The Country Music Association recently honored six industry members during the organization’s Board of Directors meetings.
During the CMA’s virtual December Board meeting, Brooks & Dunn’s Kix Brooks, a long-serving CMA Board member, was honored with the J. William Denny Award. The J. William Denny Award was created in recognition and appreciation of a lifetime of dedication, distinguished service, and meritorious contributions to the CMA Board of Directors. Hall of Fame member Brooks has a history with the CMA board that dates back to 1998, and is only the third artist to hold positions on the board such as President (2004) and Chairman (2005). Among his many philanthropic accomplishments, Brooks laid the groundwork for what is now the CMA Foundation when he approached the board about helping to provide much needed instruments and supplies to music classrooms. He was also an early proponent of developing affordable health insurance options for CMA members.
Influential industry executive Bud Wendell was honored with the Irving Waugh Award of Excellence, which is given to an individual who has exhibited ideas and actions that have dramatically broadened and improved country music’s influence on a national or international level for the benefit of the industry as a whole. As the manager of the Grand Ole Opry, Wendell oversaw the Opry’s move from downtown’s Ryman Auditorium to a new facility on the edge of town in 1974 and was named WSM Vice President and General Manager of the Opry and the Opryland theme park that same year. He was President of WSM and then Chairman before Gaylord acquired WSM and Wendell was named President and CEO of Gaylord Entertainment in 1991. Wendell retired in 1997, but remained active behind the scenes, serving as President of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s board of trustees for many years.
Music icon Dolly Parton was honored with the CMA Foundation Humanitarian Award along with Music Health Alliance’s Tatum Allsep (Founder/CEO) and Shelia Shipley Biddy (COO/Certified Senior Advisor) at an intimate CMA Board reception. The CMA Foundation Humanitarian Award recognizes individuals who have served as humanitarians through community leadership, financial support, personal volunteerism and advocacy.
Parton, as well as Music Health Alliance’s Allsep and Biddy, have been at the forefront of COVID-19 relief and innovation throughout the past two years.
Under Allsep and Biddy’s leadership and guidance, Music Health Alliance developed a COVID-19 Relief Plan that focused on COVID-19 Financial Assistance, a relief grant for immediate financial support; Solution Series, simplified solutions to timely issues like the loss of group health insurance; and Resource Database, a comprehensive list of resources ranging from temporary employment to healthcare.
To further MHA’s efforts, CMA provided additional funding as a part of its Music Industry COVID Support (MICS) initiative, a $3 million long-term commitment to non-profit partners focusing on food insecurity, health care and mental health.
Last year, Parton donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center to aid in COVID-19 vaccine research, after forming a friendship with Dr. Naji Abumrad of the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation. Known as the Dolly Parton COVID-19 Research Fund, Parton’s contribution helped fund initial vaccine research led by Dr. Mark Denison, a professor of pathology, microbiology and immunology at Vanderbilt. While the federal government eventually invested $1 billion in the creation and testing of the vaccine, Dr. Denison notes that it was Parton’s donation that funded the crucial early stages of the Moderna vaccine’s development. Parton was thanked for her donation by name in a Moderna preliminary report issued in November 2020.
Parton was not available to accept the award in person, but gave her thanks saying, “I’m sorry I couldn’t be there to receive it in person, but I’m always there in spirit.”
Additionally, Tiffany Kerns, the CMA Vice President of Community Outreach and CMA Foundation Executive Director, was surprised with the CMA Chairman’s Award. The honor was presented by Mary Hilliard Harrington, Senior Manager at Red Light Management and CMA Board Chairman. This award, given at the discretion of the incumbent Chairman, is not an annual award, but given when the Chairman feels an individual merits the recognition.
Over the last two years, Kerns has been instrumental in establishing the organization’s Music Industry COVID Support (MICS) initiative, allowing the CMA to aid in three categories: food supply, health and wellness, and career services. Since March of 2020, CMA has made a $3 million long-term commitment to fund multiple nonprofit partners. Kerns’ work with the CMA Foundation has led the organization to becoming one of the nation’s leading music education nonprofits, with an extensive network of music education advocates across the country.
Finally, CMA Chief Executive Officer Sarah Trahern presented mementos to Harrington and Jim Beavers, songwriter at Big Yellow Dog Music and CMA Board President, in recognition of their service to the CMA Board of Directors. Harrington was presented the crystal gavel while Beavers was presented the crystal globe.
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