Glitz and glamour donned Nashville’s Omni Hotel last night (March 30) for the 7th annual T.J. Martell Nashville Honors Gala. The event brought out top music industry leaders, political figures, and artists to celebrate the accolades and more importantly, raise money for the organization’s worthwhile cause: the fight against cancer and AIDS.
While most referred to him as “Deacon” through the evening, host Charles “Chip” Esten from ABC’s Nashville greeted attendees while sharing how the disease personally affected his family, when his daughter was diagnosed with leukemia at a young age. Assuring that she is now “happy and healthy,” he reminded us why we “all come together as friends to fight.”
The Foundation, led by CEO Laura Heatherly, announced it has raised more than $270 million to support innovative medical research focused on finding cures for leukemia, cancer and AIDS, explaining that “research takes a constant flow of money.”
The event was co-chaired by Danielle Bouharoun, Senior VP of Wells-Fargo Private Banking; Ree Buchanan, President of Wrensong Music Publishing; and George Anderson, President of Anderson Benson.
Vince Gill set the tone for the night by quoting a Texas preacher who once said, “There are drainers and re-fillers.” Gill opened the performances with “What You Give Away,” and honored Steve and Judy Turner with the Spirit of Nashville Award. His classic “Vince Gill” comedic banter included recounting his first meeting with the Turners, where during an early career photo shoot he struggled to put on tight-fitting pants and accidentally broke what appeared to be their very expensive vase. The Turners, who have had a positive impact on nearly every aspect of Nashville, accepted their award giving heartfelt thanks to the crowd and to their relationship with Gill.
Next Billy Ray Hearn and Bill Hearn were honored with a performance by contemporary Christian singer Matthew West offering “Oh, Me Of Little Faith” from his upcoming album, Live Forever. Then Jimmy Bowen shared, “I’m a two-time cancer survivor” and touted Nashville as a “multi-genre Music City.” Calling the Hearns “two honorable men that deserve to be honored tonight,” he bestowed on them the Frances Preston Lifetime Music Industry Achievement Award for their vision, creativity and commitment in the growth and development of the Christian music industry and philanthropic efforts. An emotional Bill Hearn accepted the award sharing that his father, Billy Ray, was unable to attend due to health reasons. Bill admitted, “Everything that we’ve accomplished in our lives and in business has been a result of our families supporting one another and working together.”
Lady Antebellum flawlessly delivered “One Great Mystery” from their latest album, 747, paying tribute to Dr. Jeffrey Balser who was honored with the Medical Research Advancement Award by Rascal Flatts’ Joe Don Rooney and Jay DeMarcus, who called him “our friend.” Dr. Balser, who has pioneered research programs at the hospital and led the center’s significant expansion, graciously accepted. A graduate of Vanderbilt, he became dean of the School of Medicine in 2008.
Manager Ken Levitan was saluted by his longtime artist, Grammy winner Emmylou Harris. She looked out among the guests and observed, “This represents the true heart of Nashville.” After referring to Levitan’s energy as “legendary,” Harris shared, “Before we started working together, we were friends.” She brought out Rodney Crowell to perform the title track from their album, “Old Yellow Moon.” Opry Entertainment Group’s Steve Buchanan filled in for Irving Azoff, who missed the gala due to travel complications, presented the Tony Martell Outstanding Entertainment Achievement Award to Levitan. Buchanan said, “Ken is a very passionate music fan. He built one of the most highly regarded management companies in the world.” Levitan, who has managed the careers of such notable acts as Harris, Kings of Leon, Trisha Yearwood, Trace Adkins, and many others, spoke about his appreciation of the T.J. Martell Foundation. “It has kept its roots deep in the music business. To be recognized by T.J. Martell is beyond special,” he said. Giving a nod to his 87-year-old father in the audience, Levitan added, “He taught me you can do anything you want to do, if you put your mind to it.”
The final award of the evening went to Rev. Becca Stevens, who received the Lifetime Humanitarian Award. Her commitment to community includes ministry as an Episcopal priest in Nashville, founding Magdalene to help women who survived lives of prostitution, and starting Thistle Farms, a social enterprise of Magdalene. Keeping it in the family, Stevens’ husband and Grammy-winning songwriter Marcus Hummon and son Levi Hummon, a recent Valory Music signee, joined bluegrass virtuoso Alison Krauss for a poignant performance of Oscar-nominated “Make It Love.” Tennessee First Lady, Crissy Haslam, honored Stevens with the award. “I love that I get to accept this with my family,” proclaimed Stevens. “When we are together, we are a powerful force. Love, love, love.”
Watching proudly in the audience were notable attendees Governor Bill Haslam, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, Amy Grant, Peter Frampton, John Hiatt, Chris Young, former Tennessee Titan Keith Bullock, T.J. Martell’s Tinti Moffat and numerous other industry members and philanthropic trailblazers.
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