T. J. Martell Gala Brings Out The Best For A Reason

The 7th Annual T.J. Martell Honors Gala honorees. (L-R): Dr. Jeffrey Balser, the Medical Research Advancement Award; Bill and Billy Ray Hearn [not pictured], the Frances Preston Lifetime Music Industry Achievement Award; Becca Stevens, the Lifetime Humanitarian Award; Steve and Judy Turner, the Spirit of Nashville Award; and Ken Levitan, the Tony Martell Outstanding Entertainment Achievement Award.

The 7th Annual T.J. Martell Honors Gala honorees. (L-R): Dr. Jeffrey Balser, the Medical Research Advancement Award; Bill Hearn and Billy Ray Hearn [not pictured], the Frances Preston Lifetime Music Industry Achievement Award; Becca Stevens, the Lifetime Humanitarian Award; Steve and Judy Turner, the Spirit of Nashville Award; and Ken Levitan, the Tony Martell Outstanding Entertainment Achievement Award.

Photos: Jason Davis/Getty Images for T.J. Martell Foundation.

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.”

Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott, and Dave Haywood of Lady Antebellum perform at the T.J. Martell Foundation's 7th Annual Nashville Honors Gala.

Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott, and Dave Haywood of Lady Antebellum perform at the T.J. Martell Foundation’s 7th Annual Nashville Honors Gala.

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.

Rascal Flatts' Joe Don Rooney and Jay DeMarcus speak at the T.J. Martell Foundation's 7th Annual Nashville Honors Gala

Rascal Flatts’ Joe Don Rooney and Jay DeMarcus speak at the T.J. Martell Foundation’s 7th Annual Nashville Honors Gala.

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.”

Vince Gill performs at the T.J. Martell Foundation's 7th Annual Nashville Honors Gala.

Vince Gill performs at the T.J. Martell Foundation’s 7th Annual Nashville Honors Gala.

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.”

EmmyLou Harris and Rodney Crowell perform at the T.J. Martell Foundation's 7th Annual Nashville Honors Gala.

EmmyLou Harris and Rodney Crowell perform at the T.J. Martell Foundation’s 7th Annual Nashville Honors Gala.

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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Charles Esten hosts the T.J. Martell Foundation’s 7th Annual Nashville Honors Gala.

Alison Krauss, Levi Hummon, and Marcus Hummon perform at the T.J. Martell Foundation's 7th Annual Nashville Honors Gala

Alison Krauss, Levi Hummon, and Marcus Hummon perform at the T.J. Martell Foundation’s 7th Annual Nashville Honors Gala.

Keith Bullock, T.J. Martell Foundation's Laura Heatherly, and Chris Young attend the T.J. Martell Foundation's 7th Annual Nashville Honors Gala

Keith Bullock, T.J. Martell Foundation’s Laura Heatherly, and Chris Young attend the T.J. Martell Foundation’s 7th Annual Nashville Honors Gala.

EmmyLou Harris, Tony Martell Outstanding Entertainment Achievement Award honoree Ken Levitan, and Steve Buchanan attend the T.J. Martell Foundation's 7th Annual Nashville Honors Gala

Emmylou Harris, Tony Martell Outstanding Entertainment Achievement Award honoree Ken Levitan, and Steve Buchanan attend the T.J. Martell Foundation’s 7th Annual Nashville Honors Gala.

Bill Hearn (center) accepts the Frances Preston Lifetime Music Industry Achievement Award on behalf of his father, Billy Ray Hearn, along with Matthew West (left) and Jimmy Bowen (right) at the T.J. Martell Foundation's 7th Annual Nashville Honors Gala

Bill Hearn (center) accepts the Frances Preston Lifetime Music Industry Achievement Award on behalf of his father, Billy Ray Hearn, along with Matthew West (left) and Jimmy Bowen (right) at the T.J. Martell Foundation’s 7th Annual Nashville Honors Gala.

Ree Guyer Buchanan, T.J. Martell Foundation's Tinti Moffat, Jimmy Bowen, T.J. Martell Foundation's Laura Heatherly, and Danielle Bouharoun attend the T.J. Martell Foundation's 7th Annual Nashville Honors Gala

Ree Guyer Buchanan, T.J. Martell Foundation’s Tinti Moffat, Jimmy Bowen, T.J. Martell Foundation’s Laura Heatherly, and Danielle Bouharoun attend the T.J. Martell Foundation’s 7th Annual Nashville Honors Gala.

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Sherod Robertson is President and Owner of MusicRow Enterprises. He oversees all operations and develops strategic initiatives for MusicRow magazine, RowFax, and MusicRow's CountryBreakout chart. Robertson previously served as Director of Finance of Arista Records after beginning his career as Vice President of Finance and CFO at Reunion Records.

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