2nd Annual Forte Awards Preps for Open Registration
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Photo of Tom Gordon and Doug Clifford by Sarah Morey
Photo of Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve and Max Volume by Tony Dellacioppa
Photos of Greg Golden Band and Tyler Stafford by John Tuckness
Mayor Hillary Schieve & Max Volume
By all accounts last fall's inaugural Fans Of Reno Tahoe Entertainment Awards, known more succinctly by its acronym The Forte Awards, were an unqualified success. 1,200 people enthusiastically attended the swanky black tie gala at the Grand Sierra Resort's Grand Ballroom honoring the best and brightest nominees in 40 categories of performance in the fields of Music, Theater, Comedy, Dance and Magic. As you could imagine, running logistics and planning for such an ambitious undertaking takes a huge amount of energy to coordinate. Event founder Bill Woody, owner of Musicians Rehearsal Center in Sparks and longtime musician, radio personality and lead PR man for the Forte Awards Steve Funk, are already hard at work on this year's event. The two visionaries are opening up the all important registration process next month on April 3rd.
Eager to get the scoop on this year's deets, I sat with Woody, Funk, judging panelist and respected recording engineer Tom Gordon, owner of Imirage Sound Lab Studio, and last year's only three-time Forte Award winner Tyler Stafford, to find out about this year's awards and how the registration timeline will go down.
“We will put out the call for artists registration on April 3rd,” Funk states. “And the cutoff for that will be Friday, June 30, 2017. So there's three months there for the registration process to run its course. Then we have one month from July 1st to July 31st for the committees in the five performance areas (Music, Dance, Theater, Magic and Comedy) to review all of the registrants and all of the other folks who got involved and whittle that down to ten in each category. Committee decisions will be announced on August 7th and public voting will continue through October 20th, ending two weeks before the event. All the tallying and tabulations and final production elements needed to put the show on will be completed and we will then announce the results on Thursday, November 2, 2017 at the awards show,” assures Funk.
The Greg Golden Band
The Forte Awards is not a popularity contest and the awards only honor performers. The whole purpose is to advance the profile and standing of the performing arts in our community. There are no winners per se, but rather “award recipients.” Each discipline has experts on the judging committees who know their industry and know the standouts in each award genre. And online registration is pretty simple.
“There are three ways you can get nominated,” says Woody. “The first way is by registering yourself as a performer with your submissions. The second way is that a family member, friend or fan can sponsor somebody. The performer still has to register, but that way it's not them registering themselves if they feel funny about doing that. The third way to get nominated is through direct nomination by a judging panelist. There are a number of seasoned, well-known performers out there who may feel like they shouldn't have to register,” notes Woody. Steve Funk concurs, “There are some performers who think that it's beneath them to have to register themselves,” he says. “And if somebody doesn't love them enough to do it for them, we end up doing it,” Funk adds.
“So an awards committee member will submit their nomination?” I ask. “Well, what a committee member gets to do is submit a list of performers that weren't nominated, or weren't registered, but should be considered for nomination nonetheless,” Funk clarifies. “Like Oscars so white?” I quip. [Laughter]. “Yes, kinda the same deal. “We don't want Forte's so white,” Funk jokes. “But seriously, as it so happened last year—and not like we worked at it or anything-- we had a very diverse group of performers to draw from.”
As with any awards show, there are kinks to work out this year. A variety of factors made the event run a bit long. Some fans who attended the awards show also stated they wanted to see more performances.
Woody tells me there will be a few changes this year that will enhance the experience at every stage of the process. “We've taken steps to tighten this up and do a much more time-efficient awards show,” says Woody. “We've had three in-depth discussions on the things that we can do to improve the show and feel very strongly that we can compact it without having to sacrifice the number of categories we honor in the ceremony,” Woody notes.
“All of last year's Forte Awards recipients are being asked to directly nominate someone in their category this year,” Woody says. “Would past award recipients then also be presenting the award in their respective category Bill?” I ask. “We are going to be looking at past recipients to do some presentations and past recipients possibly to do some performance(s),” emphasizes Woody. “We just don't have enough time to present all of the performances we wish to accommodate. “We are re-evaluating all of the categories at a big meeting March 8. We might drop a few, we might add a few, or call them different names. But we're really working hard on tightening up the categories. Ya know, we're learning; we're growing. We're trying to learn from our mistakes, and we will,” Woody states.
“There's also the option that we may decide to recognize the people behind the scenes who make so much happen,” states Funk. “I got hammered pretty hard by the theater community because there wasn't a category for Director,” says Woody. “The producers, the promoters, the sound crews and venue owners...we want them to know that their contributions matter and are appreciated,” Funk notes. “And we could end up doing what they do at say the Grammy's and have a high profile event prior to the big night, where we honor those folks in their own ceremony,” Funk says. “In ceremonies recorded earlier...” and then we put all those honorees up on the screen or something like that.”
“How did you feel fan engagement was last year, not exclusively regarding voting or attendance, but with the whole idea of the Forte Awards in general?” I ask Woody. “Fan engagement on voting was huge,” Woody beams. “We got 45,000 votes. Each IP address could only vote once a day per category, so it's not like they could dump 15-20 votes every day. The hits and page views we got were impressive for a first year event,” Woody emphasizes. “We got over 611,000 page views from over 64,000 individual users—almost 29,000 on Facebook,” observes Funk. “For year one numbers, we've set the bar pretty high.”
Translating that into fan attendance at the awards show was another thing altogether. “I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that we were working really hard until the very last minute to get it all done,” Funk states. “This year we'll have a much larger window to inform the community about the event and a great story to show and tell people about what we did, not what we want to do for the community,” Funk notes. “We can now say,
'Look what we did!' Now get involved.'”
Woody concurs, “It's one thing to tell people this is how we picture its going to happen. People have seen the show and been to the show. They can say, 'Now we get it,'” says Woody.
The task now for Funk and Woody is to spread the word on registration. “Our main focus is getting performers to register and that's what we're putting out there,” Woody says. “We're looking for nominees who were there to talk it up and get people to participate. We're not selling tickets yet, we're solely looking at getting people to register in the designated categories.
Smooth crooning singer-songwriter Tyler Stafford was the only artist to win in each category he was nominated in, taking him three Forte Awards trophies. His easy Folk-Americana sound resonated with voters, but sweeping the awards show was a big surprise for the soft-spoken artist. “It's an interesting thing because I didn't prepare a speech or anything,” states Stafford. “It was the first time I had ever done an awards show, so it was a new experience for me.”
Funk asks Stafford if winning three Forte Awards has made any difference in his ability to book shows, win fans or get people to come out to his shows, or increased his profile or industry cache. “I think there's a certain level of recognition that goes along with winning the award,” he says. :Just being out and about and having people I haven't seen in a while come up to me and say, 'I've seen some cool things that you're doing, congratulations.' I think that it does help and that the award carries a little bit of weight.”
Tom Gordon & Doug Clifford
Funk chimes in “And that's what it's all about. If this thing becomes what we wish it to become, it will be like a guiding light for generations of artists in this community. That we end up leaving something behind for this region that lasts and works as an inspiration for artists to be the best that they can become,” reasons Funk.
Noted recording engineer and recording studio owner Tom Gordon was one of last year's two committee chair people. “My job was to assemble a crack team of music experts that would go through the material submitted and then wrangle the data that came in from the public vote and weigh the two,” Gordon explains. “Anyone can just sit there all day and rally their Facebook friends to vote. But this isn't an award for the best social media campaign, this is an award for the best talent. So, going off of a popular vote alone is dangerous,” Gordon concludes. “Knowing the talent base in this town, I was very impressed with the quality of the music submitted.”
Proceeds from ticket sales for the Forte Awards ceremony go to The Food Bank of Northern Nevada, The Nevada Humane Society and The Veterans Resource Centers of America. It's free to register at www.forteawards.com
This article is featured in the 2017 March RTT: