The Review Music Awards is the oldest ceremony of its kind honoring creative fields of artistic endeavor in the musical & performing arts in the State of Michigan. It pre-dates the Detroit Music Awards and the All Area Arts Awards and this year had over 7,000 people throughout the Great Lakes Bay area register to nominate the individuals it recognizes. Since its inception in 1987 it has dispersed 1,642 trophies to recipients. And needless to say, over the expanse of 27 years, it has also assembled unique video footage and memorabilia chronicling the artistic strength of our region for posterity.
With this in mind, the Executive Board of the Review Music Awards decided to introduce two special honors at the 2013 ceremony to recognize the Lifetime Achievement of artists from this region who's accomplishments have resonated beyond the boundaries of the Great Lakes Bay.
In doing so, we commissioned Midland sculptor Guy Sabrie to design a special Lifetime Achievement award with a brass cast face in the shape of Michigan, with stylized musical markings in base re-leaf raised ¼ inch above the base, mounted on a wood base of Michigan cherry wood.
Our goals in doing this are to eventually establish a Michigan Music Hall of Fame where the annual recipients of this special honor can submit memorabilia, artifacts, posters, videos, and personal mementos chronicling their achievements and contributions for posterity.
Similar to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, The Michigan Music Hall of Fame will become a destination point; and rightly so. Major artists that have emerged from this area include jazz great Sonny Stitt, seminal voices of Rock & Roll that helped shaped the voice of popular music such as Question Mark & the Mysterians, Dick Wagner, Jeff Vanston, Stevie Wonder and contemporary artists such as Stewart Francke, Brian James d'Arcy, and Larry McCray.
The inscription on the Lifetime Achievement award reads as follows: In honor of a lifetime pursuit of musical excellence and to commemorate a level of achievement carrying an impact that resonates beyond the physical boundaries of the Great Lakes Bay, touching the musical sensibilities of world-class audiences while raising the level of professional impact and accomplishment.
And this year the inaugural honors of induction went to the following artists: SONNY STITT & MICHAEL BRUSH
SONNY STITT * The Lone Wolf that Changed the Face of Jazz
Sonny Stitt is acknowledged as one of the greatest saxophone players from the last great era of jazz. Stitt recorded 300 LPs from his tentative ascendance in the forties through the halcyon days of the fifties and sixties and the decline and fall in the seventies.
Sonny was born in Boston but was raised in Saginaw. He attended Central Junior High and graduated from Saginaw High School in 1942. Following graduation Sonny's wanderlust led him to play across the United States, Europe and the Far East. He toured with several bands including the Tiny Bradshaw Band, Billy Eckstine and Dizzy Gillespie. He performed with such jazz greats as Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Oscar Peterson. Bill Cosby admired Sonny's music and mentioned him more than once on network television. As Sonny continued to evolve and experiment with sound he also became interested in mentoring others. He taught and lectured at several universities including Yale and Notre Dame. Not bad for a kid who cut his teeth at the El Morocco and the Cabana at 6th and Washington.
He accumulated several awards through the years including a Grammy nomination for his 1972 masterpiece Tune Up, 1973 Record of the Year Constellation, and Playboy All-Star Jazz Winner 1961.
Sonny's Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to remaining family members at a special ceremony in October of this year.
MICHAEL BRUSH * A Musician for All Seasons
Michael Brush's passion and purpose has been dedicated to music and education for over four decades. Both inside and outside the classroom, this immensely talented educator, musician, and humanitarian has left an indelible mark on his students, his colleagues, and his community.
He has received over 65 Review Music Awards over the past 27 years. A product of Saginaw Public Schools, Michael could have taken his musical skills as a keyboardist, singer, composer and arranger to larger cities and carved out a lucrative career as a performer. Instead, he chose to return to his hometown and inspire students for 30 years as an innovative music instructor, first as a traveling elementary teacher, then as the music instructor at Hanley's Program for the Creative & Academically Talented, and finally, from 1999 until his retirement in 2010, as the Director of the award-winning Voice/Keyboard Department at the Saginaw Arts & Sciences Academy.
One of the many gifts that Mike possesses is an ability to inspire creativity. Consequently, from elementary choirs to his SASA choirs, Mike would adopt an innovative approach of having his students often perform his original music. He originated the highly acclaimed Saginaw Kids Choir in the 1990s, which performed & recorded exceptional material featured in the album 'Songs For Us' - a collection of socially conscious songs that was released in 1994, also performed collaboratively with the Los Angeles Choir formed within the L.A. Public Schools that went on to earn Michael special acknowledgment from the City of Los Angeles, which he was awarded at 'The Review Music Awards' Ceremony that same year.
But apart from these educational accomplishments, Mike has been a key player & creator in the local musical scene. Mike has constructed a hard-earned reputation as one of the most talented & versatile musicians performing in the Great Lakes Bay Region, beginning as a teenager during the Garage Band era of the mid-60s with such groups as the aforementioned Paupers, followed by The Ferris Wheel and Michael R. Thomas.
During his college years, Mike earned a living as a keyboardist/vocalist in the Detroit area before returning to Saginaw to carve out a career as one of our area's best Jazz & Blues musicians with groups involving noted drummers Jim Fulkerson and Mark Dault, jazz guitarist Ron Lopez, and later with vocalist Julie Mulady in Brush Street.And this past year witnessed Mike moving into fresh terrain with new material and an expanded musical line-up incorporating brass & strings.
In accepting his award for Lifetime Achievement and induction into the Michigan Music Hall of Fame, Michael had this to say:
“The creation of the Michigan Music Hall of Fame is an inspired and daunting endeavor, initiated by Robert Martin to bring yet another, enduring way to celebrate the music and musicians of Michigan. Celebration of regional arts has been one of the goals of the Review Magazine since its inception. It will be thrilling to watch its intention unfold, and the memories of its inductees embedded with permanence. The role of music in lives past and present, each musician's own special list of cohorts and friends, and the private journey each of us takes, makes one feel fortunate to be acknowledged as part of it all. To be chosen to be among the inductees carries with it a valued honor. When considering that, it is felt not only on a deeply personal level, but also shared on a soul level with people with whom I have lived, worked, and have shared the musical experience.
While others can speak with much greater eloquence on the life and times of Saginaw's Sonny Stitt, I do know that to Saginaw, his name is inseparable from it. The musical legacy of Sonny Stitt is a source of pride, and I have had the pleasure of hearing his name spoken by some that knew him. Again, pride. He stood “shoulder to shoulder” with the greatest, most iconic names of the Jazz Age. His is a name to be remembered.
We can all look back to significant junctures in our lives, and realize that when good things happened, there are other people associated with it. Some would call these people our “angels, messengers, or guides” and in many ways they have been those things for me. My life has been lived in the city of my birth, and opportunities to write and perform have kept me engaged in music in ways that have been unforeseen, responsive, rewarding, and meaningful to me. The loving home that Kathleen and I share is one that values and nurtures our artistic efforts.
Since my retirement from teaching in 2010, I have found the time and inspiration to immerse myself in arranging, writing, and performing. I find these things continually enjoyable, and am grateful to have new challenges and opportunities to learn and grow. I am very pleased with our latest album, Pieces; featuring an exceptional performance by Julie Mulady, and am looking for ways to promote it. We will be looking, too, for performance opportunities for “Brush Street with Brass and Strings”, an endeavor that premiered in 2012. There is much yet for me to do. And, since Kathleen and I are both retired and healthy, much for the two of us yet to do. Life is good.”