All photos by Bev Moser’s Moments By Moser.
This year’s edition of MusicRow’s “Rising Women on the Row” breakfast gala raised the bar in every department.
Staged in the classy Omini Hotel ballroom on Tuesday morning (March 24), the event set a new attendance record with more than 310 celebrants on hand. The entertainment, by precocious East Tennessee singer-songwriter Emi Sunshine, was a revelation. The honorees’ speeches were the most uplifting and professional that they’ve ever been. The Omni’s food, sound system, wait staff and overall hospitality were all beyond excellent.
“This is our 4th year, and once again we are sold out,” said MusicRow’s Sherod Robertson in greeting the attendees. “So thank you for coming to celebrate. This is an event to honor women in the music industry who kick ass!”
This year’s guest inspirational speaker was CMT executive Leslie Fram. Her Q&A with Sherod was full of pithy observations.
“First of all, you have to believe in yourself,” she told the crowd. “I am positive that this is going to be a great year for women.” Leslie launched the network’s “Next Women of Country” franchise to promote and empower female artists.
One conventional country radio industry bit of “wisdom” is, “Women don’t want to hear other women.”
“None of that is true,” asserted Leslie. “We’re the ones who have to change the conversation,” she added, pointing out how female-driven the pop charts are.
“I think it’s important to give back, to mentor,” she added. “Be impeccable in your words. Explore all your passions. Believe in your intuitions.”
Sherod then presented this year’s five Rising Women honorees. Kele Currier of ASCAP noted that she returned to the work force after being a stay-at-home mom. “Who knew that old dough can rise?” she joked. “I love America. I really appreciate this opportunity.”
Tiffany Dunn of Loeb & Loeb said, “I’m honored to get to work with creative people every day of my life. I definitely believe this is a team sport. This is not a job—this is a lifestyle.”
“It’s an honor to be recognized, especially because there are so many women I work with who are just as deserving as I am,” said UMG’s Dawn Gates.
Honoree Jensen Sussman of Sweet Talk Publicity noted that she is a breast cancer survivor, hence her co-founding of Women Rock for the Cure. “This is such an amazing honor,” she added. “You’re all so amazingly strong and fearless and confident. So I thank all of you.”
Lou Taylor of Tri-Star Sports & Entertainment began her acceptance speech by asking her entire staff to stand—all three banquet tables’ worth. “I’m the one who’s talking, but they do all the work,” she said. “I am nothing without them.
“I love and respect all of the women I work with. I am most proud of having created a [work] culture where the only ceiling that exists is the one on the second floor.”
All five women received commemorative plaques as well as gifts from Tiffany’s, courtesy of presenting sponsor City National Bank.
“I am proud to say I am an early adopter of this new talent, and I want you to be an early adopter, too,” said Sherod as he brought on Emi Sunshine. The singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is 10 years old, but conducted herself with the poise of a grown-up.
She led an acoustic band on her co-written old-timey waltz about facing death, “Carry Me Home,” then strummed the acoustic gem “Sweet Lilly.” She told Robertson that her influences were Julie Miller, June Carter Cash and Dolly Parton, the last of whom she does resemble as a child star. She concluded her set with the bluesy, rollicking “I Am Who I Am.”
The crowd was clearly stunned and erupted in applause.
Debbie Carroll, LeAnn Phelan, Beverly Keel, Holly Bell, Erika Wollam-Nichols, Shawn Williams, Brandi Simms, Lori Badgett, Martha Moore, Caryl Healy, Lisa Harless, Claire Cook and Diane Pearson were among those in the cheering section.
This female-centric honors event attracts many top male executives as well. Tom Lord, Woody Bomar, Mike Dungan, Kevin Lamb, Neal Spielberg, Todd Cassetty, Clay Bradley, Michael Martin, Dale Bobo and Tim Fink were clapping just as loudly as their distaff counterparts.
“Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to honor you,” said Robertson in bidding the crowd adieu.