industry. Sacramento also used a similar name for its Sacramento Area Music Awards (SAMMIES), and countless others were likely inspired by the celebrity-laden TV awards show.

On January 15, the CAMMIES Facebook page shared a new profile picture, with the CAMMIES logo cropped to show only the letters CAM, and posted the following statement: “The name Cammies has been changed to CAMS as suggested by Grammys. We are not affiliated with the Grammys and they had a problem with us using the Cammies, so we changed our name from then on to conform to their wishes. We are glorified in the fact that they would even care.

Despite last-minute changes, delays and an ever-changing itinerary, the ceremony managed to do what it set out – “to recognize and honor the artistic and cultural contributions made to the community of the three counties of Calaveras, Amador and Tuolumne by the region’s top artists, musicians, bands, performing arts groups and producers.

Varrasso, Buttner and host/performer Leilani Hollywood took turns announcing the awards between musical performances by Calaveras-based bands Star Dogs, Nate Nathan, and Leilani’s own band, Leilani and the Distractions.

In a statement distributed Monday, organizers provided a list of more than 50 names of area musicians/performers, live events, and restaurants, bars, wineries and theaters that serve as venues in the area.

The “Complete List of Calaveras Arts and Music Awards Winners” provided by the event organizers included the following names, along with some genre or category descriptions, though these have been omitted here: The Neighborhood Sound, Tim McCaffrey, Skeeze Nava & Josh Certo Toltec/ Austin Frederick, The Automatics, Joe Rose, David Brown, Mark Nordeen, Craig Rogers, Kinland Station, Lisa Askew, Chris VanHoven, Steve Duych, Hired Gunn, Grover Anderson and the Lampoliers, Dive Bar Poets, Richie Barron, Ras Beeken Dan, Leilani (from Leilani and the Distractions), Ron Enos, Gary Souza, Chasing Anthems, Nick Tyrrel, Keith Burrows, Clan Dyken, Fuzion Nomadz, Neil Buettner, Nathan Ignacio, Nate Nathan, Graham Richards and Laura Marion, Christopher Buttner and Teresa Rodriguez / Murphy’s Witch Walk, Blonde Tells, Star Dogs, Ron Schaner, Darrel Louis – The Music Barn at Val du Vino, Jill Warren, Sierra Rep Theatre, Producers of All Hallows Faire, Murphys Hideout – Comedy Night, Murphys Creek Theatre, Br Ice Station, Alan Drown, Anthony and Jessica Delaney/Murphys Irish Pub, the Murphys Jazz Allstars, Greg Sutton, Nicholas Lefler, Stevenot Winery, The Poison Oakies, The Kool Shifters, David Atencio, Brad Hoshaw , Ann Mazzaferro of Blithe Spirit/Metropolitan Players, Darcel Hunter/Darcel and Company, Richard Segovia, Black Irish Band, RTV Amador/Kam Merzlak and Chuck Boro, Kimberly Medford of “The Kam & Chuck Show” and Tony Taylor.

Each nominated artist received a prize. In the case of the CAMMIES, producer Varrasso said: “The bottom line is that we wanted people to feel that what they’re doing is worth it and we care…so it would be hard not to get awards. and to be nominated.”

There was some confusion among the performers, however, with one group set to perform still unsure whether they were recognized as nominees, winners, or both.

Although not all of the artists performing on Saturday night could be recognized during the shorter period, those that included Patrick Karnahan of the Black Irish Band, who was also credited with producing the popular Calaveras Celtic Faire and All Hallows Halloween events Faire, which take place every year at the Camp des Anges fairgrounds. Others included Murphys singer-songwriter Grover Anderson and his band Grover Anderson & the Lampoliers, the band Star Dogs, called “the region’s power-trio supergroup” by CAMMIES organizers, artist butterfly-winged pop/soul/experimental Nate Nathan (whose next album Butterflies From Mt Sinai will be released Feb. 5) and Leilani Hollywood and her band, Leilani and the Distractions, whom Varrasso openly praised at the event, saying that he “loves that girl” to which Leilani responded with equal admiration.

Leilani also presented an award to Deborah Olguin, who sings for Leilani but has also performed her own original songs throughout Calaveras County for years. Olguin, who sparkled onstage in a sequined black dress and matching face mask, told the audience, “I’m living proof that there’s no timeline for music and chasing your dreams.”

“In recognizing everyone here tonight, I think one of the most important things to recognize is all the work they’ve put into it, all the time they’re going to do things for free, all the drive that they put into what they believe in. So the committee thought it was well deserved,” said Leilani, before presenting an award to Ras Beeken Dan, acclaimed saxophonist and president of Murphys School of Music.

Some nominated musicians left the Armory on Saturday night, however, without receiving recognition, but like those who did not attend, they should be able to arrange a pick-up of their awards with either Varrasso or Buttner.

For the many talented artists from Calaveras and the surrounding area who may have gone unnoticed or were unable to attend this year’s CAMMIES, Varasso hopes they will reach out and get involved saying, “I have need to know the people of West Point, and they need to know me. … We have to know the people of Murphys and Arnold and Avery.

The seasoned music industry professional says he has an open ear and is willing to give honest feedback and help connect artists to area producers and venues.

“One of our mottos is, ‘We’re here to cut you, not cut you,'” Varrasso said.