MusicianShip celebrates best local musicians despite postponed Wammies

WTOP's Jason Fraley highlights the Wammies

The Wammies – the DMV version of the Grammys – was supposed to be held Sunday night, but it was postponed due to the coronavirus.

However, you can still stream this year’s finalists for your quarantine enjoyment.

“I’ve heard people are looking for things to do,” Wammies nominations chair Brian Nelson Palmer told WTOP. “I encourage you to go listen to the finalists because we’ve got a great group of artists that have been selected. … I don’t think most people know more than five or 10 music artists from the region, so there’s this huge hidden gem that’s right here.”

Sponsored by The MusicianShip, the event was originally slated for March 29 at the Lincoln Theatre. This was supposed to follow a March 28 conference at Culture House, which would have featured 60 plus speakers on music business, culture and tech.

“We’re heartbroken for the artists that were supposed to perform,” MuscianShip executive director Jefferey Tribble told WTOP. “When the Lincoln Theatre announced that they will be closing down, it sort of tied our hands. It was the right decision on their part ultimately.”

Just last week, The MusicianShip also had to cancel its annual Funk Parade in D.C.

Now, the group is debating the best way to announce this year’s Wammies winners.

“We do know who the winners are, so we’re waiting with bated breath,” Tribble said. “Right now, we are looking at streaming options. We have made some headway with that conversation and hope to have some clear answers in the very near future.”

After 694 total nominations, finalists were announced in 57 categories with a best song and best album named across blues, bluegrass, classical, country, electronic, folk, funk, go-go, gospel, hard rock, hip-hop, jazz, pop, punk, R&B, rap, reggae, rock and soul.

“Whatever your genre is, I hope you take a second to check out those artists and listen to some of that new music,” Palmer said. “A lot of these artists have been around for a while and they’re all right here. They’re local. You just might not have heard of them.”

The Wammies were founded by the Washington Area Music Association in 1988, then acquired by The MusicianShip in 2018 after founder Mike Schreibman fell ill.

“Our mission is to change lives by facilitating music lessons, experiences and opportunities for youth who need us most,” Tribble said. “They felt that the award show would be in good hands by passing it along to us, and we were honored to bear the torch.”

The MusicanShip was founded in 2009 by Tribble, Baltimore drummer Greg Granger and his late daughter Diane, who played with Tribble on the Howard University drum line.

“He was the drummer for Whitney Houston at the height of her career and still tours the world with Grammy-nominated group Acoustic Alchemy,” Tribble said. “[Diane] passed a few months after we had our initial conversation about The MusicianShip. She was 24. She never got to see her dream come to fruition, so we’re constantly working in her honor.”

The MusicianShip continues to grow. The non-profit organization began with just two students in its first summer program. Today, it works with 1,600 students each year.

Recently, however, its education goals have been stunted by coronavirus closures.

“The MusicianShip has programs across eight different sites during our after-school program, but if DCPS is shut down … [it] doesn’t give our teachers a space in which they can teach,” Tribble said. “It’s affecting the cultural and artistic industry far and wide.”

Local musicians have felt the brunt of the closures by losing performance spaces.

“It’s having a tremendous impact [on] the full-time musicians or those who rely on it for part-time income,” Tribble said. “I highly encourage you to go on social media, Facebook or Instagram. … You’ll find some fantastic artists doing private concerts from their homes. If you can make meaningful contributions to pay them for their art it would go a long way.”

Eventually, you can go see them in person once the coronavirus runs its course.

“I hope you go check them out and support them after this whole coronavirus thing is done,” Palmer said. “I hope you start listening to some new music while you’re going through this, then I hope you go see them when they’re back on stage.”

You can find the Spotify playlist here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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